Posts tagged with "Apple Watch"

Singapore pays citizens to exercise with the Apple Watch

September 17, 2020

In its first-ever branding alliance with a sovereign nation, Apple has announced that it is partnering with the government of Singapore to launch an Apple Watch health initiative that offers cash rewards to participants, Fortune Magazine reports.

Starting in late October, Singapore citizens who own an Apple Watch (or want to buy one) can download an app called LumiHealth—which will challenge them each to participate in exercises such as swimming and yoga; as well as to complete health screenings and immunizations. By doing so, users can earn a maximum of $280 over the program’s two-year run.

The app assigns users tasks based on personal information such as age, gender, and weight. It was designed “with user privacy and security at its core,” according to Apple’s press release on the partnership.

“Even as all of us around the world are dealing with the challenges of COVID-19, we must keep investing in our future. And there is no better investment than in our own personal health,” Heng Swee Keat, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Ministersaid in a statement.

Singapore’s government launched a similar initiative in 2019 when it partnered with Fitbit to provide Singapore residents with free fitness trackers, if they bought a premium subscription to the company’s coaching program. That program is ongoing.

The new program is a boon to Apple since it’s an added incentive for Singaporeans to purchase the brand’s watch. The watch is an increasingly vital part of Apple’s business. In January, Apple reported that revenue from “wearables” like the Apple Watch surpassed Mac revenue for the first time.

Singapore has a universal health care system often held up as a public health model for other countries; it also has one of the most rapidly aging populations in the world. The Apple and Fitbit collaborations are two of many programs designed by Singapore’s Ministry of Health to promote public health.

The government is also using technology for its management of the coronavirus outbreak. On Monday, Singapore began to distribute small “tokens,” which can be worn around the neck with a lanyard, that feature a QR code and a Bluetooth connection so that residents who don’t have smartphones—about 5% of the population—can participate in TraceTogether, the government’s Bluetooth tracking smartphone app for coronavirus cases that launched in March.

Currently, around 40% of Singapore’s population has downloaded the contact tracing app; the government is targeting a 70% participation rate.

Research contact: @FortuneMagazine

The Halo effect: Amazon’s first health wearable, is no Fitbit or Apple Watch clone

August 31, 2020

Amazon is launching Halo, a minimalist $99 health sleek,wearable, companion to an app that measures your body fat and gauges your tone of voice. Executives who worked on the project told Fast Company last week that the offering is more about the app and its various features than the wearable itself.

Right now, consumers can preorder the Halo band for $65, which includes six months of access to the app. After the first six months, customers will have to pay $4 a month to continue using the app. Once it ships in a few weeks, Halo will be $99, also with the $4/month fee. The app and the band work with both iPhones and Android devices.

Though that pricing puts the Halo in competition with Fitbit’s fitness trackers, Amazon—which has also purchased online pharmacy PillPack, developed both virtual and in-clinic employee health centers, and sought out HIPPA compliance for its Alexa voice assistant—is taking a different approach to health than its competitors in wearables.

For one thing, the company thinks Halo’s real value is in the app. Data tracking is divided into four sections, Activity, Body, Sleep, and Tone. The app also offers Labs, a series of health challenges designed by a range of professionals and expert organizations. While Activity and Sleep offer standard health-tracking capabilities, Body, Tone, and Labs represent Halo’s distinguishing features, Fast Company reports..

The Halo tracker is extremely simple: just a piece of water-resistant fabric and a small sensor-laden bit of hardware that lays against the wrist. There’s no display, notifications, clock, or other features that have become standard fare on even basic fitness trackers from other companies. (Like other wrist wearables, it does offer band options in several colors and materials.)

Halo tracks movement, heart rate, skin temperature, and the tone of a person’s voice. Notably, it doesn’t track heart rate variability. Both the Apple Watch and Fitbit’s devices have added heart rate variability in recent versions of their wearables, seemingly as a test of their ability as a diagnostic tool.

Amazon’s tracker captures steps, duration, and intensity of activity, as well as sedentary time to generate an activity score. While any activity will raise your score, you’ll be awarded more points for running as opposed to walking. The band can detect the difference between walking and running, and you can manually mark if you swim, cycle, or perform some other form of exercise. Sedentary time can negatively impact your score if you sit for more than eight hours.

The app also measures activity on a weekly rather than daily basis. “It’s more aligned with the [CDC] guideline recommendations, which clearly state that people should get 150 minutes of moderate exercise on a weekly basis at a minimum,” says Dr. Maulik Majmudar, a cardiologist and Amazon’s chief medical officer. Before joining Amazon in 2018, he practiced at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Halo tracks sleep too. Like the Apple Watch, Fitbits, and the Oura Ring, Halo identifies sleep duration and how long you linger in light sleep, REM sleep, and deep sleep. It also measures and monitors skin temperature at the wrist, to see if how this changes over the course of the night correlates to your sleep quality. Skin temperature is not the same as internal temperature, so it would not be a sound way to determine if someone has a fever, for example.

However, Body is one of the most distinctive elements of the Halo app. Using a phone’s camera, it captures a three-dimensional model of a person’s body to help them track their body changes over time and to track its fat percentage.

“You’re probably wondering, why body fat?” Majmudar told Fast Company in an interview. “Body fat percentage is actually much better indicator of overall health than weight or body mass index [BMI] alone.” A recent meta-analysis, published in the journal, Nature, shows that BMI isn’t a great indicator for obesity, which doctors use to look out for obesity-related disease. However, getting a good reading on a person’s body fat has historically been cumbersome and expensive. Amazon now suggests it can make this determination using a phone camera.

To get their body fat percentage, people must wear “tight, minimal” clothing, such as bike shorts and a sports bra. Placing their phone 4-6 feet away, they then take capture photos or “body scans,” one front facing, one back, and one from each side. Artificial intelligence renders those photos into a 3D view of their body shape.

Once calculated, the body fat percentage number is presented alongside a corresponding national average based on a person’s gender, age, height, and weight. The body model can be morphed to show how a person might look if they gained or lost weight. The visualization is designed for those trying to work towards certain body goals.(However, it could also be dangerous fodder for anyone suffering from body dysmorphia, eating disorders, or compulsive exercising.)

Majmudar says that by default, the body-scan photos are processed in the cloud and then deleted after 12 hours. The body model is only stored locally on the phone.

Tone is by far the strangest of the app’s features. Using its embedded microphone, the band listens to your voice throughout the day and detects its tone—positive, sad, irritated, or otherwise. The idea is to address your social and emotional health.

To use Tone, you have to create a voice profile by reading a piece of text. That way, it can recognize and measure only your voice, not other ones it may pick up. When Tone is turned on, it runs passively and intermittently in the background, picking up on snippets of conversations throughout the day. It then tells you how you sounded to other people. Among the list of emotions is content, concerned, happy, and tired.

“This gives you a simple way to reflect on your communications and interactions throughout the day,” says Majmudar. This feature also gives you summaries of your mood throughout the day, highlighting when you were noticeably energetic, positive, or warm. It also notes outlier moments when you sound different than they ordinarily do.

For those that may be concerned about Amazon tracking their every word, the company says this audio never goes to the cloud. It’s processed on your phone, and isn’t stored. Amazon appears to be drawing a hard line on privacy here. In the past, its stance on

Amazon is balancing its consideration for privacy with a healthy amount of data sharing. In order to make the data Halo collects useful, it’s turning to partners. WW (Weight Watchers) users can link to the Halo app activity, so they can collect FitPoints. Cerner, the electronic health record provider, can also hook into Halo and transfer a persons health data over to his or her larger medical record.

The Labs feature—which provides activities that users can perform to change their health outlook—also draws on Amazon’s partners. For instance, the Mayo Clinic offers a pet-free bedroom Lab that is supposed to lower sleep interruptions from a restless pet. Weight loss program LifeSum, has an activity for reducing calorie intake. Other partners include Apptiv, Orange Theory, Harvard Medical, and the American Health Association. These activities provide one more way for users to put that wrist band to use (and perhaps ensure that it doesn’t get relegated to a drawer somewhere).

How well does Halo track and analyze the data it collects? For now, it’s anyone’s guess. Majmudar says that Amazon has done lots of internal testing, but has not yet published any studies verifying the Halo’s capabilities.

Indeed, Amazon has good reason to want to get this right. But we won’t know how well it’s done until Halo arrives and independent researchers put it to the test.

Research contact: @FastCompany

See ya later: Apple envisions the future of eyeglasses

July 6, 2020

Is Apple on a mission to reinvent eyeglasses? Perhaps, and the resulting technology could produce glasses with virtually infinite adjustments to your changing vision over time—never mind bifocal or trifocals for nearsightedness and farsightedness.

“I hear they have 19 different prototypes that they’re working on, which shows the effort that Apple’s doing,” tech analyst Robert Scoble said in a recent TechFirst podcast focused on an Apple patent win. “This is a multibillion-dollar effort going into eyeglasses and thinking through literally everything.”

One part of Apple’s project is better glasses for better vision: exactly what glasses were initially invented for. Another part is significantly more transformational: a complete reimagining of human-computer interfaces.

Essentially, it’s the next major leap in technology platforms—and, along the way, Apple might just disrupt the $120 billion eyewear market in the same way it devastated the Swiss watch industry with Apple Watch.

Indeed, almost every major tech company is now working on smart glasses. Google launched Glass years ago, retains an enterprise version of the product—and just acquired North, a Canadian manufacturer of light, natural-looking smartglasses.

And Forbes reports, Facebook just revealed an early version of its “holographic optics for thin and lightweight virtual reality” in a research report. Amazon has a limited-availability product with Alexa, Amazon Echo Frames.

Part one for Apple seems to be about the basics, according to a patent the company just received: correcting vision.“What they’re wanting to do is you put on a pair of glasses, and it sees inside your eye and bends the optic … in a way that corrects your vision perfectly, so you don’t need to go to an optometrist,” Scoble told Forbes.

The next level is notifications, and it’s what much of the low-end smartglasses space has focused on. With smartglasses notifications, the alert is right in front of your face.

Part three is where the game really changes, Scoble said, and we enter an era of “spatial computing,” virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality.

Now you can compute while riding a mountain bike, or driving a car, or walking to a shopping center,” Scoble says. “You can replace the floor and make it something new, different, like a video game. You can then fly things in the air and they could bounce off the walls like balls, because this thing understands the 3D space it’s in. That’s why we call it ‘spatial computing,’ because you’re now computing as you’re moving through space … no longer are you tied to the little rectangular pieces of glass to compute: you can compute on literally everything.”

“This next paradigm shift is computing that you use while walking around, while moving around in space,” Scoble says.

One unexpected thing it’ll change?

Fashion, because what you’re physically wearing—or even what you actually look like — won’t necessarily limit how you portray yourself to others.

“Facebook is planning on doing all sorts of magic stuff when you meet a friend in the street it’ll go beep and all of a sudden I’ll see your 3D costume that you just bought, something made for you, right?” Scoble says. “I’ll be like ‘Yeah, nice costume’ … in ten years, we’re going to have Burning Man 24 hours a day in the streets?

Which of course will bring an entirely new set of privacy concerns along with it, as every adopter will be wearing cameras and sensors, and major platforms will want a piece of that.

That’s probably one reason why Apple is working so hard right now to be the face of big tech privacy.

Research contact: @Forbes