New NYU center to study advanced wireless technologies in medicine

By: Neil Versel | Aug 13, 2012        

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Ted Rappaport

Ted Rappaport, Founder & Director, NYU Wireless

New York University is the latest institution to open a wireless health research center, though NYU is calling its effort the “first academic research center combining the exploration of advanced wireless technologies, computing and medical applications.”

NYU last week unveiled NYU Wireless, bringing together engineering, computer science and medical faculty and students from the main university, the Polytechnic Institute of NYU (NYU-Poly) and NYU Langone Medical Center.

Founder and Director Ted Rappaport, who holds faculty appointments at NYU-Poly, NYU School of Medicine and the university’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Science, promises that NYU Wireless will be “very different” from other academic wireless health research institutions, such the University of Southern California’s Center for Body Computing, the Harvard-affiliated Center for Connected Health at Partners HealthCare and the UCLA Wireless Health Institute. Notably, NYU Wireless will be looking less at remote patient monitoring than those centers – as well as the non-academic West Wireless Health Institute – and more at the engineering of wireless systems in hospital environments.

Rappaport, who earlier founded centers for studying wireless engineering at Virginia Tech and the University of Texas, had a hand in designing the first wireless pacemaker in the mid-1990s. At NYU, he wants to combine research in engineering and computer science and work with physicians to “bring wireless communications to its Renaissance, including in the medical field,” he tells MobiHealthNews.

“We’re trying to focus on research for medical researchers,” Rappaport says. “We want to bring computational algorithms to the cutting edge of medicine,” he adds.

“We’re finding that a lot of mathematics and circuitry in wireless engineering problems can be applied to medicine, such as in MRI, other types of imaging, real-time data transmissions and so forth,” according to Rappaport.

“NYU has a world-class radiology department and NYU-Poly has excellent wireless engineering,” Rappaport continues. “We are going to try to make advancements in real-time MRI for moving parts of the body, such as the heart and lungs.”

With the help of some of its corporate sponsors, the center also will be looking at wireless data flow within hospitals. “We are motivated to make huge improvements in operating rooms for medical researchers” by looking at wireless signal processing, circuits, antennas and computational methods, Rappaport says. Keep reading>>

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Report: Wearable devices a $6B market by 2016

By: Brian Dolan | Aug 9, 2012        

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FitbitIMS Research seems to pile on to growing number of research reports that point to wearable devices as an important trend in digital health: According to IMS by 2016 the “minimum revenue opportunity” for wearable devices will be $6 billion.

IMS Research notes that the current market for wearable devices is concentrated around a small group of products in the healthcare, medical, fitness, and wellness areas. Wearable devices that transmit vital signs and track user performance are found in this group. It includes continuous glucose meters from Abbott and Medtronic as well as activity monitors from Fitbit, Adidas, Nike, Garmin, Polar, and Suunto.

The research firm, however, predicts that the market for wearables will move beyond health and wellness to “include smart watches, smart glasses, sleep sensors, industrial and military heads-up displays and hand-worn terminals.”

“A $6 billion market in 2016 is our most conservative forecast which assumes that the adoption of wearable technology will be limited by factors including lack of suitable technology, poor user compliance and lack of an overall enhanced experience from devices that are wearable as compared to non-wearable products. In our mid-range and upside projections, product introductions such as Google’s Smart Glasses and the rumoured Apple Smart Watch come to fruition and are successful. In addition, an increasingly self-aware consumer seeks more and more data on their health and fitness, leading to even more rapid expansion in the market for wearable technology,” Theo Ahadome, senior analyst at IMS Research stated in a press release.

More on the IMS Research report here.

Alere inks deal with AT&T for WellDoc’s mobile diabetes management

By: Brian Dolan | Aug 9, 2012        

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WellDoc DiabetesManagerAlere has inked a deal with AT&T to market WellDoc’s DiabetesManager mobile health program to health plans to offer disease management programs as well as to corporate payers. WellDoc and AT&T began co-marketing DiabetesManager in October 2010.

DiabetesManager is a mobile-enabled diabetes management application and service that helps adults with type 2 diabetes to better self-manage their own health while engaging with their care givers and care providers. DiabetesManager aims to help doctors and patients with type 2 diabetes work together by providing for the capture, storage and real-time transmission of blood glucose data and other diabetes self-management information in a secure environment. WellDoc also analyzes the captured data to generate trends and provide relevant educational and behavioral coaching for patients.

WellDoc recently wrote a column that explained how they believe their offering, which they describe as a mobile integrated therapy, differs from mobile health apps.

Alere describes itself as a patient-centered health management services company that currently manages nearly 300,000 people who have diabetes. Incidentally, WellDoc’s Chief Commercialization Officer and CSO Chris Bergstrom previously served as an advisor to Alere’s CEO before he joined WellDoc.

“There are hundreds of mHealth diabetes applications in the market today, however, this solution is one of the first that is fully connected to the clinical system as part of an integrated plan of care,” Mike Cotton, the current CEO of Alere Health said in a statement. “This solution goes beyond providing real-time coaching to the patient, and enables the valuable patient information collected to be shared with nurses, case workers and doctors who can communicate directly with the patient if needed.”

WellDoc’s DiabetesManager program received FDA clearance about two years ago in 2010.

Emotion sensor company scoops up $12 million

By: Brian Dolan | Aug 9, 2012        

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affectiva-q-sensorWaltham, Massachusetts-based Affectiva, which spun out of the MIT Media Lab in 2009, has raised $12 million from Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers and Horizons Ventures to build out its emotion measurement technology for advertisements and for various medical research initiatives. According to various media outlets, the company has now raised more than $20 million, including grants from the National Science Foundation.

In July 2011 the company raised nearly $6 million from WPP.

Affectiva plans to primarily use the funds to build out its emotion sensing platform and begin leveraging it for measuring emotional response and engagement to various online videos and games. Secondarily, the company plans to use some of the investment to develop its wristworn wearable device, the Q Sensor, which can detect emotional response via the user’s skin. Last December the company officially unveiled its Q Sensor device.

The Q Sensor device has already been used at Boston Children’s Hospital for patients with epilepsy and “hundreds” of other research groups and institutions.

The investment brings two new advisors to the company: KPCB’s Mary Meeker and Horizons’ Frank Meehan.

More details about Affectiva’s latest round of funding over at TechCrunch.

Europeans developing automatic monitoring for Parkinson’s

By: Neil Versel | Aug 8, 2012        

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REMPARK Parkinson's MonitorIt’s one thing to detect the telltale stiffness, tremors, spasms and loss of muscle control of Parkinson’s disease with wireless sensors, as Great Lakes Neurotechnologies is doing with its Kinesia HomeView system. It’s another to add automatic medication administration to this type of technology.

A multi-country project funded by the European Union aims to do just that. Researchers in Spain, Germany, Portugal, Italy, Israel, Ireland, Sweden and Belgium have joined on a 42-month, $5.2 million effort to develop a wearable monitoring system that automatically delivers medications and provides cues to help Parkinson’s patients recover from “gait freezing” episodes.

Visual or audible cues often help people with Parkinsonian symptoms start moving again when their muscles freeze up while walking. Gait freezing can lead to balance problems and dangerous falls.

The European project, dubbed REMPARK (for Personal Health Device for the Remote and Autonomous Management of Parkinson’s Disease), combines Bluetooth low-energy sensors worn on the waist and wrist with a control unit that processes movement data and wirelessly connects the sensors to a smartphone. The wrist sensor looks for muscle tremors, while the waist belt measures body movement, including gait.

An actuation part of the system provides audible, visual and touch-related cues—the latter by electrical stimulation—to get the patient moving again after an episode of gait freezing. It also includes a wireless infusion pump to deliver medications.

The monitoring and actuation components of the system link to each other via smartphone, which also sends data to and from medical professionals overseeing patient care. Researchers, led by the Technical Research Center for Dependency, Care and Autonomous Living (CETpD) of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (BarcelonaTech) in Spain, also are building a central server to store and analyze data sent from these body-area networks.

Recruitment is underway for planned pilot tests on 60 Parkinson’s patients in Spain, Ireland, Italy and Israel, according to organizers.

Other participating companies and organizations include Spanish telecom Telefónica, Teknon Medical Center in Barcelona and the European Parkinson’s Disease Association. Funding officially began in February 2011 and will run through 2015.

Watch a video demonstration of REMPARK here.

VA: 99 percent of our laptops now encrypted

By: Neil Versel | Aug 8, 2012        

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Roger BakerThe Department of Veterans Affairs has mostly met a new requirement, in place since March 31, that all of its laptop computers have encrypted hard drives. Currently, 99 percent laptops used by VA personnel are encrypted, according to CIO Roger Baker.

“We see on a regular basis reports that come in in our morning brief to the secretary that report a laptop that was stolen or a laptop that is missing for some reason,” Baker told Federal News Radio (WFED AM-1500) in Washington.

In its most recent monthly report to Congress of data breaches, the VA said that 13 laptops went missing between June 4 and July 1. All had encrypted hard drives. “You can imagine the level of relief that a CIO has when every one of them says, ‘But the laptop was encrypted,'” Baker said in the radio interview.

“In our world that means that it’s not the CIO’s problem anymore. It is a physical security issue for the protection of the device,” he added. It also can save the department a lot of money. It costs about $1,000 for a new laptop with an encrypted hard drive, according to Baker. But a breach costs far more.

A 2006 breach involving personal information of more than 26 million veterans cost the VA $20 million in compensation for potential victims of identity theft. That incident prompted the new rule requiring encrypted hard drives.

VA does have methods for verifying that laptops said to be encrypted actually have the security in place. “What it enables us to do is see exactly what software is running and what’s going on in every [computer] in our organization,” Baker said. “You can make an awful-lot-closer-to-absolute statement when you have visibility to every device than you can by having to do a data call believe what you get out of 210 organizations,” he added.

“There’s just no way of making an absolute assertion that nothing has happened to the information unless they’re encrypted.”

A handful of portable computers still are not encrypted and Baker said the VA is trying to identify the remaining 1 percent of unencrypted laptops and remedy the situation. The encryption rule does have some exceptions, too, such as for computers that are part of FDA-cleared medical equipment because modifying the hard drive might change how a medical device works.

The VA also recently has had what Baker called a “near-miss.” It involved a laptop falling out of a VA clinician’s car trunk that popped open. Fortunately, according to Baker, a military serviceman was driving immediately behind that car and retrieved the computer. Because the laptop was only in VA and military hands, the incident did not make the monthly security report, Baker said.

In the June report, department also reported five missing or stolen desktop PCs and 20 lost BlackBerry smartphones, but did not detail how those were dealt with. Enterprise-issued BlackBerrys can be remotely disabled.