University of Alabama researchers develop NIH-funded eating tracker that monitors chewing

By: Aditi Pai | Nov 6, 2014        

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AIM eating trackerResearchers at the University of Alabama have developed a diet-tracking sensor that collects information based on the wearer’s chewing.

The sensor, called Automatic Ingestion Monitor, or AIM, is fitted around the user’s ear and monitors vibrations from jaw movement. AIM is programmed to ignore jaw motions from talking. This data, paired with pictures the user would take of their meals, would give them information about how much and how often they eat.

“Weight gain comes from an unbalance of the energy we take in versus the energy we expend,” University of Alabama Associate Professor and Lead Researcher Dr. Edward Sazonov said in a statement. “We can estimate diet and nutrient intake, but the primary method is self-reporting. The sensor could provide objective data, helping us better understand patterns of food intake associated with obesity and eating disorders.”  Keep reading>>

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New app scours baby pictures for eye health risks

By: Jonah Comstock | Nov 6, 2014        

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Cradle White Eye DetectorA new app from Baylor University takes advantage of a smartphone’s camera — and of the smartphone owner’s tendency to take a lot of pictures — to potentially detect rare eye cancers in babies.

Baylor chemist Bryan Shaw and Baylor computer scientist Greg Hamerly have launched the White Eye Detection app, in which parents can upload pictures of their babies and digitally scan them for signs of rare eye diseases including retinoblastoma, pediatric cataract, and Coats’ disease.

In conditions like these, tumors in the back of the eye that can’t be seen normally can show up in digital photographs as a white pupil in one or both of the child’s eyes. As NPR reports, Shaw’s own son had retinoblastoma and he was able to detect it after noticing white eye — properly called leukocoria — in a baby photo.

“If I would have had some software telling me, ‘Hey, go get this checked out,’ that would have sped up my son’s diagnosis and the tumors would have been just a little bit smaller when we got to them,” Shaw told NPR. “There might have been fewer.”

The app can automatically look through all the baby pictures on an iPhone or iPad’s camera roll and flag any potential leukocorias, which is important because they tend to show up only inconsistently in photographs. When it finds pictures, it suggests that parents go to their pediatrician. It also requests that they upload the photos to Baylor’s database, so they can be used to continue refining the algorithm. Ideally, the app will learn to be better and better at eliminating false positives that might cause needless worries for patients.

An additional feature is a screening mode, which allows the user to shine the phone’s light into someone’s eye and use the camera to search for the telltale white reflection.

The algorithm was developed out of work done on photographs of Shaw’s son and eight other children for a paper published last year in PLOS ONE. The paper established that a large number of photographs taken in aggregate could even give information about the size of the tumor and the progression of the disease.

6 more crowdfunding campaigns for health tracking tools

By: Aditi Pai | Nov 6, 2014        

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Last month, MobiHealthNews published a roundup of digital health crowdfunding campaigns on Indiegogo and Kickstarter. One campaign that reached its goal early, called Flaredown, aims to help people manage their chronic conditions, while another campaign that was pitching a sensor-embedded pair of shorts has only reached $15,107 of its $99,000 goal with 28 hours left.

Even though a majority of the campaigns from that roundup still have a few weeks left before they’re done, several other campaigns have launched since. New campaigns include products that help people monitor their diets, track their babies’ health, and analyze how their “physiological” age compares to their chronological age.

Read on for six of the latest digital health products to crowdfund their devices:

MonBaby

MonBaby

The device is a wireless sensor that monitors a baby’s sleep patterns, breathing, and movement. MonBaby’s device, a small button that attaches to any article of the baby’s clothing, transmits data about the baby’s breathing, sleeping, and movement to a companion app. Using the app parents will be able to tell whether their babies’ are asleep, how well the babies are breathing, and what position the babies are in. Through the app, users can set alerts for what information they want pushed to them. For example, the app can alert parents every time their babies roll onto their stomachs. The app will also alert parents if MonBaby senses an emergency.

The campaign ended this week, but it raised $16,336 of its $15,000 goal.

Keep reading>>

Ginger.io is working with UCSF, Duke, Partners on diverse pilots

By: Jonah Comstock | Nov 6, 2014        

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ginger.ioGinger.io, a health startup focused on passive data collection through smartphones, announced a number of high profile clinical pilots that have been quietly employing its technology. Ginger.io is now working with UC San Francisco, Partners HealthCare (Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and McLean Hospital), Duke University, UC Davis and University of Nebraska Medical Center — a list which includes more than half of the top 10 academic medical centers in the US, the company said in a statement.

The company makes a smartphone app that passively collects data from users’ phones including information on their movement throughout the day, call patterns, and texting patterns. Users can also actively record information about how they are feeling each day. If the app senses that something is off with the user, it can automatically notify a third party, like the user’s family or a physician.

This technology can be used in the treatment of mental health conditions, but the behavior patterns Ginger.io tracks can also be used to monitor chronic conditions like heart disease. The spate of recently announced pilots includes both these use cases.

“Like providers, academic medicine is looking for better ways to understand how patient behaviors affect health outcomes,” Dr. Anmol Madan, co-founder and CEO of Ginger.io said in a statement. “Ginger.io’s smartphone app and analytics engine is essentially a new class of microscope that helps quantify and understand real-world behavior at scale, in many different disease areas. For our academic partners, this offers new insight about clinical characterization, and it may lead to better diagnosis and new therapeutics and interventions for these conditions.”  Keep reading>>

Strategic corporate investments at record high in digital health

By: Jonah Comstock | Nov 5, 2014        

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digitalhealthcorporatev1While digital health funding in general has been growing enormously year-to-year, so too have strategic corporate investments, according to a new report by CB Insights. The research firm reports that 2014 has already had a record number of digital health deals by corporations (about 70 deals) despite two months left to go.

According to CB Insights, since 2010 corporate investors have made 210 deals totaling $2.34 billion into digital health startups. This year has already seen 89 percent more deals than 2012 and 183 percent more deals than 2011.

The roster of corporations that are setting this trend won’t be a big surprise to people who follow digital health investments. The list includes tech, pharma, provider, and payor companies.  Keep reading>>

Bed, Bath and Beyond stores now sell Beddit’s sleep monitor

By: Aditi Pai | Nov 5, 2014        

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BedditHelsinki-based sleep tracker company Beddit announced that its Beddit Sleep Monitor is now available in 1,000 Bed, Bath and Beyond stores across the US.

“There is a lot of excitement around wearables and tracking sensors,” Beddit CEO Lasse Leppakorpi said in a statement. “But while other devices are still in the speculative stages, we’re already manufacturing and retailing our devices around the world.”

Although digital health devices have been on store shelves for years now, Bed, Bath and Beyond is one of the few non-technology focused specialty stores in the US to carry a digital health device. The sleep monitor is also available on Bed, Bath and Beyond’s website.

Beddit’s sensor uses ballistocardiography to detect individual heartbeats from cardiac contraction forces and breathing rhythm from chest wall movements. The strap measures time in bed, awakenings and bed exits, sleep time, sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep), testing heart rate, sleep quality and breathing movements, including snoring.

From there the sensor uses Bluetooth to connect with the companion app, which offers personalized coaching, a wellness diary, historical sleep data and a social sharing option. Every morning, the app provides the user with a sleep analysis with tips on how to improve their sleep.

As part of a promotional tour for the device launch, Beddit will offer presentations to Bed, Bath and Beyond customers at the company’s flagship stores in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.  Keep reading>>