Tag Archives: Health

Just a Drop of Blood with Apollo Medical Devices at CES 2018



With the advances in medical sciences and technology, there’s often no longer the need to “Send it to the lab, stat!” to get up-to-date info on blood chemistry. Soon, readings will be given at point of care in a few minutes, if not seconds. Todd consults with Brian on their latest blood diagnostic device.

Apollo Medical Devices has been working with Case Western Reserve University in Ohio to develop a point of care blood diagnostic unit that uses a drop of blood to give information in seconds on eight key indicators such as sodium, potassium, pH and blood oxygen.

The new devices should be in production with 12-18 months and cost will be in line with industry norms for the test.

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

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Kolibree’s Magik Toothbrush Brings AR to Brushing at CES 2018



Tooth decay is the most prevalent chronic disease in children and it can easily be prevented by regular and effective brushing. Getting children to brush is another matter entirely but French firm Kolibree are looking to gamification and augmented reality to get children excited about brushing. Todd finds out what is like to interview Arthur with a toothbrush in his mouth.

Kolibree’s Magik toothbrush plays an augmented reality game where the children defeat evil cavity monsters by attacking them with their toothbrush. Using a smartphone or tablet, the child sees themselves in a “magic mirror” and fight boss monsters to win superpower masks. At the end of a brushing session, the app shows the child and parent how well they’ve brushed and any areas missed.

The Magik brush is expected in Q3 2018 and Kolibree is looking to price it at under US$30. Sign up at Kolibree to hear when it’s ready to buy.

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

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Petrics Helps Owners Shed Pet Pounds at CES 2018



Just as in humans, obesity in cats and dogs brings health issues like diabetes and heart disease. Over half of the pets in American households are overweight and this reduces their life expectancy by several years. Petrics want to help owners spend less time managing their pets and more time loving them with a couple of new products aimed at reducing obesity. No treats for Todd from Edward.

Winners of two CES Innovation awards, Petrics are coming at the problem from two fronts. First Petrics have a Health & Nutrition application which records the animal’s food and exercise, but also guides the owner towards appropriate meal choices for their pet. Second, Petrics are launching a smart pet bed which works with an activity tracker to measure pet exercise and weight. This will pass information to the Health & Nutrition app, giving the owner current and historical information about their animal’s condition to see if new regimes are having the right impact.

The app and bed will be coming to the market early in 2018, priced at US$100-$300 depending on the size of the bed.

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

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Audeara “Hearing Test” Headphones at CES 2018



We’ve covered Audeara’s headphones on GNC before but they’re so interesting that they’re worth a second shout as it’s CES and all manner of advanced technology is on show.

Audeara are the world’s first full fidelity headphones with an built-in hearing test to protect user’s ears and deliver a completely personalised listening experience.

Everyone has a degree of hearing loss. Not just as a result of every loud gig they’ve been to, every busy street they’ve walked down, or every police siren that’s ever gone past but also damage can be sustained purely by listening to their headphones too loud. More and more young people have some loss of hearing, with an increasing number with the same hearing health usually associated with a 60 year old.

Audeara headphones can be used to test and retest hearing over a lifetime and adapt music to the user’s individual needs. They make music better, not louder, and provide perfect sound as it’s personalised for each person’s hearing. The first time the headphones are worn, the user undertakes a hearing test – the results of which, are subsequently stored in the headphones themselves. The headphones use this hearing profile to adjust the sound signal as it passes through them. They adjust the right ear differently from the left, making sure each part of the signal reaches the user’s brain in a way that’s heard as a perfect reflection of the intended signal.

What makes the Audeara headphones especially powerful is that all the technology is inside the headphones themselves. After the first test, the app isn’t required again unless the user wants to retest. This means headphones are no longer passive magnets for signal conversion, instead, they’re sophisticated tools for personalised sound reproduction.

The A-01 headphones are on pre-sale for AU$399 (that’s Australian dollars) with delivery expected in February 2018.

There’s video explaining the technology here.


How Good Is Your Air? Foobot Knows



While air is all around us, colourless and odourless, we often seek a semi-mythical fresh air; at the seaside, in a spring meadow, after rain on a summer’s day, on crisp winter morning. We all have our favourite. On the other hand, bad air can be difficulty to identify too. Unless there’s mould on the wall or the smell of fresh paint, many pollutants are invisible too.

Around 5 million people in the UK suffer from various levels of asthma and for people with this condition, air quality can be an important factor in their quality of life. This was a reality for Jacques Touillon, whose son suffered from asthma. Back in 2014, he started a successful Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for an indoor air quality monitor called Foobot (formerly Alima) and now the Foobot is available for sale in North America, Europe and Australia. Let’s take a look.

The Foobot is a semi-cylindrical gadget a little taller than a smart phone (17 cm), with what looks like an air vent on top. It’s not dissimilar to an Amazon Echo, only a little shorter. Unlike the Echo, the Foobot has sophisticated sensors to measure gases and chemicals in the air, glowing blue when air quality is good and orange when poor. In particular, the Foobot measures:

  • VOCs – Volatile Organic Compounds, which are toxic gases like ammonia and formaldehyde
  • PM2.5s – Particulate Matter smaller than 2.5 micrometres, like dust, pollen and pet dander
  • Carbon Monoxide, which can be deadly as it binds irreversibly with the haemoglobin in the blood
  • Humidity. High humidity can lead to damp and low humidity is an irritation
  • Temperature

As a smart device, the Foobot integrates with other smart home solutions, from Google Nest to Amazon Echo, and with the help of IFTTT, Foobot can also connect to over 120 home appliances, including Hive, the connected thermostat from British Gas. Of course, there’s a complementary smartphone app for iOS and Android that shows both real-time and historical information.

Powered by a USB charger, the Foobot connects via wifi and the setup procedure is very straightforward, using the clever trick of turning the Foobot upside down to initiate the start up procedure. The app then gets the wifi connection established, owner’s account set up, timezone confirmed, room location set, Celsius v Fahrenheit chosen. All exactly what you’d expect from an indoor air quality monitor.

What you might not expect is that the Foobot takes about a week to calibrate the sensors and settle down. Until this happens, there are warnings about the inaccuracy of the readings and some app features like notifications and alerts are unavailable until the bedding in period is complete.

Although light on the detail, the Foobot does colour itself to express air quality based on the GPI – the Global Pollution Index. Information on how it’s calculated is a little sparse though apparently it’s “a weighted compound of the different pollutants measured by Foobot“. Smaller is better, so less than 25 is great, 25-50 is good, 50-75 is fair and 75+ is poor (just move out). The Foobot will glow blue for great and good, and orange for a GPI over 50. The length of the lights is an indicator for how good or bad the GPI is.

The Foobot glows lilac if you disturb it by rocking or tapping it. The smartphone app will register and notify on the disturbance too. They’re called “knock knock” notifications and Foobot suggests they could be used to tell a parent that a child is home safe.

The really juicy stuff is in the smartphone app which is a free download from the relevant app store. To start with, the colour of the app will mimic the Foobot but more detail on the level of Particulate Matter, Volatile Compounds and Carbon Dioxide is available.  Humidity and Temperature are shown too. A couple of different views present the information in varying levels of detail.

 

Swiping up from the bottom shows historical information and swiping left or right moves between the measures. The information is presented by minutes, hours, days or weeks.

  

The Foobot app supports notifications and if any threshold is breached, sends the app a notfication. Notifications can be individually controlled but the thresholds seem fixed. Here in Northern Ireland it’s fairly damp much of time so the default 60% humidity threshold meant that I got lots of notifications. I turned it off.

Along with the notification, Foobot asks for clarification on what you think might have caused the peak and offers the choice of things like cleaning and cooking. One curious option is “olfactive decorator” which I think translates to “smelly paint”.

What surprised me was how much air quality was affected by people being around. The graph on the right shows a day where there was no-one home between 9-5 and we got an early night. During the day and night, the GPI drops to less than ten when there’s no-one about, but jumps up as soon as someone’s home.

The Foobot app has a couple of other settings. The intensity of the LEDs can be adjusted and the LEDs can be put on a timer so that if the Foobot is in, say, a bedroom, they can be timed to go off at night.

As a smart device, the Foobot can be integrated with other smart home systems to do clever things. There is official integration with Alexa but at the moment it’s limited to asking Foobot for an air quality summary (GPI), and turning the Foobot’s lights on or off. You can’t get specifics of temperature, humidity, VOC or particulates.  On the other hand, you can unofficially integrate Foobot with Samsung SmartThings to get this information – see left. There’s integration too with Nest and Lux thermostats from within the Foobot app: I don’t have either of those so couldn’t test further. At a higher level, there’s integration with IFTTT so there’s plenty of options there too. If air quality poor, turn up the ventilation….

What improvements would I like? Two things come to mind….one, for the alert thresholds to be adjustable to allow for damp countries and, second, for there to be a specific detection and alert for carbon monoxide (CO) with the option of alerting multiple people should it be sensed. CO is a dangerous poisonous gas produced by burning gas, wood, propane, charcoal or other fuel that kills people in their sleep. I have a gas-burning stove in my home so I’m always conscious of this risk (yes, I have a CO-detector).

Overall, the Foobot does what it sets out to do – it measures indoor air quality – and if you do have a family member who suffers from a condition affected by air quality I think the Foobot is money well spent. I’ve had the Foobot operational in my home for about two months over the summer and I can already see trends associated with weather and indoor activity such as cooking (or burning!). If you are then able to match trends to symptoms, you are well on the way to better managing the medical condition.

Other scenarios might be if you lived near a busy road or a factory, and were concerned about pollution, or even to keep an eye on an elderly relative without going for the complexity of a whole smart home. The relative could “knock knock” every now and then, and you could make sure he or she is warm enough and not skimping on the heating. Just a thought…

I can’t comment on the accuracy of the VOC and particulate figures, but the humidity and temperature measurements were very similar to the values recorded by other smart sensors. Further, the general trends appeared to be correct – people in the room, vacuuming, opening windows, cooking – all impacted as expected on the measurements, so broadly I believe the figures are correct.

The Foobot is available direct from their website priced at US$199 and EU€199. The Foobot is on Amazon.co.uk too for GB£179.

Thanks to Foobot for supplying the unit for review. There’s an unboxing and review video below.


Fibion Brings Science To Activity Tracking (Part 2)



In the first interview, I chatted with one of Fibion‘s partners, Olli Tikkanen, about their approach to activity tracking and how the Fibion team can produce accurate data on movement and lifestyle from the Fibion tracker. This time, I’m speaking with Jonathan Bloomfield, MD of Support2Perform, Human Performance Specialists, here in Northern Ireland, who use Fibion trackers to carryout assessments on clients.

The team at Support2Perfom use the Fibion tracker and the analysis tools to do a deep dive into the wearer’s daily behaviour. The tracker is typically worn for about a week before the data is uploaded and analysed. The results are displayed in different graphics to show the person’s activity in a meaningful way. How much of my day is sitting around?

 

 

This data forms the baseline for change and having made lifestyle changes, the Fibion analysis can be redone to check that they’ve had the desired effect.


Fibion Brings Science to Activity Tracking (Part 1)



Fitbits and other activity trackers are popular: I see them on the waists and wrists of colleagues everyday and I have one myself. Good as they are at encouraging activity, they tend to be a fairly broad brush with an emphasis on hitting targets, typically 10,000 steps. While some trackers attempt show the breadth of activity across the day, they’re not very good at the detail. When was I sitting? When was I standing? How often did I stand up?

The team at Fibion can help answer these questions with their professional sitting and activity analysis, which aims to move away from the gamification of fitness to a scientific assessment for improving health. By combining the Fibion device with algorithms based on scientific research, the Fibion analysis gives accurate results for a week-long measurement, showing how much time is spent sitting versus standing and active.

The device itself might be considered overly plain, but that’s by design. If you don’t see your steps, there’s no incentive to do more, and so the Fibion is more likely to record a representative lifestyle. It’s all about the science.

In the first of two conversations, I interview Fibion partner Olli Tikkanen on their approach and the dimunitive tracker. In part 2, I’ll talk to a professional who uses Fibion to assess activity in the workplace.


How Fresh is Your Air?



I’m lucky enough to live in a small commuter village here in Northern Ireland. If I look out my window, I can see cows munching the grass in a neighbouring field. Many people aren’t this fortunate, and live close to major roads with higher levels of pollution. I think we’re all aware of the increase in asthma and allergies in the past few decades too, and around 5 million people in the UK suffer from various levels of asthma.

And unless fumes are pouring out of an exhaust, most air pollution is invisible to the eye and odourless to the nose. It’s very difficult for us to assess how bad the air quality is in our own homes, even subjectively. For a more objective view the Foobot smart indoor air quality monitor can assess the indoor air and pass the data to its complementary app.

The Foobot is a semi-cylindrical gadget a little taller than a smart phone (17 cm), with what looks like an air vent on top. At first glance it could be mistaken for a smart home hub, but the Foobot has sophisticated sensors to measure gases and chemicals in the air. The Foobot glows blue when air quality is good and turns orange if it becomes poor. In particular, the Foobot measures:

  • VOCs – Volatile Organic Compounds, which are toxic gases like ammonia and formaldehyde
  • PM2.5s – Particulate Matter smaller than 2.5 micrometres, like dust, pollen and pet dander
  • Carbon Monoxide, which can be deadly as it binds irreversibly with the haemoglobin in the blood
  • Humidity. High humidity can lead to damp and low humidity is an irritation
  • Temperature

The Foobot can also assess carbon dioxide, but this is derived from other figures – there’s no CO2 sensor. Full specs on the Foobot are here.

As a smart device, the Foobot integrates with other smart home solutions, from Google Nest to Amazon Echo, and with the help of IFTTT, Foobot can also connect to over 120 home appliances, including Hive, the connected thermostat from British Gas. Simplistically, if Foobot detects that the room air quality is becoming poor, then an extractor fan or air conditioner can be turned on to refresh the air. The Foobot itself connects via WiFi and the Foobot app is available for both iOS and Android.

The Foobot is manufactured by AirBoxLab, a Luxembourg-based startup founded by CEO Jacques Touillon, whose son suffered from asthma. Back in 2014 it was an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, formerly called Alima.

I think the Foobot is a good idea, especially if you do have family members who suffer from conditions that respond to air quality. The saying goes, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure”. The Foobot can provide that measurement to help manage the local environment, and hopefully provide relief to sufferers.

The Foobot is available now in US, Canada, Europe and Australia, priced at US$199, GB£170, €199.


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.