Category Archives: health

Apple Watch Series 6 Can Measure Blood Oxygen Levels



Apple announced Apple Watch Series 6. It features a Blood Oxygen Sensor and app. That addition was an excellent decision on Apple’s part considering that it appears that a low blood oxygen level might have something to do with COVID-19.

“Apple Watch Series 6 completely redefines what a watch can do,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer. “With powerful new features, including a Blood Oxygen sensor and app, Apple Watch becomes even more indispensable by providing further insight into overall well-being.”

The Blood Oxygen sensor compensates for natural variations in the skin and improves accuracy by employing four clusters of green, red, and infrared LEDs, along with four photodiodes on the back of the Apple Watch, to measure light reflected back from blood.

Apple Watch then uses an advanced custom algorithm built into the Blood Oxygen app, which is designed to measure blood oxygen between 70 percent and 100 percent. On-demand measurements can be taken while the users is still, and periodic background measurements occur when they are inactive, including during sleep. All data will be visible in the Health app, and the user will be able to track trends over time to see how their blood oxygen level changes.

A person’s blood oxygen level has important information not just related to COVID-19, but also to other health issues. Apple will be collaborating with the University of California, Irvine, and Anthem to examine how longitudinal measurements of blood oxygen and other physiological signals can help manage and control asthma.

In addition, Apple will work with the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research and the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre at the University Health Network to better understand how blood oxygen measurements and other Apple Watch metrics can help with management of heart failure.

Investigators with the Seattle Flu Study at the Brotman Baty Institute for Precision Medicine and faculty from the University of Washington School of Medicine will seek to learn how signals from apps on Apple Watch, such as Heart Rate and Blood Oxygen, could serve as early signs of respiratory conditions like influenza and COVID-19.

Apple Watch Series 6 (GPS) starts at $399 and Apple Watch Series 6 (GPS + Cellular) starts at $499.


Xiaomi Ecosystem Updates for the UK



Xiaomi launched in the UK back in November 2018 and has made considerable progress in brand recognition and product availability – I know a couple of people who have bough Mi phones or Smart Bands and say good things. Certainly there’s probably an element of benefitting from Huawei’s misfortune but I think that does a disservice to Xiaomi’s products which go from personal gadgets and personal transport to smart homes and smart phones.

Xiaomi continues to move forwards and recently revealed its plans for UK partnerships for electric scooters and smart phones, plus the availability of the latest Mi Smart Band 5. Checking out these scooters, I definitely need to get one of these in for review…

Motoring and cycling specialists Halfords will be stocking Xiaomi’s new scooters. At the top of the range is the Mi Electric Scooter Pro 2 at GB£599. This e-scooter has a range of 45 km and can reach speeds of 25 km/h (15.5 mph) with a 300 W motor, and folds up for easy storage. It’s available now from Halfords.

Also available is the Mi Electric Scooter 1S, a cheaper variant of the Pro 2 at £499, but still coming with a range of 25 km and a top speed of the 25 km/h (15.5 mph) from the 250 W motor. Both the 1S and the Pro 2 have double brakes for safety.

At the bottom of the range is the Mi Electric Scooter Essential at £399 which can cover a distance of 20 km at a speed of 20 km/h. This scooter comes with 8.5″ pneumatic tyres, E-ABS and disc brakes and will be available soon.

Please remember that currently electric scooters can only be ridden legally on private land. UK Government trials are underway using commercial rental scooters. For a bit of fun, check out this race between a Xiaomi scooter and a jet-pack. Really…a jet pack

On the phone side, Xiaomi has partnered with 3 UK to offer the Mi 10 5G and Redmi Note 9 smartphones from 28th August. These are phones at opposite ends of the handset market. The Mi 10 comes with 6.67″ 90 Hz screen with a Snapdragon 865 CPU, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB storage, 5G and a quad camera setup with a 108 MP main shooter. Photos are analysed and improved using AI to get the best possible image. Priced at £799, it’s not cheap but there’s plenty of value in the Mi 10. On contract, 3 are offering a number of deals, including some with six months half-price.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Redmi Note 9 is only £149 with a 6.53″ FHD+ screen powered by a Mediatek Helio G85. There’s an AI supported quad camera round the back, with a 48 MP primary lens, and comes with 3 GB RAM and 64 GB of storage. Again, 3 have offers on the phone if buying the phone outright isn’t your thing

Finally, the Mi Smart Band 5 has a large 1.1″ AMOLED colour display, tracks 11 different sport types and is water-resistant to 50m, which means it’s perfect for swimming. With a two week battery life and magnetic coupling, it can spend more time on the wrist and less time on the charger. Priced at only £39.95 it seems like a complete bargain!

If you want to see more on all these products, the UK launch video is on Twitter.


Xiaomi Shows Off New Product Line Up



In a keynote online presentation today, Xiaomi showed off its upcoming new Mi products in a range of categories from smart bands to scooters. The company is 10 years old in 2020 and is ranked 24th in Boston Consulting Group’s 50 most innovative companies, with its smartphones ranked in the top 5 in over 40 companies. Xiaomi has built a large ecosystem of consumer electronics, wearables, TVs, scooters, smart home devices and smartphones.

Here are the new devices announced.

Mi Smart Band 5

Xaoimi’s fitness trackers have been previously well received (over 100 million sold) and I think we can expect the same for the Mi Smart Band 6. Available from tomorrow priced at only GB£39.99, the Mi Band 5 will come in six fun colours, including a bang on trend camo green (which is described as mint green in the presser – best to check). The Mi Band has a 1.1″ AMOLED display (126×294 px), Bluetooth 5.0 BLE and is water-resistant to 5 ATM or 50 metres for swimming and snorkeling.

In terms of activities, the Band 5 supports eleven exercise types, with five new ones including yoga, skipping rope and elliptical trainer. The heart rate tracking has been improved by up to 50%, there’s better sleep monitoring and brand new stress detection. Female owners can track menstrual cycles with helpful reminders.

There’s up to 14 days of battery life and is charged via a magnetic coupling. You can also use the Mi Band as a remote shutter for your smartphone camera.

Available from tomorrow (16 July) priced at €39.99 from mi.com/uk. UK pricing will be confirmed then.

Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 Basic

The Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 Basic provide 5 hours of listening time per charge with the charging case able to deliver three further charges. Charge time is about 90 minutes and the case is charged via USB C. Hurrah!

With Bluetooth 5.0 BLE and a range of 10 m, the Mi Earphones offer all the usual features including dual mic environmental noise cancellation, auto pause when removing an earphone and support for the SBC/AAC codec. The Earphones work with both Android and iOS. Availability is from 16 July for an extremely reasonable GB£49.99 from mi.com/uk.

Mi Electric Scooter 1S and 2 Pro

With rental electric scooters now legal in much of the UK, there’s hope that personal scooters will be usable soon too.

Xiaomi announced two new electric scooters, the 1S and 2 Pro for the UK. Powered by a 300W motor, the Pro 2 can reach speeds of 25 km/h with a range of 45 km depending on terrain, taking in slopes of up to 20%. Weighing just over 14 kg, it can be folded up in less than three seconds. The Pro 2 comes with lights, reflectors and disc brakes. The Pro 2 is priced from €499.

The 1S is a slightly less powerful model (250W) which still reaches 25 km/h. Range is reduced to 30 km and can only tackle 14% gradients hills, but the benefit is less weight at 12.5 kg. The 1S will cost €399.

UK availability and pricing to be confirmed.

Mi TV Stick

The Mi TV Stick is an AndroidTV 1080p media streaming with Chromecast built-in and a Bluetooth remote control. Prices will start from €39.99.

Mi Curved Gaming Monitor

It’s a whopping 34″ curved gaming monitor with a 21:9 WQHD display supporting a 144 Hz refresh rate. That’s big…Pricing starts at €399.

Redmi 9 Smartphones

Xiaomi updated its entry-level phone series, Redmi, with the 9, 9C and 9A. Some of these have been available in other countries but they’re now officially coming to Europe.

  • Redmi 9 – 6.53″ display with Helio G80 chipset, 5020 mAh battery, quad rear camera and NFC. 3GB+32GB version is €149. 4GB+64GB is €169.
  • Redmi 9C – 6.53″ display with Helio G35 chipset, 5000 mAh battery, triple rear camera. 2GB+32GB is €119, 3GB+64GB is €139.
  • Redmi 9A – 6.53″ display with Helio G25 chipset, 5000 mAh battery, 13 MP rear camera. 2GB+32GB is €99.

Overall, that’s a pretty impressive selection of products coming from Xiaomi in the next few months.


Life In and After Lockdown



Although many of us still remain in lockdown, there’s light at the end of the pandemic tunnel with a number of countries now easing the restrictions. Painful as it has been for many, it’s also been positive in several respects. I spend more time with my children, there’s no hour long commute and I’ve been taking walks every day. Well, nearly every day…

And it looks like I’m not alone. LG Electronics commissioned research in UK to mark the launch of its latest portable and lightweight laptop range, LG gram, and found that

  • Just over a half of those questioned plan to continue with new habits like listening to podcasts, online fitness classes and regular walking once social distancing restrictions are lifted.
  • Two-fifths feel these new habits are better for their wellbeing.
  • More than one in four have found it easier to relax and keep a better routine.

Video calls have become a way of life and the main way to keep in touch with friends and family. In addition to calling for a chat, 25% have celebrated a birthday, 20% have taken part in a pub quiz and 7% have been to a stag or hen do. Frankly, I’d be asking for a do-over when things are more normal…

The study showed that the average person was spending nearly three hours per week on video calls, with half the nation (48%) expecting to continue with video calls after the lock down is finished. I guess what this shows was how much people felt that video calls were either unnecessary or difficult to do, but once people saw how easy the calls were and got past the initial awkwardness, it’s become ordinary. Thanks Zoom.

The poll of 2,000 conducted by OnePoll showed how integral technology is to our lives with laptops (54%), TV (57%) and mobile phones (64%) playing a key role for work and entertainment during the lockdown, allowing us to continue watching our favourite TV shows (51%), follow at-home workouts (19%), and learn a new skill or language (16%). If you include becoming a home school teacher as “learning a new skill”, then it’s three out of three for me.

When it comes to working-from-home this is where I think we will see lasting change. After experiencing working-from-home many will not want to return to long commutes in crowded trains or long traffic jams with the commensurate savings in fares or fuel. A quarter of the people (25%) questioned agreed that they planned on working from home more often after offices reopen. When asked what their ideal space to work from would be in the future, home was the most popular answer (30%) followed by a fixed office (23%) and then outside space (9%).

Hanju Kim, IT Product Director, LG UK said: “It’s both encouraging and uplifting to see some of the positive things coming out of this challenging period. The fact that many people are forming productive and healthy new habits is testament to the nation’s ability to adjust. The nation is working from home and has an appetite to continue working flexibly even after offices reopen. A big part of this can be attributed to technology keeping us connected.

And so to the product launch….the 2020 range of LG gram laptops is available in the UK now coming in 14” (from £1,199.99), 15” (from £1,299.99) and 17” (from £1,449.99) sizes, featuring a 10th Generation Intel Core processor with Iris Plus graphics and up to 24GB of dual-channel DDR4 memory. With the 14” model weighing under 1 kg and the 15” & 17” models allowing up to 17 hours of battery life, the 2020 range sets a new standard for portable computing. Available from all good UK retailers – Amazon, PC World, Argos and Costco.


Former Instagram Founders Created a COVID-19 Spread Tracker



While some states are continuing their “stay at home” orders, others are considering whether or not to end theirs. But, how can a state figure out when it is safe to end that? The former founders of Instagram have created a solution that can help answer that question – the Rt COVID-19 tracker.

TechCrunch reported that Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, the founders of Instagram, have teamed up to launch Rt.Live, an up-to-date tracker of how fast COVID-19 is spreading in each state. TechCrunch stated:

One fascinating feature of the site is the ability to filter by region so you can see how the Western states are doing better at suppressing COVID-19 than those in the South. You can also view states with no shelter-in-place orders to see they’re doing worse on average. The charts could help identify how different political orientations and their subsequent policies translate to infection outcomes.

There is plenty of useful information on the Rt COVID-19 tracker website. The metric being tracked there (Rt) represents the effective reproduction rate of the virus calculated for each locale. It lets Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger estimate how many secondary infections are likely to occur from a single infection in a specific area.

Values over 1.0 mean that we should expect more cases in that area. Values under 1.0 mean we should expect fewer. According to Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, when Rt is below 1.0, the virus will stop spreading.

Those who are interested can view data from 2 weeks ago, last week, and yesterday. At the time I viewed the Rt Covid-19 tracker, the data it showed was interesting. Two weeks ago, almost every state (except for Tennessee and Washington) were in the red (above 1.0). Last week, fewer states were in the red, and the majority were yellow, hovering just above or slightly below 1.0. Only a few states (Indiana, Idaho, Louisiana, and Washington) were in the green, below 1.0.

Yesterday, the data formed a curve that goes from Vermont (green and below 0.5) to Georgia (red and above 1.0). It is also possible to see data for an individual state, by scrolling down the website. The line graphs are color coded so you can see if your state is at 1.0. Some states that have hit 1.0 are starting to go back up (which means the COVID-19 virus is still spreading in that state).


Apple and Google Partner on COVID-19 Contact Tracing Technology



Google and Apple announced a joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus, with user privacy and security central to the design.

Since COVID-19 can be transmitted through close proximity to affected individuals, public health officials have identified contract tracing as a valuable tool to help contain its spread. A number of leading public health authorities, universities, and NGOs around the world have been doing important work to develop opt-in contact tracing technology.

To further this cause, Apple and Google will be launching a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in contact tracing. Given the urgent need, the plan is to implement this solution in two steps while maintaining strong protections around user privacy.

In May, both companies will release APIs that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. These official apps will be available for users to download via their respective app stores.

In the coming months, Apple and Google will work to enable a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the underlying platforms. This is a more robust solution than an API and would allow more individuals to participate, if they choose to opt in, as well as enable interaction with a broader ecosystem of apps and government health authorities.

Apple and Google stated: “Privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance and effort, and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders. We will openly publish information about our work for others to analyze.”

I understand that Apple and Google are trying to do something that could, potentially, reduce the spread of COVID-19. I can see where having public health authorities involves with the project is important, as that would be a good way to ensure that credible information is presented.

It is wonderful that the project will be opt-in for users. Nobody likes it when companies go ahead and opt-in someone without asking for their permission. My biggest concern about this contact tracing project is that a government could try and us the data to cause harm to people.

Google and Apple really need to get this right when it comes to user privacy.


WhatsApp Bot Gives Out Covid-19 Information



The amount of misinformation around novel coronavirus and Covid-19 is staggering and presents a real danger both to the health of individuals and the wider community. To combat this threat, the UK Government has launched a WhatsApp bot to provide authoritative information on the virus.

The new free service aims to provide official, trustworthy and timely information about coronavirus (Covid-19) and reduce the burden on the National Health Service (NHS) and other under-pressure resources.

To engage with the bot, its phone number is 07860 064422 in the UK and connections are accepted from outside the country on +44 7860 064422.

Using the Covid-19 Bot is a little like using an interactive phone system: it’s respond “1 for this, 2 for that”.

     

Prof Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director, Public Health England, said, “This service will help us ensure the public has a trusted source for the right information about coronavirus, updated with the latest public health guidance and providing assurance that they are not misled by any of the false information circulating.

The Bot doesn’t check symptoms or provide diagnoses – it’s purely for information – but it does provide guidance on what to do if you think you have Covid-19, although the guidance information is UK-centric.

Pressing “7” offers a “mythbusters” section from the World Health Organisation that debunks many of the rumours around Covid-19. Some of the myths are pretty farfetched but now there’s an official source to refute them.

The ubiquity of WhatsApp makes it a great tool for this kind of information dissemination but a downside of WhatsApp is that it requires word of mouth to pass the number on – there’s no central index. So get the word out.