Category Archives: health

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.


Postmates Now Offers Non-Contact Deliveries



Postmates, an on-demand delivery service that brings the food people order to their homes, is now offering non-contact deliveries. According to The Verge, this new option was designed to help reduce the spread of coronavirus. That said, I can see where non-contact deliveries could benefit people in additional ways.

Today, we’re introducing Dropoff Options which will give our customers the ability to specify how they’d like to receive deliveries. Customers can choose to meet their Postmate at the door, as they have before, meet curbside, or go non-contact and have deliveries left at the door.

Postmates explains that to use this new feature, you should order as you normally would. You will then be prompted to select your delivery preference before checking out. Postmates also makes it clear that they know “there are always people who, for health or other reasons, might prefer a non-contact delivery experience.”

It should be noted that non-contact delivery is not mandatory. It is simply another option for customers who can choose which delivery method they prefer.

Obviously, this change is intended to reduce the spread of coronavirus. It is possible that a Postmates contractor could have come in contact with the virus, without showing symptoms. Conversely, a person ordering from Postmates could potentially have coronavirus, which might subject the Postmates contractor to the virus. Non-contact delivery could also help prevent the spread of other things people don’t want to catch – such as the flu.

Non-contact deliveries could also be beneficial for people who are chronically ill and who don’t want to answer the door in pajamas. It might make food delivery easier for people who have autism and who don’t want to have to participate in a social interaction just to receive their food order.


Tech Companies Want Staff to Work from Home Due to Coronavirus



It is a smart decision to do everything possible to limit the spread of coronavirus. Big tech companies are using the strategy of asking their employees to work from home. This may be a temporary decision, but I think the move could help normalize working from home.

The Verge reported that numerous tech companies have asked their Seattle-based employees to work from home to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. This includes Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and Bungie.

Microsoft is allowing and encouraging its employees based in Seattle or San Francisco to work from home. These employees can work from home through March 25, 2020.

CNBC reported that Amazon is asking employees at its Seattle and Bellevue, Washington, offices to work from home (if they are able to) until the end of the month. This decision was made after an employee tested positive for coronavirus. Amazon has also restricted all nonessential U.S. travel in response to coronavirus.

CNBC also reported that Facebook encouraged all of its 5,000 employees in Seattle to work from home for the rest of the month. Facebook has closed its Seattle office until Monday.

Twitter announced that it is strongly encouraging all employees globally to work from home if they’re able. Working from home will be mandatory for employees based in Twitter’s Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea offices (due in part to government restrictions). Interestingly, Twitter had already begun moving towards a more distributed workforce that’s increasingly remote.

Bungie stated that it has built a fully remote infrastructure for all Bungie employees across the globe, with the goal of prioritizing the safety of their employees.

My hope is that these moves will help to normalize working from home. Employees would no longer have spend time commuting, and could spend those hours with their families. They could reduce the amount they spend of gas each week. Workers could do their job without the risk of catching the next “office cold” or the flu.


Travel with the HiMirror Slide at CES



HiMirror has unveiled its latest consumer smart mirror, the new HiMirror Slide at CES. Following on from their previous success, the two-time CES Innovations Award winner has developed the Slide for use both at home, when travelling or for popping round to a friend’s house for a bit of shared pampering.

Designed to be compact and portable, the Slide comes with an 8″ screen, a slideable mirror to extend the size in use but protect the screen during travel, and a folding stand. The Slide works in both portrait and landscape modes and to help with beauty treatments, the mirror has LED light strips down each side.

HiMirror‘s range of smart mirrors aim to be “your at-home beauty and health consultant”, and use high resolution digital cameras to record and assess skin condition including wrinkles, fine lines, clarity, dark circles, dark spots, red spots and pores to both identify problem areas and track improvement. Simply, the smart mirror takes a picture of the face, analyses it and recommends personal skincare routines to help improve skin quality. It’s neat stuff.

As a smart mirror, the Slide comes with a host of digital features – Amazon-Alexa, music streaming, social media, weather and news updates, as well as Google Assistant conversation actions.

HiMirror has become a staple at the Consumer Electronic Show over the last few years and we are proud to be bringing even more one-of-a-kind innovations in 2020,” said Simon Shen, CEO of Taipei-based New Kinpo Group. “Our mission is and has always been to revolutionize the beauty industry on both the consumer and business side, with our latest launches – we feel we are doing just that!

The HiMirror Slide is priced at US$119. Additional models and accessories for the HiMirror product portfolio will be available for demonstration during CES at the HiMirror booth including the HiMirror Mini Premium X, Smart Body Scale and the HiSkin. Call into booth #44516 within the Sands Expo Convention Center – last chance today.

There’s a funky video here showing the HiMirror Slide in action.


Medirom and MATRIX Industries Deliver Wearable Health Monitor that Never Needs Charging at CES 2020



Medirom announced a partnership with MATRIX Industries enabling users in the US and Japan to monitor their health activities 24/7 by delivering the world’s first health monitoring smartband – MOTHER – that never requires charging.

As research shows, the number one reason consumers stop using wearables is because they take them off to charge and forget that they exist. By partnering with MATRIX, Medirom hopes to develop a smart-tracker that never requires charging and can provide accessible options for consumers.

MATRIX has developed PowerWatch – the world’s first smartwatch that never requires charging – by applying innovative technology like its Gemini TEG (Thermoelectric Generator) and Mercury Boost Converter that enables body heat to generate electricity. With PowerWatch, it is possible to measure calorie consumption, activity and sleep, without ever needing to stop and charge.

MOTHER is a smart tracker that never requires charging and can provide accessible options for consumers. With MOTHER, Medirom and MATRIX are particular about the unisex design that can be worn stylishly regardless of gender and distinguish from other trackers on the market.

With MOTHER, they will open up the SDK (Software Development Kit) for apps to help any healthcare service provider to build and expand their own service easily.


Airthings Hub Debuts at CES



Norwegian air quality experts Airthings announced the new Airthings Hub at CES 2020 this week. Centralising the collection of air quality data from the Wave range of monitoring devices, the Hub helps provide a comprehensive understanding of air quality in the home.

Building on the popularity of smart homes and recognising the health benefits relating to air quality, Airthings brought the Wave Plus radon detector to the market in 2008. Radon gas is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and the Wave Plus was recently named in Time Magazine’s list of 100 Best Inventions.

Next came the Wave Mini which measures temperature, humidity and indoor air quality level. The Airthings complementary app provides real-time information on indoor air quality using data collected wirelessly from the Wave devices.

With more people than ever relying on smart home ecosystems to provide them with the critical information they need to live healthy and productive lives, we felt it was crucial to deliver a Hub that will simplify the process of indoor air quality monitoring and make it an essential aspect of our customers’ everyday routines,” said Oyvind Birkenes, CEO of Airthings. “In order to truly gain an understanding of your home’s IAQ and threats like Radon and VOCs, regular monitoring is necessary. Our goal is to educate people everywhere about how air quality can impact their daily lives on both a short-term and long-term scale. By helping people track their air quality in real-time, even when they’re not at home, Airthings Hub will empower customers to breathe easy by keeping tabs on their air quality no matter the time or the location.

The Airthings Hub will be available for pre-order throughout Europe and the US beginning January 6 with an MSRP of US$79.99. The product is compatible with Airthings Wave (2nd generation), Wave Plus, and Wave Mini devices. For more information on the Airthings Hub, indoor air quality and why long-term monitoring is important, visit the Airthings website.

Airthings are at CES in Booth #40646 in the Smart Home area of the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas.