6SensorLabs raises $4M for connected gluten sensor

By: Jonah Comstock | Sep 12, 2014        

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6SensorLabs CanaryOver the years, MobiHealthNews has written about various efforts to create consumer sensors for food allergies, but they’ve mostly been relegated to proof of concept or research projects. Now, according to TechCrunch, startup 6SensorLabs has raised $4 million in seed funding to tackle the problem, starting with gluten detection.

The round was led by Upfront Ventures and included contributions from SoftTech VC, Lemnos Labs, Kapor Capital, SK Ventures and Xandex Investments. Lemnos Labs is an accelerator the company has been participating in. 6SensorLabs’ first product is called the Canary sensor.

“The team is developing a portable and flexible technology platform designed for consumers, empowering them to test their food and share their results anywhere and anytime,” Lemnos Labs writes on its website“Their first product is a gluten sensor, supporting the millions of American who have a gluten intolerance and who frequently get sick from hidden gluten in their food. They have developed a sensing technology that is 10X faster than existing methods to test food for gluten. The 6SensorLabs patent-pending technology platform extends beyond gluten, with incredible possibilities for the rapid detection of any toxin in our food.”

In addition to testing food and returning a result, the sensor will send the data to the user’s smartphone and allow the user to record and store the results of each meal. Eventually, according to 6SensorLabs’ website, the startup will collect enough data to start building crowdsourced maps of gluten free food items and restaurants that will be accessible from the app.

TechCrunch reports that the device will cost less than $150, but will include disposable components that would come at an additional cost.  Keep reading>>

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Google acquires tremor-canceling utensil maker Lift Labs

By: Aditi Pai | Sep 11, 2014        

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Lift Labs spoon Google acquisitionGoogle has acquired San Francisco-based Lift Labs, a company that is developing smart utensils for people with Parkinson’s and essential tremor. Lift Labs will join Google[x], which is Google’s secretive innovation lab.

Lift Labs is not to be confused with activity and posture tracking wearable device maker Lumo Body Tech, which offers a device called Lumo Lift.

Lift Labs has raised $1 million in funding to date. The company was also funded for two years by the NIH. The company was also part of Rock Health’s accelerator in summer 2013.

“[Lift Labs'] tremor-canceling device could improve quality of life for millions of people,” Google writes on its Google+ account. “We’re also going to explore how their technology could be used in other ways to improve the understanding and management of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor.”

In its own statement, Lift Labs said that it will continue to sell its Liftware system and will use Google’s resources to reach more people who have Parkinson’s or essential tremor. So far the company has made a spoon that will cancel tremors while the user is eating, but the company plans to add other utensils like a fork and knife. While the technology does not work on people whose tremors are too extreme or in the whole arm, the company is in the process of designing a product to suit this group.

At an AARP event in May 2014, the company announced that they had recently broke even. At the time, Lift Labs also announced that they published a study, completed in December 2013, that found with the product’s Active Cancellation of Tremor (ACT) technology turned on, tremor amplitude was reduced by an average of 72 percent in the holding task and 76 percent in the eating task. They had also secured a deal with a VA hospital in the San Francisco-area to use the product at its facility.

One of the search giant’s newest efforts, a biotech business called Calico, which stands for California Life Company, is focused on health and longevity, but also on neurodegenerative conditions as part of its joint venture with pharma company AbbVie. Additionally, Brin has a genetic marker that indicates his chances of getting Parkinson’s are higher than the average person’s.

And while there appears to be obvious ties between Google’s interests and Lift Labs’ work, in general Google has sent a number of mixed messages about its healthcare efforts in recent months.

In May 2014, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin told investor Vinod Khosla that they see their Google’s health initiatives as “cool” projects, but they argue because of all the red tape in healthcare they are ultimately not interested in pursuing it fully. At the time they acknowledged that they were in the process of developing glucose-sensing contact lenses, which Google licensed to a Novartis subsidiary in July, but that because healthcare is a “heavily regulated” field, “it’s just a painful business to be in.”

A few months after the interview, Google announced that it would conduct the Google Baseline study, which will use a combination of genetic testing and digital health sensors to collect “baseline” data on healthy people. The idea is to establish genetic biomarkers relating to “how [patients] metabolize food, nutrients and drugs, how fast their hearts beat under stress and how chemical reactions change the behavior of their genes.”

Google has been working on various digital health projects since as early as 2006, when it launched Google Health, a personal health record system. The system lasted about five years. Google announced the shutdown of Google Health in 2011, with full functionality ending January 1, 2012. User data was available to be transferred elsewhere for an additional year. Around the same time, Google launched a service called Google Flu Trends, which researchers recently discovered appeared to have wide-reaching and systemic problems.

And while several other companies, including Apple and Samsung, have recently announced health data aggregation platforms, in June, Google unveiled Google Fit, a decidedly more fitness-focused offering.

Comparing the Apple Watch and the Basis Band

By: Jonah Comstock | Sep 11, 2014        

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Apple Watch fitnessApple’s big wearable announcement Tuesday was met with excitement by some and disappointment by others. While health and fitness is a major selling point of the device, it’s not the standout health wearable that it might have been. And with a price point starting at $349, it’s a hard sell for consumers just looking for a better Fitbit.

The health tracker Apple Watch most resembles is the Basis Band, which was until recently a startup-driven device but now the flagship health wearable of chipmaker Intel. A new Basis Band is due out soon, and that’s the model that will compete with the Apple Watch when it goes on sale next year. But for now, we’re comparing the Apple Watch with the current device, which has been out since 2012. We set out to compare the two devices on a number of different criteria.

Heart rate tracking. Both Basis and Apple set themselves apart from the wide field of activity trackers by tracking the user’s heart rate. Basis uses optical blood flow measurement to track heart rate, a design choice which leads to a trade-off: Basis can’t track heart rate accurately while the wearer is in motion, and warns that its device is not a replacement for a chest strap heart rate monitor for that reason. Keep reading>>

Red Cross launches blood donation app

By: Aditi Pai | Sep 11, 2014        

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American Red Cross Blood DonationAmerican Red Cross has launched a blood donor app that makes it easier for people to track their blood donations and schedule new ones. The app is available on iOS and Android devices.

“As the nation’s single largest supplier of blood and blood products, the Red Cross is uniquely positioned to bring this cutting edge technology to blood and platelet donors,” Red Cross Biomedical Services President Shaun Gilmore said in a statement. “Every two seconds, someone in the US needs blood, and the Blood Donor App is a new way to help meet that constant need.”

The app, called Blood Donor, helps consumers find Red Cross blood drives nearby, schedule appointments to donate, and earn rewards from premier retailers after donating. Consumers can follow their blood from when it was donated to when it was delivered, when possible, and form or join a team with peers and track their cumulative impact on a national leaderboard. When users schedule an appointment, they can sync that data with their smartphone’s calendar.

Blood Donor also helps users take personalized selfies while donating that they can share on social media accounts.

Some partners that are offering rewards for blood donors include Shari’s Berries, ProFlowers, 1A Auto, and Legal Sea Foods. The Red Cross and its partners will also send the donor “thank you” messages through the app.  Keep reading>>

Study: Smartphone improves diet tracking adherence, but not weight loss

By: Jonah Comstock | Sep 11, 2014        

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Lose it PlayAccording to a small study at Arizona State University, tracking weight loss on a smartphone leads to more consistent tracking than paper and pencil. But a dedicated weight loss app — in this case Lose It! — did not improve tracking over simply using the smartphone’s memo application, nor was there any difference in weight loss observed among the app users, smartphone memo users, and paper trackers.

“While no difference in weight loss was noted between the three groups, we found that participants who monitored their diet with either an application or the memo function on a smartphone were more likely to persist in the study and missed fewer days of entering dietary data, compared to those monitoring via paper and pencil,” lead author Christopher Wharton, associate professor of nutrition at ASU’s School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, said in a statement. “This may be due to ease of use.”

The researchers studied a group of 47 volunteers across an 8-week weight loss trial, semi-randomly assigned to three groups. One group did dietary tracking with a pencil and paper, one group did the same kind of tracking in the memo application on the smartphone, and one group used Lose It!, a popular smartphone diet tracking app.  Keep reading>>

Employee wellness platform company Keas raises $7.4M

By: Aditi Pai | Sep 11, 2014        

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KeasHealth gaming corporate wellness platform Keas raised $7.4 million, according to an SEC filing. This brings the company’s total funding to date to at least $32.9 million. Previous investors in the company include Atlantic Ventures and Ignition Partners. Keas was co-founded by the original Google Health chief Adam Bosworth.

Keas’ corporate wellness program offers users a social health and wellness gaming community. It integrates data from health risk assessments and apps used by employees and mines this data to identify health risks or suggest actions to manage those risks. Employees can also access a social media feed to connect with others at the company and support each other. They can also use the feed to post photos, healthy recipes, and status updates.

The platform offers quests, challenges, quizzes and other games so employees can compete with each other and learn more about wellness. One such quiz asks users to guess ‘which food item has more sugar’ with a picture of ice cream and soda that they must choose between.

In February, Keas announced several new customers including Target, Wix, Safeway and American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings. Other Keas customers include Pfizer, Salesforce, Reed Elsevier, The Cheesecake Factory, and BAE Systems. Target is offering the Keas platform to all employees, not just those who are eligible for the company’s healthcare benefits. Target employees can use Keas to manage their health and could receive rewards for being healthy.  Keep reading>>