Nike beta launches FuelBand API for app developers

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 12, 2012        

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Nike+ Fuel BandFor the first time ever, Nike has made available an API that lets developers build apps that work with its fitness offerings. While the API is only available in a limited beta for developers participating in a hackathon at the SXSWi event in Austin, Texas, this week, the move is likely to lead to wider availability in the near future.

According to a report over at TechCrunch, Nike made the API available to hackers participating in a music-related hackathon hosted by Backplane. Nike is helping developers create music apps that work with its new, wrist-worn fitness device, Nike FuelBand. The device is a competitor to Jawbone’s UP, Fitbit, Basis Band, and many more (here’s a roundup of 10 similar offerings).

The device’s name, Nike+ Fuel Band, comes from the virtual health currency, or the composite score, that the device tracks: Nike Fuel. The Nike+ Fuel Band leverages just two sensors: the standard 3 axis accelerometer, which monitors activity, and an ambient light sensor that detects light levels in the user’s environment and automatically adjusts the brightness of the device’s display accordingly. The device’s display is made up of 100 white LED lights that show the time, Nike Fuel earned, calories burned, and steps taken. The wrist-worn device only has one button. When pushed it scrolls through the various metrics the device tracks. Holding the button down brings up advance features, like Airplane Mode. The side of the device has 20 colored LED lights (green, yellow, red) that give users a quick reference point for current performance levels. Users can transmit the data from the device to an iPhone running iOS 4 or 5 via Bluetooth or through a USB cable that plugs into the user’s PC.

More on the beta launch of the Nike Fuel Band API over at TechCrunch

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PA health plan offers up mobile site, wellness text messages

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 12, 2012        

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Highmark BCBS Health At HandPittsburgh-based Highmark recently launched two mobile initiatives: Free motivational messages and wellness-related health tips via text messages and a mobile-optimized version of its website that gives iPhone and Android users access to claims history and GPS-enabled access to the insurer’s provider directory.

“We understand that members want to interact with their health insurer on their own terms,” Steven Nelson, senior vice president of health services strategy, product and marketing at Highmark stated in a company release. “For some, that might be viewing plan details on our website. For others, it could be a chat with a customer service rep. Now, with a mobile website and text messaging, we’re giving them even more options to interact with us how and when they want.”

The health plan’s wellness SMS program, called Encouraging Words of Wisdom, recently launched for those Highmark members enrolled in its personal nutrition coaching program. The free program has individuals meet with a registered dietician up to seven times per year and the SMS component aims to help users stay motivated. The messages are not personalized for the individual members. Instead they are canned messages, including: “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve” and “The best food comes in its own package” as well as “If you focus on results, you won’t change. But if you focus on change, you’ll get results.”

Last year Highmark announced plans to sunset and relaunch its Health@Hand iPhone app which it built in 2010 with A.D.A.M. on that company’s Medzio platform. The Health@Hand app is still available via the Apple AppStore and was updated as recently as last month. Here’s what it offers besides health and wellness information: “It’s a fast and easy way to help you find local healthcare services such as urgent care centers, retail clinics, hospitals, and doctors, all from the palm of your hand. You will also have access to health coaching tips, information about health and wellness programs, and member discounts.” Screenshots from the app appear to be the same as those in the AppStore last year.

For more on the mobile site and motivational messages, read the release below: Keep reading>>

Walgreens app adds pill reminders, Rx transfer

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 12, 2012        

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Walgreens Prescription iPhone appRetail pharmacy chain Walgreens added two new features to its mobile health app: medication reminders and prescription transfers via barcode scans. Without citing specific numbers — other than that its mobile user base was in the millions — Walgreens said adoption of its mobile apps grew 500 percent last year.

One of the app’s new feature, called Pill Reminder, aims to help Walgreens iPhone mobile app users track their medication schedules and receive alerts. The alerts can be scheduled  nine different ways, including daily, hourly, weekly and more customizable ways. According to Walgreens: “Reminders can be set up simply by scanning a prescription barcode and selecting alert preferences. Users can also add multiple prescriptions, vitamins and other supplements to a single reminder notification.”

The other new feature for the mobile app is called Transfer by Scan. This one makes it easier for Walgreens mobile app users on iPhone and Android to transfer a prescription from another pharmacy to Walgreens in just two steps: “Patients can complete transfers simply by taking a picture of their prescription bottle and providing their name, date of birth and phone number, then sending to Walgreens with one quick click.”

In late 2010 Walgreens launched its refill by scan mobile app feature, which enabled users to refill their prescriptions via their smartphones by scanning their medication bottle’s barcode with their smartphone camera. By March 2011 Walgreens said the scanning feature had already become the dominate way that Walgreens mobile app users refilled their prescriptions. Last October Walgreens enabled text message-powered prescription refills. (Sort of backwards isn’t it — scanning barcodes first then almost a year later, SMS?)

Walgreens began offering its Prescription Ready Text Alerts service, which notifies customers when a prescription order is ready for pickup, in March 2010. It counted 1 million users a year later. By March 2011 it counted more than 2 million users.

“Mobile is an important channel for us and brings great opportunities for technology innovation and providing pharmacy features to millions of our mobile customers,” Sona Chawla, Walgreens president of E-commerce, stated in a press release. “We’ve extended the convenience of Walgreens pharmacy through a number of intuitive, easy-to-use tools that can be very effective in helping patients better manage and improve their overall health.”

More in the press release below: Keep reading>>

Ginger.io snaps up Rock Health startup Pipette

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 9, 2012        

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Pipette Mobile Health AppGinger.io, a behavioral analytics company that spun out of the MIT Media Lab, announced this week that mobile health startup, Pipette, will be folded into Ginger.io. The company adds both Pipette’s software and its two founders.

Notably, Pipette was a part of the San Francisco-based Rock Health incubator program, where it developed mobile health offerings that enable hospitals and care teams to monitor and educate patients during recovery with an aim to “reduce complications and lower the cost of care by enabling early intervention of high-risk patients,” according to the company. Pipette’s offerings were available to smartphone, tablet and desktop users as well as those using SMS-capable phones.

“The Pipette team understands the problem of patient-reported outcomes for re-admissions in healthcare,” Anmol Madan, co-founder & CEO of Ginger.io stated in a release. “By combining their expertise with our passive sensing model, we can improve our models of patient behavior based on passive data. This helps us provide researchers with better data, and providers and payers with population management solutions that lead to better care for chronic patients.”

Two former Microsoft colleagues, Ryan Panchadsaram and Jimmy Do, founded Pipette. Both Panchadsaram and Do will join Ginger.io. At Microsoft Panchadsaram was the program manager for Outlook for Mac 2011. He also previously worked at Salesforce.com and cofounded SeventyK, a nonprofit young adult cancer advocacy group. Do was a developer at Microsoft who worked on MSN’s web rendering framework and front end web services.

Ginger.io is developing software for mobile devices that aims to give pharma companies and providers detailed data on patient behavior to more effectively target new drugs and therapies. Ginger.io describes mobile phones as “powerful social sensors” that, when combined with “machine learning and data mining to passively collect and analyze subtle signals of behavior change” care providers, pharma companies, and researchers can better understand the social, physical, and mental health of users.

As of last October, Ginger.io was working with healthcare providers and two of the “top five” pharma companies. It had been previously reported that the startup’s technology has also been used to study inflammatory bowel disease by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. The company received $1.7 million in funding last October. Investors include True Ventures, Kapor Capital, ENIAC Ventures, and Launch Capital.

The Ginger.io platform is expected to become available in limited release by the middle of this month.

For more details on the Pipette team joining Ginger.io, read the press release below: Keep reading>>

Year-end: 1M new US smartphone users a week

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 8, 2012        

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Screen shot 2012-03-07 at 11.09.06 PM

Source: Asymco

By the fourth quarter of 2012, there will be 1 million new smartphone users in the United States each week, according to analysts over at Asymco. The analyst group has been tracking monthly metrics offered up by comScore for the past two years, which yielded the surprising prediction. January saw a still very impressive 767,000 new smartphone users each week on average, down from the 1.5 million weekly adds in December but up from the unusually low numbers for November (less than 500,000 each week).

Asymco also noted that “a significant 35 million” US consumers switched to smartphone during the past 12 months. According to the firm, about 43 percent of people 13-years-old and older now have smartphones for personal use. That percentage does not include business purchases (oddly). The firm predicts that 50 percent of people in the US will have smartphones by the end of June 2012.

Google’s Android now counts about 50 million smartphone users in the US, while the iPhone has about 30 million users. There are now about half as many BlackBerry users (15 million) as iPhone users, according to the firm. Those using smartphones running some kind of Windows number less than 5 million.

The dominant platforms, Android and iPhone, are continuing to make gains while their rival’s user bases shrink, according to the firm.

Here’s how Asymco sums it up: “The two trends that continue are that overall penetration is nearing saturation and that two platforms seem to be increasing their share of that base. The ‘comeback story’ for any of the hopefuls will depend either on switching users away from their current platforms of trying to engage with late adopters. The first option is daunting due to latent network effects related to platforms and the second sounds to be symmetric to existing incumbent strategies.”

Many more interesting charts and figures in this Asymco post.

More on Happtique’s health app certification process

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 8, 2012        

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HapptiqueIn January Happtique, a healthcare-focused appstore, announced its plan to create a certification program for apps that would help the medical community determine which of the tens of thousands of health-related mobile apps were clinically appropriate and technically sound. The company has tapped a multi-disciplinary team to develop its certification program — a practicing physician, nurse, patient, technologist, and an expert in healthcare credentialing and certification are all onboard. The program, which is expected to be up and running within six months, will be open to all developers and will be funded by developer application fees.

This week Happtique’s certification process team published a letter to the mobile health industry that explained its initial thoughts on the project ahead. Here’s how the team has conceived its initial set of issues for the review process:

“For the app review process, we will be considering a range of issues, including how apps will be submitted for review; how apps will be assigned to reviewers, as well as reviewer credentials, recruitment, and compensation; length of certification and requirements (if any) for recertification; feedback on apps that don’t qualify for certification; and certification fees,” Happtiques panel wrote.

The panel will also review apps for performance — both whether the apps are clinically and technically sound. Here’s how the panel has describes that aspect:

“With respect to performance standards, we will be focusing on such issues as the source of the app’s content (e.g., clinical/evidence basis and/or sponsor); the extent to which the app does what it’s designed to do; how well the app functions from a technical perspective (e.g., reliability, usability, malware); if relevant, how well the app addresses security and privacy issues; and value from the end-user perspective (e.g., healthcare professionals, patients).”

More details on Happtique’s certification process in the open letter to the industry below: Keep reading>>