Category Archives: Interview

Personalised Packets for Pills



As with much of the developed world, life expectancy in the Northern Ireland has increased considerably in the last few decades. With this growth, people are now living with long-term medical conditions. For those 60-69 years old, more than 50% of the population will have at least one medical condition. For 70-79 years old, 50% will have two or more medical problems. We might be living longer, but we’re sicker.

Medication can help with many conditions, but medicine only works if it’s taken and multiple conditions can lead to a bewildering array of pills that need to be taken on a schedule. Trays with Monday-Sunday and am/pm can help but it’s all too easy to make a mistake.

PillPacPlus provide a service that helps with this increasing problem. Instead of giving people many boxes with each box containing a single drug, pharmacies can now dispense medications in sachets, with each one containing all the drugs to be taken at a time. Each sachet on the roll is labelled with the time and date, and this makes it perfectly clear to the patient what has to be taken and when.

For those with dementia, even pre-labelled sachets can be a struggle. To help further, the sachet rolls can be loaded into a dispensing machine (Evondos E300) that is programmed with the schedule. If the patient forgets to take the medication, the machine sounds an alarm to alert him or her. If this doesn’t work, the machine can alert pharmacists and carers about the problem.

It’s all aimed at making sure that the right medication is taken at the right time to manage those long-term conditions. To find out more, I interviewed Lindsay and Sara from PillPacPlus at NICON17. Listen below.


JAM Card Gives People Time



It’s a fast paced world out there and you need all your faculties to keep up. Take too long, and it’s “Next please!” while you’re still standing there. Imagine how much more difficult it is if you do have a learning disability or condition such as Asperger’s and you just need a little more time.

To help people in this situation, the NOW Group has created an app that asks people for “Just A Minute”. The JAM Card app shows staff in retail outlets, transport and other areas of public life that the person needs “Just A Minute” of patience and time when interacting with them.

The smartphone app is based on the original concept of a plastic card and was the idea of people with a disability who said they often felt under pressure when they were out and about in everyday life. They wanted a discreet way of letting people know that they needed a little extra time.

The app is available for both Android and iOS (search for “JAM Card”). At present the app only caters for four specific conditions though they hope to extend it to more over time. The app also allows users to score retail stores and transportation for their helpfulness towards people with disabilities.

For more information, listen to my interview with NOW Group’s Jayne at NICON 17.  If you like what the NOW Group are doing here, you can vote for them over at Digital DNA and help them become a partner charity.


Real and Virtual Play Combine with Sam’s Curious Cars



Learning is best done when fun and what’s more fun than play? Sam’s Curious Cars fall right into this sweet spot and Todd gets an interactive demo from Joachim.

Sam Labs have created a series of component-based toys (think chassis, wheels, motors) that can be built up to make a vehicle – in this instance a car. The components are compatible with Lego bricks, so builders can really express themselves.

Once constructed, the car can be controlled by other components, like a switch for power and a slide for left and right. The car can also be controlled by an app and for advanced learners, the cars behaviour can be built up using control blocks in the app. It’s designed to introduce some of the key concepts of programming without actually having to code.

There’s a series of six different sets, priced from US$99 and the Curious Cars are $199. Additional sensors and motors can be bought separately. Available now from the Sam Labs shop and other good retailers.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Owlet Smart Sock for Sleeping Babies at CES



The technology to measure physiology is becoming commonplace: any smart watch worthy of the name can record heart rate. The trick now is to incorporate these sensors into other useful gadgets. A good example here is the Owlet Smart Sock which brings reassurance to parents that their baby is sleeping normally.

The Owlet Smart Sock monitors a baby’s heart rate and blood oxygen, alerting parents or carers if either measurement causes concern. The Owlet Smart Sock system has three components; the smart sock or bootie which is worn by the baby on its foot, a monitoring unit and the companion app. The bootie communicates with the monitoring unit via Bluetooth and if there is a problem, parents are notified by visual and audible alerts on the Owlet unit and smartphone(s).

The app is available for both iOS and Android but check compatibility before buying.

The Owlet Smart Sock is available now for $249 direct from Owlet.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Bitdefender BOX Protects the Smart Home at CES



With the arrival of the Internet of Things, installing antivirus software on a PC isn’t going address malware lurking on a smart home control unit. A different approach is needed and Bitdefender’s BOX might be the solution. Dan talks to Todd about what Box offers over traditional security products.

The Bitdefender Box is a small hardware device which is connected into a free port on the main router – it’s similar in size to the control units for SmartThings or Hue. Once configured via Bitdefender’s Central Account or the companion smartphone app, it monitors the network traffic for suspicious activity. Box provides several layers of security over and above standard antivirus with everything from URL filtering to anomaly detection.

Bitdefender Box is available now for US$129 in the first year, with an annual subscription of $99. The next gen Box is expected in the summer, priced at $199. Box is currently only available in the USA.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Get the Zzzzs in with Witti at CES



Witti are reasonably well-known for their Beddi collection of stylish bedside clocks and lights which both help the sleeper doze off and wake them gently in the morning. Expanding their product portfolio, Witti is introducing Sleepi and Todd finds out from Alfred what it can offer snoozers.

Sleepi is a sleep monitoring system, comprising of a bedside light and clock, a sleep tracker that goes under the mattress and the obligatory smartphone app. The app tracks sleep and wakefulness, providing a report in the morning. What makes Sleepi different is that it works with smart homes to figure out what interrupted the sleep, e.g. the room was too hot, and then adjust the temperature automatically. That’s smart.

A Kickstarter launch is planned for Sleepi, with shipping towards the end of 2017. Expected retail price around US$149.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Flir Duo Flies with Autel at CES



Flir created a minor sensation few years ago with the Flir One thermal imaging attachment for smartphones costing only a few hundred bucks. Building on this, Flir have launched the Duo, a dual sensor compact camera designed to be carried by drones. John gives Todd a quick demo of the new Duo and see if you can spot the GNC cameraman.

The Flir Duo combines both visible light and thermal sensors into a single camera which can be carried by any drone that attaches GoPro cameras.  The visible resolution is full HD at 1920 x 1080, whereas the thermal camera is only 160 x 120. This might seem poor but the resolution of thermal imaging tends to be much lower. Flir has a nice trick called MSX blending where the visible and thermal images are combined to give more detailed pictures. There’s a demo here.

There a two versions, the Duo and Duo R, with the latter providing calibrated radiometric temperature measurements, i.e. it can tell accurately how hot an object is. The Duo is priced at US$999 and the Duo R is $1,299. Available now.

Flir have partnered with drone makers Autel Robotics and paired their Duo with the X-Star Premium drone for an all-in-one package including customised flight software. Oddly the package appears to be available only to US military and no word on price.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Craft Beer at Home with iGulu at CES



Fancy a beer? Me too, but I’ve never brewed my own, though his might change with the iGulu automated home brewing system. Todd looks for some refreshment in the hot halls of tech.

Winning a CES Innovation Honoree award, the iGulu machine brews a beer from ingredients to fresh beverage in anything from seven days to a couple of weeks, depending the receipe. Everything is done in the iGulu, from initial mixing and mashing to the fermentation and pour, with sensors ensuring that the final product is perfect. There are receipes for everything from lagers to stouts and the process can be tweaked via the iGulu app to suit personal taste. There’s a small screen to control and check on progress of the brew. I’m feeling thirsty….

The iGulu is available for pre-order via Indiegogo starting from US$550, with an expected final retail price of US$800.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Smart Running with FeetMe Sport at CES



Step counters and activity trackers are ten-a-penny, but what if the tracker could show you how you run, not just how far you run? It’s now a reality with smart insoles from FeetMe. Todd finds out more from CTO Andrey Mostovov and sprinter Taylor Pegram.

FeetMe’s athletic smart insoles, FeetMe Sport, constantly takes measurements from over thirty pressure sensors, before processing the information in their FeetMe coaching app to show exactly how your feet hit the ground. Imagine being a top athlete and being able to see your stride and steps. The app gives suggestions for improvement and weaknesses are highlighted for attention in the next training session. Unsurprisingly, the FeetMe Sport uses Bluetooth to pass the information on to a nearby smartphone or tablet, giving feedback in the field.

There’s a professional version for healthcare aimed at people who have gait or foot problems, or need post-operative assessment, allowing clinicians to review the data from the insoles.

The FeetMe Sport insoles are on pre-order for US$150.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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TytoCare Telehealth at CES Keeps Sick Kids at Home



Parents around the world will recognise the perennial problem of taking their child to the doctor for relatively minor ailments simply to get prescription or medication. The kid just wants to be wrapped up in bed watching TV but they’ve to be dragged down to the doctor for 2 minute exam to confirm it’s nothing to worry about. TytoCare have a brilliant solution in the shape of the TytoHome telehealth and remote examination kit. Todd finds out more from Dedi Gilad.

The TytoCare system is a hand-sized unit with a small screen which has icons for the body area to be checked – nose, ears, heart, lungs, temperature. The device uses a selection of interchangeable sensors which are shaped appropriately and are plugged into the rear of the unit.

The device combines a number of medical instruments, including

  • a high resolution video and still camera
  • an infrared forehead thermometer
  • an otoscope for the ear
  • stethoscope for the heart and lungs
  • tongue depressor for the mouth and throat

The TytoHome connects via Bluetooth to any smartphone and the complementary app demonstrates and guides the owner in the use of the device. The collected data is either recorded for later review or on online consultation can be started with a healthcare provider, sending data back to the clinician during the discussion.

The TytoHome is expected to retail at US$299 when it comes to market. There are enhanced versions for professional use (TytoPro and TytoClinic).

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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