Apple Watch KardiaBand accessory shows it’s time for IoT in healthcare

Apple Watch KardiaBand accessory shows it’s time for IoT in healthcare

A new watch band from KardiaBand by AliveCor has received approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to carry out electrocardiography (EKG).

When the first commercial electrocardiography (EKG) devices were introduced over 100 years ago, they took up considerable space and often required patients to submerge their limbs in jars of salt solution.

A century later, EKG equipment has advanced to the point that it can be integrated into a smartwatch that’s capable of far more besides. AliveCor, the watch band’s creator, is alive to the healthcare opportunities that come with technological advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and electronics.

The Califonia-based company has just announced FDA approval for its device, making it the first sanctioned medical device accessory for Apple Watch and a milestone for IoT in healthcare. The KardiaBand is a replacement watch strap (and accompanying software) for the Apple Watch, containing an sensor module that can discretely capture the wearer’s EKG at any time.

Read more: New wearables options for UnitedHealthcare customers

The KardiaBand smart accessory

The Apple Watch’s integrated heart-rate senor (a photoplethysmogram) uses green and infrared LEDs to measure your arteries expanding and contracting. This is limited to recording what happens after each heart beat. An EKG differs in that it can measure the electrical activity in your heart muscles, revealing a whole host of information on how the heart is behaving, including existing issues and past events.

A touch of the integrated sensor on the KardiaBand accessory triggers a 30 second EKG reading. The results from the Kardia App are then displayed on the Apple Watch.

AliveCor has also introduced SmartRhythm, a new feature that uses AI alongside data from the watch’s heart rate and activity sensors to constantly evaluate the correlation between heart activity and physical activity. When the feature detects that there are disparities between the two, it advises the user to capture an EKG.

“KardiaBand paired with SmartRhythm technology will be life-changing for people who are serious about heart health,” said Vic Gundotra, CEO at AliveCor. “These capabilities will allow people to easily and discreetly check their heart rhythms when they may be abnormal, capturing essential information to help doctors identify the issue and inform a clear path of care to help manage AFib, a leading cause of stroke, and other serious conditions.”

Read more: Real-time medical imaging AI platform Lunit Insight to aid radiologists

Getting to the heart of IoT in healthcare

The most common heart arrhythmia and a leading cause of strokes, atrial fibrillation (AFib) affects over 30 million people worldwide. Many people are unknowingly living with AFib, yet two out of three strokes are preventable when AFib is detected and treated. There is therefore huge scope for accessible real-time monitoring solutions to help prevent major heart-related health issues.

Preventative measures that utilize IoT in healthcare not only stand to benefit the patient, they also go a long way to lowering costs for healthcare services. expensive treatments are avoided and hospital beds freed-up.

“This is a paradigm shift for cardiac care as well as an important advance in healthcare,” said Dr Karlsberg, Cardiologist and Clinical Professor of Medicine at Cedars Sinai Heart Institute and David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA. “Today, EKGs are available only in offices and hospitals, using complex equipment, and usually only after a life-threatening event, for example a stroke. With an EKG device on the wrist, AFib can be detected wherever the patient is, 24 hours a day.”

Existing mobile EKG products have limited lifetimes, are highly sensitive to proper placement, can be uncomfortable to use and are often invasive and expensive. For example, EKG patches and Holter monitors can only be worn for a very limited time and loop recorders require surgery to implant them.

KardiaBand is available from $ 199. A $ 99 annual subscription on top offers several optional extras. The service includes SmartRhythm notifications on Apple Watch, unlimited EKG recordings, email sharing, cloud history and reporting, weight and medication tracking, and a mailed monthly report on that period’s readings.

Read more: Healthcare’s three IoT pain points

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Apple launches Heart Study to detect problems earlier

Apple and Stanford have teamed up to launch a dedicated app called Heart Study which aims to research and detect potential issues.

The study was first announced back in September but is being rolled out to interested participants today. Using the Apple Watch for heart rate data, all irregularities will be noted and users will be notified of potential issues.

Using this data, the researchers can improve their detection of problems earlier to help prevent serious damage or even death.

In a release, Apple wrote: “AFib (atrial fibrillation), the leading cause of stroke, is responsible for approximately 130,000 deaths and 750,000 hospitalisations in the US every year. Many people don’t experience symptoms, so AFib often goes undiagnosed.”

Anyone in the United States who is at least 22 years old, with an Apple Watch Series 1 or later, can join the study. Unfortunately, the first generation Watch is not supported.

Apple is leading the way in proving smartwatches can make a real impact to people’s lives and health

To calculate heart rate and rhythm, Apple Watch’s sensor uses green LED lights flashing hundreds of times per second and light-sensitive photodiodes to detect the amount of blood flowing through the wrist.

If an irregular heart rhythm is observed, the app will set up a consultation with a Heart Study doctor. This consultation will be used to ensure there are no issues which need resolving and determine why a problem was flagged. Over time, software algorithms will be optimised to reduce false alerts and cause unnecessary concern.

With this study and features like GymKit, Apple is leading the way in proving smartwatches can make a real impact to people’s lives and health rather than just a place to relay users’ notifications.

You can download Heart Study on iOS here.

What are your thoughts on Apple’s heart study? Let us know in the comments.

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Apple AR headset one step closer thanks to Vrvana acquisition

Apple AR headset one step closer thanks to Vrvana acquisition

In the clearest sign yet that Apple is developing augmented reality hardware, the company has purchased Canadian AR start-up Vrvana.

While Apple has remained tight-lipped on its latest efforts in the augmented reality [AR] space, rumours abound of the work going on behind the scenes at the tech giant. Now, it seems we may see an Apple AR headset as early as 2020.

Back in January, we reported on indications that Apple could be preparing to launch its own AR headset. Throughout the year we’ve seen numerous developments to reinforce this.

The obvious starting point for Apple was enabling easier creation of AR experiences on iPhone and iPad. An engineering team led by Mike Rockwell launched the team’s first product earlier this year – ARKit.

The tools allowed software developers to create AR applications for iOS and tap into the devices’ hardware to enhance a range of experiences, such as shopping and gaming. The release made Apple the largest AR platform overnight, simply due to the popularity of iPhones.

Since then, Bloomberg has reported that Apple plans to develop technology for a dedicated AR headset by 2019 and ship a product as early as 2020.

Current VR and AR solutions from companies with mobile offerings have utilized those devices in a supporting headset – Samsung’s Gear VR being the obvious example. Apple seems to be choosing a different path though. The latest word out of Cupertino, and the clearest sign yet that Apple is developing AR hardware, is that it has purchased Canadian start-up Vrvana.

Read more: Digital Catapult explains why it’s backing immersive reality

Totem: the precursor to an Apple AR headset?

Sources have revealed to TechCrunch that the deal was for around $ 30 million – loose change in the world of cutting-edge technology, but Vrvana raised just $ 2 million in funding when it was founded in 2005. Some of the start-up’s employees have reportedly joined Apple in California, though the fate of any products currently under development is unknown.

Despite these humble beginnings, the company’s impressive hardware makes it clear why Apple was eager to acquire the technology behind their Totem headset. The device never saw a public launch but it garnered glowing reviews from press at industry events. Tom’s Hardware awarded it best in show at CES this year.

A 1440p OLED screen and 120 degree field of vision [FOV] ensure a high-quality and immersive experience. The latter is an area in which many other headsets fall short and an essential specification for a good VR or AR experience. Most significantly, the Totem allows for seamless switching between AR and VR modes.

Read more: DroneBase unveils augmented reality platform for UAV pilots

Overcoming AR technology hurdles

As Vrvana CEO Bertrand Nepveu explains in the video below, the company had to overcome the infamous challenge of reducing the latency between the camera’s capturing of the footage and it being relayed to the user.

Forward-facing cameras offer depth of field tracking and 3D positioning (as well as images for AR functionality), while additional infrared cameras track the user’s hands. Combined, these technologies offer a whole host of potential applications across many industries, including manufacturing, healthcare and supply chain.

Users can manipulate virtual objects with their hands, with complete awareness of their real-world surroundings, for mixed reality [MR] experiences. The Totem’s usefulness is expanded by its multi-user capabilities – something it calls ‘shared presence’.

“Combined with patent pending hardware accelerated chroma keying (green screen), the Totem’s unique feature set drastically eliminates the need for external tracking or projection equipment, simplifying setup and giving users freedom to move and accomplish more,” its promotional materials read.

On the software side, supported engines include, Unreal, Unity and OpenVR/SteamVR. Vrvana also created a software development kit [SDK] for custom engines.

Read more: Upskill’s augmented reality tech makes impact at GE

Timing is everything

The brains behind the fledgling firm must have impressed the world’s largest technology company (by revenue). Apple have been historically hesitant to enter the AR and VR hardware arena. Until now, an Apple AR headset has seemed to be a distant prospect. In an interview with The Independent, following the release of ARKit, Apple’s Tim Cook highlighted the technological challenges presented by AR.

“The field of view, the quality of the display itself, it’s not there yet. We don’t give a rat’s about being first, we want to be the best, and give people a great experience,” Tim Cook said. “But now anything you would see on the market any time soon would not be something any of us would be satisfied with. Nor do I think the vast majority of people would be satisfied.”

Nonetheless, Cook feels these hurdles can be overcome, its simply a question of how long it will take. With the acquisition of Vrvana, an Apple AR headset that the company can be proud of may be on the horizon. If such a device integrates the innovations of Totem with the product design and platform capabilities of Apple, we may see a headset of huge potential in both consumer and business environments.

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Apple reclaims top spot in wearable band market after strong Q3

Apple has retaken the lead in the wearable band market thanks to the release of the Apple Watch Series 3, according to the latest industry figures from Canalys.

“Strong demand for the LTE-enabled Apple Watch Series 3 has dispelled service providers’ doubts about the cellular smartwatch not appealing to customers,” said Jason Low, Canalys analyst, with the company adding that 800,000 Apple Watch units shipped in Q317 were cellular-enabled.

However, the release did face its set of setbacks as demand outpaced supply in major markets, thus hindering it from reaching its full potential in Q3. Low added: “In China, customers with high expectations are being driven away by the service disruption fiasco in the country. Besides bringing in more stock, operators should work on improving their remote service provisioning systems to cater for the expected higher demand in Q4/2017.”

Speaking about the trends in the smartwatch segment, Mo Jia, Canalys Research Analyst, said: “While health features continue to be the core focus, vendors are striving to increase the value of smartwatches by prioritising design and highlighting key features. Apple and Samsung are increasing user stickiness and brand loyalty by adopting an ecosystem strategy, which includes wearables and audio accessories. Smartphone vendors must re-evaluate their respective smartwatch strategies to derive more value beyond smartphone growth.”

With new smartwatches coming with enhanced health-tracking features, longer battery life, better and slimmer designs, vendors are anticipating stronger Q4/2017 performance for the market.

Analyst firm Tractica, in itS recently released report, “Wearable Device Market Forecasts”, predicted that the annual wearable device shipments will increase from 118 million units in 2016 to 430 million units by 2022, representing a CAGR of 24.1%. As per the report, by the end of 2022, smartwatches will have become the largest wearable device category, followed closely by fitness trackers and body sensors.

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Apple and GE Digital to bring industrial IoT apps to iOS

Apple and GE Digital to unlock power of IIoT on iOS

The advanced industrial predictive and analytics capabilities of General Electric’s Predix IIoT platform will come to Apple’s iOS tomorrow, with the release of the Predix software development kit [SDK].

The new SDK is designed to equip developers with the tools required to build powerful, native apps that combine the advantages of an established industrial internet of things [IIoT] platform with the simplicity and familiarity of Apple’s handheld devices.

GE Digital, the 125-year old company’s digital transformation arm, has been making moves to cement its place at the centre of the IIoT by expanding Predix to the edge. Its advances in edge computing allow enterprises to run predictive analytics as close as possible to data sources, such as pumps, temperature and pressure sensors, and turbines, opening the door to efficiency and cost savings.

The platform is aimed mainly at aviation, healthcare, transportation and oil and gas companies, to help them monitor the equipment that GE provides. With Predix growing in capability, this latest announcement makes the solution more accessible to end-users and the developers looking to use it in new ways.

For example, a Predix app might alert a user on their iPhone of an issue with a wind turbine and enable them to collaborate with colleagues elsewhere to inspect and repair it, serving up relevant data to everyone involved instantly.

Read more: Alan Turing Institute to monitor Amsterdam’s smart, 3D-printed bridge

IIoT territory gains

“GE is an ideal partner with a rich history of innovation across the industrial world in areas like aviation, manufacturing, healthcare and energy,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook. “Together, Apple and GE are fundamentally changing how the industrial world works by combining GE’s Predix platform with the power and simplicity of iPhone and iPad.”

Following partnerships with business heavyweights including Accenture, IBM and SAP, this is another blow to Microsoft’s historical claim to the end-user device sector. As analyst Raghu Gopal of CCS Insight explains in a blog post, “By standardising on Apple products for its employees, GE is likely to shift most of them away from Windows-based products, making this a noticeable loss for both Microsoft as well as PC makers.”

“Although such changes tend to happen over several years, this is an important win for Apple, given GE’s reputation as a venerable and conservative company. It’s another example of Apple finding a place in Microsoft’s heartland.”

With the myriad of data generated by IIoT, the challenge has become how best to distil data and metrics into critical information and make it easily accessible and actionable – and iOS is well placed to meet this need.

Read more: Push navigates IoT data deltas with Diffusion 6.0

New insights on iOS devices

The new Predix SDK will be available to download from 26th October. It represents a clear stride by Apple into the industrial space, with Mac products and IOS devices becoming the default for GE’s 330,000 employees.

While clearly a boost to the aims of both companies, some doubts remain over to what extent Apple can convince industrial decision makers.

“Apple says its sales team will pitch GE’s Predix platform to its customers and developers in the industrial space, as it encourages other major companies to adopt and deploy Apple devices to their workforces,” says Gopal of CCS Insight. “However, we’re sceptical that an operations team in an industrial customer would choose this IoT platform based on a recommendation from an Apple salesperson.”

Regardless, the move is likely to help GE’s need to modernize its image, adding design and UX appeal to a company that found form in the early days of electric power generation and lighting.

Read more: Akamai launches intelligent platform for IoT

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