Beam aims to turn any toothbrush into a tracker

By: Jonah Comstock | Oct 16, 2013        

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beam brush app

The Beam Brush app.

After reducing its FDA 510(k)-cleared smart toothbrush from $49.99 down to $24.99, Beam Technologies is offering a new version of its product, via pre-orders, for $19.99. The Beam Brush Bug, which the company informed customers about today in an email, is a small adhesive accelerometer they can attach to any toothbrush or flossing device.

The sensor will connect to an app, allowing users to track their oral hygiene. The original Beam Brush app tracks brushing habits, including frequency and duration, as well as time spent in each quadrant of the mouth. According to the email, users of the new device can “play brushing games and earn rewards with your kids” and “receive discounts on your dental insurance and favorite consumer products.”

The sensor contains a replaceable coin cell battery, which the company says lasts for one year. It’s compatible with Android 2.3 and newer systems or iPhone 4S and newer systems.

The sticker form factor allows the device to be used with flossing devices and possibly electric toothbrushes, in addition to manual toothbrushes like the original Beam Brush. It also allows users to track brushing with the manual toothbrush of their choice.

Startup Green Goose raised $500,000 back in 2011 for a similar concept. The company made sticker sensors that users could put on toothbrushes, as well as on pill bottles or glasses of water. They would send a signal to a Green Goose app, and users could earn points based on how objects were picked up and used.

Green Goose CEO Brian Krejcarek was interviewed at the Launch Conference in San Francisco this past spring. He said the company has since pivoted to app-connected children’s toys.

“We had been here two years ago with some little wireless sitcker sensors that went on things like medicine bottles and toothbrushes and that kind of thing,” he said in a YouTube video posted by the Creo Agency. “And we just weren’t able to find product market fit. … Those little sticker sensors that were all about gamification of healthy behaviors, and that’s really hard to do because people just don’t necessarily like getting exercise or doing things they don’t want to do.”


Duet Health seeks to raise its profile after Baird takeover

By: Neil Versel | Oct 16, 2013        

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DuetHealthFresh off its partial takeover by a venture capital firm, Duet Health, a Columbus, Ohio-based provider of mobile communications services for patient education, is looking to raise its profile.

The first step for Duet Health, which got a majority investment of an undisclosed amount from Baird Capital Partners over the summer – not widely publicized until this month – is to develop a marketing strategy “so people know that we exist,” CEO and co-founder Jeff Harper told MobiHealthNews.

“We’ve never had the funds to support that,” Harper said. Nor has the company even had a full-time salesperson, he added. Duet now is creating the necessary sales infrastructure.

Prior to the Baird investment, four-year-old Duet Health has been largely self-funded out of the pockets of Harper and his co-founder and father, Ivan, and with operating revenues, with some seed money from integrated delivery network OhioHealth. “Being based in Columbus, Ohio and being a health technology company isn’t all that advantageous” when seeking financial support, Harper said.

He said the company has been in the black for the last 2.5 years from sales revenue, though Duet Health has been operating on a shoestring budget. Customers include Cardinal Health, Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Ohio State University Wexler Medical Center in the Columbus area, as well as Boston Children’s Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Wolters Kluwer Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to Harper.

Duet created a contact management system and delivery system that, according to Harper, works very well on mobile devices. The company has built a kiosk interface for patients to refer to in waiting rooms, with a touch-screen Android tablet as the brains. “We have connections to wearable devices,” Harper added.

To this point, all of Duet’s products have been white-labeled. Physicians at participating institutions can use the Duet apps to share personalized medical information with patients both at the point of care and remotely.

“We use education as a way to engage people,” Harper explained. “We’re called Duet because we wanted to enhance the doctor-patient relationshjp.”

The company partnered with Wolters Kluwer Health mostly to prove its own model. “We don’t push any of the content,” Harper said. “We helped to build apps for some of the Wolters Kluwer companies.”

Duet also is building educational programs for the CDC, he said.

Text2Quit hits 75,000 users, 32 percent quit rate

By: Jonah Comstock | Oct 16, 2013        

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text2quitText2Quit, the SMS smoking cessation program launched by Voxiva in 2011, has announced that it now has over 75,000 enrollees in every state in the US. Voxiva also told MobiHealthNews that plans are in the works for a Text2Quit app or mobile website.

The company also released some efficacy data, including preliminary data from a randomized clinical trial showing that Text2Quit users had double the quit rates at six months as the control group. That trial used saliva testing, not self-reported data, to establish quit rates.

A different trial of 503 smokers, using self-reported data, was conducted at George Washington University. That study found that 32 percent of Text2Quit users had quit after six months on the program vs 20 percent of non-users. The Text2quit users were also engaged with the intervention: 83 percent had read all or most of the text messages, according to the exit survey.

“We’re just very excited because we know that Text2Quit is something that’s effective, it addresses a big health need, and people really like it,” said Pamela Johnson, Voxiva’s Chief Medical Officer. “They feel it gives them confidence. We’re just excited that it’s getting so widespread.”

Alere Wellbeing and Voxiva signed a deal in 2011 that seemed to give Alere exclusive access to the Text2Quit technology. At the time, the press release said “[u]nder the agreement, Alere obtains the exclusive right to offer Voxiva’s Text2Quit service.” However, Johnson told MobiHealthNews the agreement doesn’t prohibit Voxiva from offering Text2Quit directly to consumers or working with other providers and employers.

“Our exclusivity agreement with Alere covers working with them on QuitLines,” she said. “However, Text2Quit is a standalone program and we are free to offer it directly to the public, health insurers and providers.”

In fact, Johnson said, a wide range of partners is a key part of the Text2Quit outreach strategy, much as it is for Voxiva’s flagship product Text4Baby. She said the main difference between the two programs is a focus on interactivity, which has been more important in Text2Quit’s strategy.

“Text4Baby was initiated as, largely, a broadcast health intervention, where there were three messages a week that were targeted by gestational age. Text2Quit has been incredibly interactive on many fronts. We ask ‘Do you want to set a quit date or not?’ ‘When do you want to quit?’ And they can choose a coach to help them.”

Text4Baby added a mobile website with video features in May, and Johnson said the company is working on something similar for Text2Quit, developing apps and mobile websites for the service. She also said the company is working on a special service that would combine the expertise of the two programs, geared at pregnant women who are trying to quit smoking.

Nike announces second gen FuelBand, re-skins accelerator

By: Jonah Comstock | Oct 16, 2013        

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Nike_FuelBand_SENike made two big announcements recently, a new generation of the Nike+ FuelBand and the next “evolution” of the Nike TechStars accelerator, called the Nike Fuel Lab.

The FuelBand SE is Nike’s first major update to the FuelBand, which launched at the beginning of 2012. The device is very much an update, and only subtly modifies either the design or the philosophy of the Nike+ FuelBand.

Notably, it adds sleep tracking, a feature that Fitbit and Jawbone’s wristbands have had for a while. The movement tracking algorithms have also been improved, according to Nike, partly to make it harder to “cheat” Fuel points, for instance by punching the air. The new device is Bluetooth Smart-connected and more water resistant than the original (though still not waterproof). The on-device interface has been streamlined, making it easier for users to do things like check the time.

A number of new software features lets users track their activity in new ways, while still working within the framework of Nike Fuel, the virtual currency users earn by being active. The FuelBand SE tracks “Fuel Rate,” which is the rate at which Fuel points are earned. Users can also see how much Fuel they earned at a particular activity with a feature called “Sessions,” or track movement hour-by-hour with “Win the Hour.”

The FuelBand SE will be available November 6 for $149 — the same price as the first generation FuelBand. As MobiHealthNews predicted, the device does not feature heart rate tracking of any kind as rumored, nor did the announcement contain any hint of future Android compatibility.

The Nike Fuel Lab is very similar to Nike’s accelerator launched last year in partnership with TechStars, with the goal of supporting companies that would build applications for the Nike Fuel API. Last year’s accelerator was based near Nike headquarters in Portland, Oregon, but the Fuel Lab will be in San Francisco. Also, while companies in the previous accelerator received $20,000, the new program will give out $50,000 to its 10 chosen companies. TechStars does not appear to be involved in the new program.

The Fuel Lab will run 12 weeks, and companies will receive workspace, education and mentorship, and access to Nike’s APIs and SDKs. Notably, Nike stipulates that companies in the program must be ready to launch, with Nike+ integration, by the end of the program. Nike will take 3 percent equity in participating companies.

Perhaps in advance of the Christmas shopping season, a number of new fitness wearables have launched recently. The Nike FuelBand SE announcement comes right on the heels of the announcement Fitbit’s latest tracker, the Fitbit Force, and just today Fitbug launched its Orb device. According to recently released data from Juniper Research, the market for mobile smart wearable devices, including consumer fitness wearables, will hit $19 billion by 2018.

Adidas’ $400 smartwatch is stripped down for runners

By: Aditi Pai | Oct 16, 2013        

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AdidasSmartwatchAdidas has announced its entry into the smartwatch market, but with a new angle — a smartwatch meant specifically for runners.

“We’re not trying to make a smartwatch, but probably the smartest running watch,” head of Adidas Interactive Paul Gaudio told GigaOm Senior Writer Katie Fehrenbacher at the GigaOm Mobilize event in San Francisco, California.

The device will launch November 1st and will cost $399, $100 more than Samsung’s recently launched Galaxy Gear smartwatch. Because the watch is geared toward runners, it intentionally lacks a lot of the features that regular smartwatches have, according to Gaudio.

“Runners have been telling us for years, ‘I just want everything I need on my wrist and I don’t want to deal with all these extraneous paraphernalia,’ Gaudio said. “That’s the problem statement — how do you provide the personal realtime coaching service, how do you condense all of those sensors and all of those electronics into one place that is suitable for runners.”

The watch will have GPS to track runs, heart rate tracking, and music storage which users can listen to via Bluetooth headphones. Adidas gives users custom training plans based on heart rate coaching which can be expressed through visual or physical (vibration) prompts, or through the headphones.

Design firm Fjord’s ceo, Olaf Schybergson, collaborated with Adidas on the smartwatch. Unlike wearables in different locations, like Google Glass, Schyberson said Adidas’ smartwatch “doesn’t introduce social awkwardness,” which was one of the reasons the team eventually chose to create a smartwatch.

“Integrating these experiences into your daily life, the things that you already do and have is the important answer here,” Adidas’ Gaudio said. “Yes the wrist is one place we already carry things and are more comfortable with. We are looking at integrating and have been integrating technology into apparel and footwear simply because it moves with your body. You already wear these things, you need these things, so our plan is to bring that function into the products that you already have and already need.”

Adidas currently offers wireless fitness devices that offer coaching, the miCoach Pacer and miCoach Zone. As for potential competition, Gaudio believes, because of the specificity of Adidas’ niche, their watch is different from the others on the market, which act as a second screen for a user’s mobile device.

“We did not incorporate anything in here that we didn’t think a runner needed or appreciated in their lives,” Gaudio said. “There was an opportunity to include a lot more, obviously, the technology exists now, but we left certain things out on purpose. I think those are the most difficult questions or  most important questions to answer with a product like this is– Not what you can do but what you should leave out.”

Fitbug launches Orb, its long-awaited $50 tracker

By: Jonah Comstock | Oct 16, 2013        

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image004After nearly a year of waiting, UK-based Fitbug, the self-styled economy option in the fitness tracker space, launched the $49.99 Fitbug Orb, which it originally announced at CES in January.

The orb’s form factor resembles that of the Misfit Shine, a small sphere with an optional wristband, lanyard, or clip allowing it to be worn in a number of different ways. The device tracks steps, aerobic steps over time, distance, calories burned, speed and sleep. It uses Bluetooth Smart to sync the data to a free app on the user’s phone or computer.

The company is also releasing an online digital coaching platform called KiK, included with the Orb, on which users can set weekly nutrition and activity targets. Using Fitbug data and algorithms, the platform recommends achievable targets then sends feedback, encouragement, and tips via a combination of emails and push notifications on the app. Fitbug’s app also integrates with MyFitnessPal and Aetna’s CarePass platform.

Rather than a rechargeable battery, the Orb runs on a replaceable battery that lasts six months, according to the company. It comes in black, white, and pink and is wirelessly compatible with iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPad 3, iPad 4, iPad mini, iPod touch 5, Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung Galaxy S4 mini, Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0. It also includes a dongle option to connect to additional devices.

Fitbug has been a quiet contender in the activity tracker space since its founding in 2005, always leaning on its low price point as a major selling point. Most other trackers are priced around the $100 mark, with high-end options like the Basis Band capping the market at $200.

The company has several other products: the Fitbug WOW, a $79.99 connected weight scale, and two previous activity trackers, both priced at $49.99, the Fitbug Air and Fitbug Go. At one point, the company announced a blood pressure monitor called the Fitbug LUV, but it’s not yet available for purchase.

Fitbug made news earlier this year when it sued competitor Fitbit, alleging that similarities in the companies’ branding and advertising constituted trademark infringement and unfair business practices that harmed Fitbug financially. Fitbit announced its newest tracker, the Fitbit Force, just last week. The suit is still pending.