Posts tagged with "Wearables"

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

Merge ahead: Google to buy Fitbit in $2.1 billion deal

November 4, 2019

San Francisco-based Fitbit—which has expanded its presence to 39,000 retail stores and 100+ countries since it produced its first activity trackers in 2007—announced on November 1 that it has agreed to be acquired by Menlo Park, California-based tech giant Google for $7.35 per share in cash—valuing the company at a fully diluted equity value of approximately $2.1 billion.

“More than 12 years ago, we set an audacious company vision—to make everyone in the world healthier. Today, I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved towards reaching that goal. We have built a trusted brand that supports more than 28 million active users around the globe who rely on our products to live a healthier, more active life,” said James Park, co-founder and CEO of Fitbit. “Google is an ideal partner to advance our mission. With Google’s resources and global platform, Fitbit will be able to accelerate innovation in the wearables category, scale faster, and make health even more accessible to everyone. I could not be more excited for what lies ahead.”

“Fitbit has been a true pioneer in the industry and has created terrific products, experiences and a vibrant community of users,” said Rick Osterloh, SVP, Devices & Services at Google. “We’re looking forward to working with the incredible talent at Fitbit, and bringing together the best hardware, software and AI, to build wearables to help even more people around the world.”

According activity tracker developers, being “on Fitbit” is not just about the device. Rather, “it is an immersive experience from the wrist to the app, designed to help users understand and change their behavior to improve their health.”

 Because of this unique approach, Fitbit says it has sold more than 100 million devices and supports an engaged global community of millions of active users—using data to deliver unique personalized guidance and coaching to its users. Fitbit will continue to remain platform-agnostic across both Android and iOS.

Consumer trust is paramount to Fitbit. Strong privacy and security guidelines have been part of Fitbit’s DNA since day one, and this will not change. Fitbit says the company “will continue to put users in control of their data and will remain transparent about the data it collects and why. The company never sells personal information, and Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads.”

The transaction is expected to close in 2020, subject to customary closing conditions, including approval by Fitbit’s stockholders and regulatory approvals.

Research contact:@fitbit

‘Having your back’ can save employers’ money

May 17, 2018

An estimated 126.6 million Americans (one in two adults) are affected by a musculoskeletal condition such as back pain—comparable to the total percentage of Americans living with a chronic lung or heart condition—costing an estimated $213 billion in annual treatment, care and lost wages, according to a report issued in 2016 by the United States Bone and Joint Initiative (USBJI).

Back pain alone accounts for 10% of healthcare costs and is a major contributor to lost productivity Therefore, for employers seeking to significantly reduce their healthcare spend, medical and benefits experts point to back pain relief as the low-hanging fruit, Marathon Health, a corporate healthcare provider, claims.

By targeting back pain through wellness programs and low-cost interventions—such as wearables, on-site clinics with chiropractors or physical therapists, and acupuncture—industry experts contend that employers can minimize the much costlier use of medications and major surgery.

Today, employers spend more than $1,200 per employee per year on musculoskeletal issues—almost three times as much as they spend on cardiovascular disease, says Jonathan Edwards, manager of Analytics and Consulting at Verscend Technologies, a Nepal-based provider of data-driven healthcare solutions.

“Our data show that about 35% of that is back-related cost,” he says.

Poor posture is a major culprit and targeting it can be the first line of defense against debilitating back pain. That’s one area smart employers are focusing on.

One of them, Marathon Health reports, is EY Israel, a branch of the global tax and auditing firm Ernst & Young,—which has partnered with wearables technology vendor UpRight to encourage its employees to correct their posture. A device is placed on the lower or upper back and vibrates once it detects a slouch, keep employees conscious of just how they are sitting.

“The reality is that most businessmen and women spend eight to 12 hours a day hunched over at their desks, which leads to back pain, decreased productivity, poor health and missed work days,” says UpRight CEO Oded Cohen “By gradually and consistently training back and core muscles, UpRight helped participants build muscle memory to improve their posture.”

Thirty-one employees participated in a six-week pilot program, during which 85% became more aware of their posture, 71% felt more confident as a result of better posture and 66% strengthened their core muscles. UpRight plans to continue its corporate wellness program with other companies, Cohen says.

Another approach employers might consider, experts say, is to give employees access to chiropractors and physical therapists at an on-site clinic. These specialists can intervene with back problems before costlier medical treatments are needed.

What’s more, physical therapy and chiropractic services are often covered by a majority of employer programs, already,

“Bottom line is a return on investment,” says Mark Niebuhr, a physical therapist with Marathon Health, a company that operates workplace health centers for employers. “If the services that are provided are cost-effective, it will pay for itself.”

Another reason these services are important offerings? They are more cost-effective and safer than relying on opiates and other painkillers.

Claims costs for injured workers who are prescribed opioids are four times greater than employees treated without the use of opioids, according to the nonprofit National Safety Council.

Surgery and associated tests like MRIs will also send healthcare spending skyrocketing. About 50% of all musculoskeletal healthcare spending is surgery-related, says Verscend’s Edwards, citing the analytics company’s data.

To evaluate the effectiveness of their back-pain benefits, employers should take into account what they spend on various medical and pharmaceutical treatments, as well as the cost of lost productivity, says Edwards. By analyzing these data, they can determine which approaches give them the greatest return and are best-suited to their workforce.

Research contact: info@marathon-health.com