Change is coming to ‘stagnant’ wearables market as heart rate sensors claim accurate monitoring

Today’s continuous monitoring tech is shifting the consumer mindset away from a reactive monitoring approach to a proactive one. And this is having a dramatic effect on the market for wearable technologies, as Jeremy Cowan reports. 

Instead of waiting for annual visits to the  doctor to get results for blood pressure and other vital signs, consumers want real-time information about their health status. So says Sui Shieh who is vice president, Industrial and Healthcare Business Unit at one wearables manufacturer, Maxim Integrated.

This shift is causing an increased demand for accurate, small, and low-power wearable devices, said to be an important enabler for this new way of thinking. As continuous monitoring and preventive healthcare become more common, both technology providers and health practitioners must embrace and accommodate these new demands to be successful, he believes.

“Global healthcare costs are high and growing,” says Sui, “with spend now running at 10% of gross domestic product (GDP) – in the US it’s $ 9 trillion. The consumer mindset is moving from reeactive to proactive, with prevention and early detection (of illness) by fitness apps, and chronic disease monitoring” with healthcare devices. But, as he goes on to say, fitness apps generally give little information; that’s why the market has been stagnant for two years.

“The market is there,” he says, “with six million users in 2016 rising to 50 million in 2021, according to analysts, Berg Insight. Our customers are now looking for clinical-grade performance (with US Food & Drug Administration certification), the longest battery life, a small size, and high accuracy.”

Sui Shieh: Wearables market is shifting towards prevention and early detection of illness

Maxim believes that it’s now able to meet these requirements. Through compact, low power solutions, it has a new range of devices that enable accurate monitoring of vital signs to monitor wellness/fitness and prevent health problems before they even begin.

Maxim’s portfolio of sensors for wearable health and fitness applications allows consumers to accurately monitor a variety of key vital signs while being mindful of low power (for longer battery life) and small size (for convenience and comfort). The MAX86140 and MAX86141 can be used to measure PPG signals on the wrist, finger, and ear to detect heart rate, heart rate variability, and pulse oximetry.

The MAX30001 measures ECG and BioZ on the chest and wrist to detect heart rate, respiration, and arrhythmias. Compared to competitive solutions, the MAX86140 and MAX86141 is claimed to require less than half the power and is approximately one third smaller, while the MAX30001 requires approximately half the power in almost half the size. By collecting beat to beat data about the heart, these solutions collect accurate data so users can recognize important symptoms when they first begin. In addition, the MAX30001 meets IEC60601-2-47, clinical ECG standards.

“The convergence of clinical grade diagnostics in form factors small enough to integrate into all sorts of smart, everyday clothing is impressive,” said Adrian Straka, director of Hardware and Manufacturing, SKIIN. “The ultra-small MAX30001 enables SKIIN’s bio-sensing underwear to monitor and track health […]

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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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Accessibility Needs to Be at the Heart of Internet Policy, Planning and Design

The Internet Society’s 2017 Global Internet Report: Paths to Our Digital Future shows that new digital divides are emerging. It’s not just about accessing the Internet, but our ability to make the most of it.

One only has to look at the UN DESA 2015 Global Status Report on Disability and Development to start putting the pieces together. Not only does the report show a significant gap between people with and people without disabilities when it comes to things like education, employment, and health, but also, that those who are doubly disadvantaged (women, refugees, indigenous communities) experience the lowest level of inclusion and participation in society.

What does this mean for the Internet and information communication technology (ICTs)? They’re tools that help us bridge space and time, can start a business with the spark of an idea, and help kids stay in school.

If we want to build a digital future where people come first, accessibility needs to be at the heart of Internet policy, planning and design.

This means accessibility is first in. Not last out. It is always smarter, less expensive, and more functional to build accessibility into technology at the start rather than as a second-class add on. Anyone, regardless of their abilities, should have access to the same technology at the same time, and at the same price.

I’m here at the International Telecommunication Union’s World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-17) in Buenos Aires this week to tell policy and decision makers from around the world that, together, we can make this happen.

All stakeholders should collaborate and encourage the transfer of accessibility-related technologies for Persons With Disabilities (PWDs), particularly from developed to developing countries, in order to make ICT accessibility a reality. This collaboration is necessary because, although ICT accessibility for PWDs in developed countries remains a challenge, it’s multiplied several times in developing countries due to various social, economic and cultural barriers. Like everyone else, people with disabilities are equally capable and should, therefore, be given the same opportunities to take advantage of ICTs.  For people with disabilities, accessibility means the ability to use products or services in the same way that those without disabilities can. However, there are challenges that need to be addressed. These include the availability of technology, its cost to consumers, and the willingness of the industry to adopt accessibility standards.

These are not things that happen when accessibility of Internet and ICTs is an add on.

What We’re Getting Wrong

Accessibility standards are vastly misunderstood to just benefit people with disabilities. In actual fact, adherence to these standards is the panacea to most ICT challenges for people of all backgrounds. How? Just think about improved access from mobile platforms in low-bandwidth environments as well as significantly better content usability.

Some Personal Reflections

During the last week or so, I have come to know and appreciate that world leaders who have done a lot of work for PWDs. Yet more needs to be done, particularly in developing countries. For me, the opportunity to participate as an Internet Society Fellow at WTDC-17 has enabled me to experience and observe the policy development process in the international arena and to make a stand for what I believe needs to happen.  It is enlightening and exciting to see and observe the ITU development agenda taking shape along with the politicking and negotiations being done at an international forum.

Being a visually impaired participant, there were and are a number of challenges to make the experience an utmost success. These range from the accessibility of the contributions prior to the conference, the accessibility of the texts being discussed during the sessions, mobility between the sessions and sometimes using the equipment within the conference rooms. But, thanks to the wonderful cooperation and excellent support of fellow Internet Society delegates and to some extent ITU staff, a number of the aforementioned challenges have been overcome or where possible, an alternate way has been found to reduce the impact. 

But Now It’s Time for Action

At the WTDC, and conferences like this, the time for talking about issues is done. We need action.

When it comes to accessibility we need clear resolutions that we can measure. Where are we going and what will tell us, by the time the next WTDC comes around, if we accomplished what we set out to do?

To do this we need to increase participation of PWDs and their representative organizations in ICT Policy Formulation, planning, design and implementation processes.  Pakistan’s National IT policy 2017 titled “digital Pakistan” can be considered a case in point: People with disabilities were not only invited for discussions, but a complete section was dedicated to addressing their needs.

Additionally, a truly inclusive meeting requires that PWDs should be enabled to actively participate in much the same way as people without disabilities. Just consider the range of resources and tools available that ensure active participation at such a meeting. For example: Accessibility of tools being used to navigate, sort and access the documents prior to and during the meeting; accessibility of texts during the deliberations; ease of mobility between the sessions; and, accessible equipment within the conference rooms – to name a few.

To sum up, why do I say that accessibility for people with disabilities should not be considered an add-on venture?  Each and every one one of us can benefit from accessibility. Every day, every time.  During this very conference, I overheard participants asking to change the background color of the screen, change text font and/or size, and witnessed postponing the discussion on the documents because some of the delegates were not able to access the document under discussion. So, ICT accessibility is something that we all need and considering the unpredictable nature of the future, may end up needing it sooner or later.

Read more about Digital Divides in the 2017 Global Internet Report: Paths to Our Digital Future.

Take action! Help shape a digital future that puts people first.

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Internet Society

Fitly’s SmartPlate takes cognitive to heart with Watson IoT

Fitly is a two-time Digital Health award winner with a proven track record for vetted technological innovation. Backed by medical, research, and financial institutions in the U.S. such as Penn Medicine, University City Science Center, and Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Fitly is creating a new category in healthcare aptly called “Culinary Medicine.”

Fitly was first conceived after Anthony Ortiz’s father went through triple bypass surgery. The ordeal proved to be extremely stressful and worrying for all concerned – for his father and the entire family. The realization that such a dangerous condition could have been prevented through simple diet changes inspired Anthony Ortiz, Fitly Founder and CEO, to take action.

Tackling a problem faced by millions of people

Anthony’s family isn’t alone. There are millions of people like Anthony’s father. Individuals who need to lead a healthier lifestyle, lose a few pounds, and manage a dietary condition, but who find current solutions to be time-consuming, frustrating and worst of all – inaccurate. Fitly offers an easy to use solution that can make a lasting impact to millions of lives.

Taking on ‘portion distortion’

Studies show even health-conscious eaters struggle with estimating portion sizes. People underestimate their overall food intake by an average of 30 percent and sometimes as much as 40 percent for some groups, including women and people struggling with obesity. For people working towards fitness and performance goals, the “portion distortion” is made even worse when viewed through the psychological and metabolic effects of exercise and sports training on food intake.

Connected devices are disrupting people from all walks of life in extremely positive ways by allowing them to track and analyze just about any kind of activity. By providing insight to help people make smarter food choices, the Fitly SmartPlate is poised to do the same for nutrition, effectively removing obstacles which could prevent people from changing their lifestyle.

The world’s most intelligent plate

The Fitly team designed and created SmartPlate, the world’s first intelligent nutrition platform that instantly analyzes a user’s entire meal with the highest degree of accuracy. It’s like a wearable, but for food.

Fitly’s patent-pending technology relies on advanced image recognition and weight sensors to identify and weigh everything from single foods to prepared meals within seconds. First, food is identified through a proprietary image recognition system. Second, the load sensors weigh the known food, and then the app sends both the image and weight data to a proprietary cloud for analysis. Finally, nutritional information is relayed back to the user’s mobile device application.

The premium app allows a user to select one of five goal-specific programs (or create a custom plan), pair with the countertop device for precision image recognition, analysis, and tracking of macro and micronutrients, access a database of hundreds of thousands of packaged and restaurant items for tracking on-the-go, and get helpful tips and feedback to stay on track.

The SmartPlate also includes alerts and notifications which can be tailored to remind consumers when to eat, hydrate, and much more.

SmartPlate

SmartPlate

Taking a cognitive approach to heart

SmartPlate’s secret sauce is hardware assisted artificial intelligence. The team has built the most accurate food classifier on the market, one which has been tested and validated by an independent party. Fitly holds three issued patents (two utility and one design), plus four non-provisional patents-pending. The SmartPlate experience is designed to help the user achieve their health goals much faster.

An entrepreneur’s dream team: Indiegogo, Arrow and IBM

The Internet of Things involves large amounts of data. Fitly’s goal is to find patterns and insights into user behaviour. The biggest challenge for Fitly is the ability to reach the right conclusions from the tons of available data. This is where Watson IoT and machine learning really come into their own. Fitly leverages IBM’s powerful cloud service to build and test our technology.

By working together with Indiegogo, Fitly was able to successfully raise the necessary capital to bring their innovative solution to market. Arrow has also been instrumental in helping Fitly to take the product from a prototype with limited functions, to the versatile product available today.

What does the future hold?

Passion and a great team are the two things which have sustained and support the company’s vision. Fitly is working on additional products and will be introducing them to the market in the near future. SmartPlate TopView is one product which will be finding its way into the healthcare world very soon.

Get a taste of SmartPlate

Fitly invites users to get a taste of SmartPlate’s industry-leading image recognition by downloading the SmartPlate app for free. While an app alone can never deliver the same precision analysis available by pairing with the data collected by the SmartPlate countertop device, it will make tracking a breeze with one-snap access and predictive searching of the same expansive database of foods. It features photo recognition of 1,000+ foods, text searching of hundreds of thousands more, simple macronutrient tracking, and expert prompts to guide users towards weight management goal.

Learn more

To learn more about the SmartPlate campaign, visit the Indiegogo campaign site or the Fitly website.

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Trusting the Ride: Four Capabilities at the Heart of Automated Vehicles

This is the first in a series of blog posts on Intel research into human-machine interfaces (HMIs) for automated driving.

As Intel’s principal engineer and chief systems engineer for automated driving solutions, I’ve been working on some exciting research in the realm of automated vehicle technology. I’d like to share my perspective with you on some of our initial findings. In doing so, my hope is that it may expand your thinking about the road to autonomous driving that lies head.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about our relationship to self-driving technology so far it’s this: Getting consumers to trust the technology is just as important as the tech itself. We do this through the devices and screens in the vehicle, which are known as human-machine interfaces (HMIs). We also do this through what’s known as trust interactions, which are actions that instill confidence, control and a sense of safety when operating or riding in an automated vehicle.

We are still in the early stages of our prototyping and testing efforts, but a few key findings have surfaced that, from my perspective, are likely to be critical to consumer adoption of automated vehicles. The following are what I see as four capabilities at the heart of effective trust interactions.

 

Comprehensive Sensing

A family pushing a stroller walks across the street in front of an automated vehicle.

One key aspect of establishing trust with the physical operation of automated vehicles is that passengers must be able to understand what the automated vehicle system is sensing. For example, many participants have noted that when the system includes a visual display of a pedestrian crossing the street, which corresponds to the pedestrian they see from the car window, confidence in the system is established.

We are also learning that sensing is just as important inside the vehicle. Knowing the number and location of passengers, and their personal items can better facilitate the display of en route trip information, or alert a passenger if an item is left behind when he or she exits the vehicle.

 

Clear and Varied Communication

A man lets his new road trip buddy, his automated vehicle, take over the driving.

Our research shows that the amount of information passengers want depends entirely on the situation. Overcommunicating is desired when encountering road construction so that a different route can be quickly determined is desired; but when at a stoplight, “don’t show or tell me every little thing”. Communication is a balancing act. The system must communicate in a flexible manner, providing more or less information based on different preferences and contexts.

Communicating in a variety of ways is also important. Voice interactions, larger screens, smaller touchscreens and passengers’ own mobile devices offer a variety of ways for passengers to notice and understand information. This is particularly important because passenger attention is likely to be focused on other activities when driving is no longer necessary. A variety of communication methods is also crucial to accommodate disabled passengers who may struggle with, or be unable to use, more standard interfaces such as touchscreens or voice-activated controls.

 

Fast and Predictable Automated Responses

In this picture of a car driving through the snow, automated vehicle quickly, and safely, adjusts to changing weather conditions.

There’s no doubt that automated vehicle systems must respond quickly and make changes effectively, based on a variety of different passenger inputs. If an automated vehicle system has slow, complicated, or imprecise responses to inputs, it will be thought to have problems or errors, just like when a computer loads a web page slowly. Passengers must feel confident that the system is completing an interaction, and trust that the system understands and is capable of carrying out what has been asked of it.

In emergency situations, the automated vehicle will very likely have to respond in a sudden or erratic manner to avoid a collision. In these cases, it is crucial that the system provides the appropriate context for what just happened, and even additional context for what should or will be happening next. For example, if there is a problem with the vehicle’s operation that requires it to pull to the side of the road, the system would communicate why it has pulled over and explain what other actions are being taken (emergency road services are being contacted) and what the passenger should do next (exit the vehicle, stay away at a safe distance, and wait for a replacement automated vehicle to arrive).

 

Multiple Modes of Interaction

A stock image tries to recreate the mood of Michelangelo's "The Creation of Adam" by having a person touch a computer screen.

Finally, in our research and testing, we often observe participants starting a trip in one way (speaking the destination of where he or she wants to go) then shifting to other modes during the trip (using the touchscreen to find and select an additional stop along the route).

Multiple modes of interaction are also necessary because during a trip one or more modes may already be in use when interacting with the system is required. For example, a passenger may request and initiate a trip using his or her mobile device. But once the trip begins, the mobile device may be used to make a phone call, so the passenger may use a touchscreen for further inputs while still on the phone. In addition, multiple interaction modes will also be important when several passengers are in the vehicle; a voice interface may be a primary way to interact for a single passenger, but less practical when four passengers are sharing a vehicle.

As our research is showing, we have a tremendously exciting opportunity to enhance passenger experiences as we head down the road toward fully automated vehicles. Designing and implementing trust interactions — those interactions that engender confidence, control and a sense of safety — is crucial if we intend to one day step into an automated vehicle and find our ultimate road trip buddy there waiting for us, ready to ride.

To learn more about the road ahead for automated vehicles, visit intel.com/automotive. For more on Intel IoT  developments, subscribe to our RSS feed for email notifications of blog updates, or visit intel.com/IoTLinkedInFacebook and Twitter.

 

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