Omron launches smartphone-connected activity tracker, fitness app

By: Jonah Comstock | Mar 19, 2015        

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OmronJapanese medical device company Omron Healthcare, which has been marketing digital thermometers and blood pressure monitors for over 50 years, just launched its first smartphone-connected activity tracker, along with a new app that tracks fitness data and integrates with Apple Health.

The Alvita Wireless Activity Tracker, a Bluetooth-enabled clip-on activity tracker, records steps, distance, and calories burned. The device is less than an inch across; smaller than any of Omron’s previous pedometers and non-connected activity trackers. The device is compatible with iOS and Android phones and can store up to two weeks of activity data in the device itself.

“Your well-being can be a bit of a numbers game, so we’ve designed smart tools that offer a clearer picture of your health,” Jill Person, Product Marketing Manager for Fitness at Omron Healthcare, said in a statement. “Our users are already active, but now they can be pro-active about their fitness goals and achievements by leveraging technology.” Keep reading>>

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Modernizing Medicine picks up another $5M from IBM and others

By: Jonah Comstock | Mar 19, 2015        

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modernizing medicine EMAModernizing Medicine has secured a $5 million investment, completing the $20 million funding round the company began last November. One of the investors in the round was IBM, through its $100 million fund to seed Watson innovations. The company is not disclosing the other investors. This investment brings the Modernizing Medicine’s total funding to $49 million.

As we reported last fall, Modernizing Medicine makes a mobile-based electronic health record targeted at specialists called EMA (electronic medical assistant). The company has more than 5,000 provider users, including more than thirty percent of US dermatologists. They use aggregated, deidentified data to create population-level insights that are then delivered back to the physician.

The company is also developing a new app as part of IBM Watson’s ecosystem project, called schEMA. The new app will build on the work EMA does with aggregated EHR data, but add in Watson’s ability to parse unstructured data, to give medical specialists the best data on treatment options for their patients. The new funding will be used to build out both products. Keep reading>>

Is peer-reviewed science too slow to track wearable accuracy?

By: Jonah Comstock | Mar 19, 2015        

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JONAH_COMSTOCK_HEADSHOTFitness wearables are big these days. Going on a tenth of the population has them, their visibility is on the rise through TV commercials, and even the President is talking about getting one. And, of course, the upcoming Apple Watch will feature fitness tracking functionality. So it’s no surprise that headlines that take the wind out of wearables are, as Wired’s Brent Rose puts it in a new piece, “catnip for journalists.”

Wired penned a response to a widely-reported February study from the University of Pennsylvania which suggested that wearables are less accurate than the activity trackers built into phones. We wrote our own response asking whether scientific accuracy was really the most important thing about wearables, as opposed to the potential for engagement. For its part, Wired didn’t just dispute the science in the study, they shot back with a less rigorous, but possibly better designed, study of their own and found opposite results.

Wired’s number one complaint about the study was that it used devices that were several years out of date, so they repeated the experiment with newer trackers. Second, the original researchers tracked steps on a treadmill, which is questionable as a proxy for real-world walking, so Wired tracked steps around a baseball field. Making these two changes, Rose found that the wearable devices were more accurate than the phones, with the Fitbit Charge HR the most accurate of all. Keep reading>>

Atari steps into fitness with health app launch, partners with Walgreens

By: Aditi Pai | Mar 19, 2015        

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AtariFitGame production company Atari has launched a fitness app, called Atari Fit for Android and iOS devices. Atari partnered with 8BitFit, a company that develops smartphone-based fitness games, and Gametheory, a production studio, to develop the app. Atari also partnered with Walgreens to offer Balance Rewards points to users who are tracking their steps through the app.

The company said the launch of this fitness app marks their entrance into the fitness and health market and is a part of Atari’s “ongoing corporate strategy to reach new audiences across a diverse set of platforms”.

“With Atari Fit, players from around the globe can exercise, play and get healthy together by providing a gamified fitness experience unlike any other app currently available,” Atari CEO Fred Chesnais said in a statement. “By uniting the universal need to exercise and live healthfully with the entertaining experience unique to Atari games, we’ve created an app that proves fitness can be fun.”

The Atari Fit app offers over 150 gamified exercise routines including full-body circuits and running programs. Users can unlock additional fitness routines with points earned from burning calories or through in-app purchases. As the user exercises, the app will track distance, speed, pace, and calories burned. If users want to connect with friends, they can join a team to run or do another exercise routine with others. They can also challenge friends to workout against them.

Users can also earn in-game rewards by syncing data from wearable devices or other apps. Atari Fit will integrate the data from Apple Health. When users raise their fitness level in the app, they receive coins, and they can use the coins to unlock Atari classic games, for example Pong, Super Breakout, and Centipede. Users can also earn Walgreens Balance Rewards that they can redeem for discounts at Walgreens.

In the last few years, other game developer companies have also released fitness offerings.

In October 2013, Charles Huang and Kai Huang, founders of RedOctane, which developed the video game Guitar Hero, launched a digital fitness offering, called Blue Goji, that aims to gamify stationary exercise equipment. Blue Goji has three components. The first is an app, called Goji Play. The second component is a set of wireless controllers that can be attached to any fitness machine, including an elliptical trainer, treadmill, or exercise bike. Finally, the user is given an activity tracker to wear while exercising. From there, users can play a variety of games designed for Goji Play while the tracker sends data to the app. Keep reading>>

Keas launches Health Hub to move into health benefits management

By: Jonah Comstock | Mar 18, 2015        

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KeasCorporate wellness platform Keas has launched a new product for self-insured employers, called Health Hub. It aims to be a comprehensive health benefits management platform that incorporates Keas’s existing employee wellness offering as well as health management and reporting, disease management programs, smoking cessation programs, gym memberships, cost transparency tools, and more.

“The irony of reducing waste and improving the health of the employer-sponsored population — for over 100 million Americans — is that it’s not a health problem, but rather a marketing and IT problem,” Josh Stevens, CEO of Keas, said in a statement. “The techniques used to solve the healthcare engagement dilemma must come from consumer marketing and IT professionals who can simplify and streamline the employer-sponsored health experience.”

By making a hub play, Keas brings itself into competition with the likes of Zenefits, a fast-growing company offering free software for managing benefits, or Maxwell Health, an online benefits manager which, like Keas, integrates with activity trackers like Fitbit and Jawbone.  That model has been working out well for those companies, which have raised $83.6 million and $34.4 million, respectively.

Keas raised $7.4 million last September, bringing their total funding to $39 million.

Keas VP of Product Raul Mujica argues that mobile health innovation has actually led to an over-saturation of employee wellness tools, which can overwhelm self-insured employers. Keep reading>>

HTC launches Fun Fit activity tracking app, but it’s not for Grip

By: Aditi Pai | Mar 18, 2015        

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HTC Fun FitHTC, manufacturer of Android and Windows mobile devices, has released an activity tracking app in the Google Play store, called Fun Fit.

The app tracks steps, distance, calories burned, and time spent being active. It creates daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly charts to help users understand their activity history. HTC aims to keep the app fun by providing the user with an avatar and the ability to connect with friends through Facebook so users can stay active with their friends.

Earlier this month, HTC also released its first wristworn activity tracker, called HTC Grip. The Grip, which is waterproof, tracks speed, distance, calories burned for runs, bike rides, and gym workouts, and sleep activity. The device also features a GPS radio so it can track speed, distance, and pace during a user’s workout even when the wearer does not bring their phone along, and the device will sync this data to the user’s smartphone when they get back. HTC said the device will be available in spring 2015.

Although the HTC Grip announcement was just a few weeks before HTC launched Fun Fit, as part of the HTC Grip announcement, HTC said the tracker would sync data exclusively to another company’s app, Under Armour’s health data aggregation app, UA Record.  Keep reading>>