Pebble adds sleep, fitness tracking and lowers price

By: Aditi Pai | Oct 1, 2014        

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Pebble Smartwatch activity trackingPalo Alto, California-based Pebble, maker of an activity-tracking smartwatch has added continuous fitness tracking and sleep tracking to its smartwatch.

The company also lowered the price of its devices by $50 so it’s original model now retails for $99, which is around the price of popular activity trackers including Jawbone and Fitbit. Pebble’s higher end device, called Steel, now costs $199.

Prior to the update, Pebble only tracked fitness when an app, like RunKeeper, was open on the smartwatch, but with the new update, Pebble will track fitness in the background. As part of this update, Pebble also announced that they had three launch partners who would take advantage of these new Pebble features: activity tracker maker Misfit, swimming platform, and activity tracker maker Jawbone. is a new platform that launched this summer. The website helps swimmers track, share and compare the workouts they monitor with waterproof activity trackers. The platform received 5,000 beta requests within its first 10 days. At the time of its launch, the company had said it planned to add Pebble integration sometime during the summer.

And in June, Misfit, the maker of the jewelry-like Shine activity tracker, partnered with Pebble to integrate its algorithms into that company’s device. According to a Misfit spokesperson at the time, the deal marks the deepest integration to date for Misfit, which also plans to make an open API available to partners in the future.

Pebble also announced that they are expanding Pebble’s retail presence. Until now the smartwatch was available at Best Buy, Target, AT&T, and, but it will now also be available at Sam’s Club, Fry’s Electronics, and Sprint stores.

“When we launched Pebble two and a half years ago, our mission was simple: build the most enjoyable, customizable, and versatile smartwatch on the market at an accessible price,” the company’s blog post explains. “The market has exploded since then, but our mission remains the same.”

Pebble’s smartwatch updates were released less than a month after Apple finally announced its Apple Watch which is set to launch in early 2015 starting at $349.


Is it $3B or $5B for 2014 digital health funding so far?

By: Brian Dolan | Oct 1, 2014        

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Brian Dolan - MobiHealthNews Editor-in-ChiefAs the third quarter of 2014 comes to an end, both Rock Health and StartUp Health have posted reports — as they always do — that tracked the amount of funding raked in by digital health companies over the course of the past few months and for the year so far. Rock Health has tracked $3 billion in funding for 2014, while Startup Health has tracked a whopping $5 billion. While both numbers are huge, there’s a puzzling $2 billion spread between them.

Rock Health describes its process as a bit more conservative than most as it only includes funding rounds that are more than $2 million, avoids conflating investment dollars with transactional costs associated with M&A, and has a stricter definition of a digital health company than Startup Health does.

Among the top ten investment deals from the quarter that Startup Health highlighted was $230 million that wearable medical device maker Preventice quietly raised last month. According to an SEC filing this transaction was mostly an equity exchange related to the company’s merger with eCardio. As part of the deal, the newly merged Preventice apparently raised about $108 million in cash from an accredited investor.  Keep reading>>

Investor: Time for health insurance companies to act like D2C businesses

By: Jonah Comstock | Oct 1, 2014        

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Psilos reportHealth insurers need to make a change fast, according to a new report from investment firm the Psilos Group. The group’s 2014 Healthcare Outlook report contends that the shift in insurers’ customer base from mostly employers to mostly individuals, spurred by the Affordable Care Act, will lead to a major shift in how the insurance market works.

“The health insurance industry’s 50-year legacy as a business-to-business model is on the edge of irrelevance,” Steve Krupa, managing member of Psilos Group, said in a statement. “The health insurance market is rapidly shifting to 40 percent individual policies from just 10 percent prior to the Affordable Care Act. A change of this magnitude affects every stakeholder in healthcare. However, with this change comes an enormous opportunity for forward-thinking companies and new investment.”

In a call with MobiHealthNews, Krupa stressed that up until now, insurance companies have looked at individual consumers as end users, but not, by and large, as customers. To sell to individuals, insurance companies need to find ways to become trusted consumer brands.

“Today, most people have interactions with their insurance companies under strife. They’re sick, they just got injured, they’re trying to pay the bills of a family member that just had surgery,” he said. “They don’t have a relationship with their insurance company until something like that happens, and by that very nature, that relationship is going to be strained when it becomes activated. So I think the insurance companies have to figure out how to activate that relationship during other times.”  Keep reading>>

Survey: 74.9 percent of US adults do not track health or fitness with devices or apps

By: Aditi Pai | Oct 1, 2014        

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TechnologyAdvice wearable trackersClose to 75 percent of adults do not use a fitness device or app to track their weight, diet, or exercise, according to a survey of 979 US adults conducted by research firm TechnologyAdvice.

The survey found that 11 percent of respondents use a wearable fitness tracker, 14.1 percent use an app to track health, 14.5 percent do not track health but plan to start, and 60.4 percent do not track their health.

The surveyors asked a smaller group of respondents, 419 of them, who had said they do not use a device or app to track wellness, why they don’t use them. Some 27.2 percent said they were not interested in tracking health and wellness, 17.7 percent were concerned about the cost of the device, 10.5 percent were concerned about the privacy of their data, 7.9 percent were not happy with the design of trackers, and 43.7 said they didn’t agree with any of the reasons TechnologyAdvice listed for not tracking their health and wellness.  Keep reading>>

Zwift to launch massively multiplayer online game for exercise bikes

By: Jonah Comstock | Oct 1, 2014        

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Zwift2How can digital and mobile technology transform the stationary bike experience to make it more like riding an actual bike? This is a question that a handful of digital health startups have tried to address recently, but London-based Zwift has a new approach: a stationary bike MMO, or massively multiplayer online game.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal Digits blog, the company is doing a soft launch today for 1,000 people, with a full launch planned for this winter. For $10 a month, users can race each other on virtual courses, communicating with one another via headsets and microphones. To play, cyclists will need their bike, an indoor trainer that turns their bike into a stationary bike, wireless sensors that measure speed and cadence, a computer and a smartphone.

The game is displayed on a computer screen, but riders can adjust camera angles and other features from their phones, and a tablet version of the whole system is coming in the future. The system can also take in and use data from a chest-strap heart monitor, and can upload activity data to Strava, Garmin Connect, and Training Peaks.  Keep reading>>

Boehringer Ingelheim, Propeller Health team up for sensor-enabled inhaler pilot

By: Jonah Comstock | Sep 30, 2014        

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Propeller HealthBoehringer Ingelheim is a pretty familiar name to people who follow mobile health moves from pharma companies. The large, privately-owned German firm has been involved in pilots with game developer Ayogo, smart pill bottle maker AdhereTech, and now-defunct behavior change platform Healthrageous.

While its partners have talked up these pilots, up until now the company itself has been pretty quiet about its strategies in testing out innovative health technology.

At Health 2.0 last week in Santa Clara, California, Larry Brooks, the director of the New Business Model and Healthcare Innovation group at Boehringer Ingelheim took the stage with Propeller Health CEO David Van Sickle to talk about a newly announced pilot of Propeller’s technology.

“About three years ago, the company said patients, especially those with high risk diseases, shouldn’t be treated with just medications,” Brooks said. “They should be treated more comprehensively. So we started the New Business Model and Healthcare Innovation group, positioned within our business development and licensing, because just as we have folks looking for new molecular markers, we really wanted to find technology that we thought was going to shape the broader healthcare delivery and financing system and have an impact on Boehringer and our prescription medication. So it continues to be a learn-by-doing type of group that continuously is signing customer-based agreements to validate whether there’s a particular technology we should be looking for, even if it’s in the longer two to five year range, and not necessarily in the short term.” Keep reading>>