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healthcare

Behavioral variables and nanobots in healthcare

Big data and machine learning platforms are in a unique position to analyze one of the most challenging aspects of medical research: behavioral variables that are not reported accurately by common assessment methods. While EMRs (electronic medical records) prompt healthcare providers to collect a great deal of subjective information that impacts healthcare, such as compliance with medication regimes or alcohol intake, the validity of the information collected is questionable.

The subjective nature of the reasons people conceal or alter information given to a health care provider are as complicated at the whole of the human population. People feel social pressures to conform and please a questioner. They don’t want to admit to money problems that impact health care. They do not accurately see their own behavior. Cultural norms regarding personal information vary widely, as does disclosure by age and gender and social class. But new methods of gathering and quantifying data across populations has the potential to give greater insights into human behavior that can change the results of medical research.

Relying solely on patient reports of behavior is a method of gathering data that is extremely limited and may significantly impact the results of healthcare research. But gathering self reports, along with subjective research reports, pharmacy records, laboratory test results, social media, buying behavior, financial records, employment records, and other sources of data, and then analyzing across populations, can give a more accurate picture of what people are actually doing. By having a more accurate picture of human behavioral variables, healthcare research can more accurately assess the impact of human behavior on health care outcomes, and propose treatment modalities that are fine-tuned to the people we actually are. Continue reading

stratecta

New technologies for improving healthcare

Various thought leaders have opined that we are in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as seen by the fact that new technologies are disrupting all industries, disciplines, and economies. By 2020, the digital universe will be 44 trillion gigabytes. This amount is doubling every two years.  Big Data will become so large that artificial intelligence (AI) will make sense of it for us. Already Google has launched the Google Deepmind Health project to scrutinize the data of patients’ medical records and provide better and faster service.

Mitchell Weiss, a robotics safety expert, identified the top three trends impacting occupational health and safety in 2017. They involve complexity of automation, collaborative automation, and complexity of user interface. Along with this there is an increase use of Big Data, artificial intelligence, and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) to do medical work.

Internet of Things (IoT) — the ability to connect any device to the Internet through an on and off switch — is a major component of telemedicine, which allows healthcare professionals to communicate with people long distance and provide consultation, diagnosis and treatment of various medical conditions. IOT Telemedicine, which has been gaining in popularity, is now expanding globally.

A Brief Primer on the Internet of Things

Internet of Things is a concept that can apply to things like washing machines, coffee makers, headphones, even parts of machines. The research and advisory firm Gartner estimates  that by 2020, more than 26 billion devices will be connected to IoT. Some analysts say the figure could go as high as 100 billion. In only a short time, our society will be a network of connected “things.” And these “things” include the robots and other devices that are connected to the Internet and can therefore consult with physicians and patients thousands of miles away.

Internet of Things in Healthcare Continue reading

nanofarm

Small scale farming and Nanofarming improving

How are we going to feed ourselves in 2050, when the population of the world reaches 9.7 billion? How are we going to manage resources, when the majority of fresh water in the world goes to farming, and nearly half of farm produce ends up in landfills? Food waste of various types is the leading cause of methane gas production from landfills, which is contributing to climate change and impacting our access to fresh water. Across the world, being overweight (rich countries) and underweight (poor countries) is causing loss of life and human potential, and an enormous burden on health care systems. Will a kitchen still be used?

These strangely circular global problems can be broken down into these: unequal land and water resources; systems of agriculture that will require infrastructure development for storage and shipping of food in the developing world; systems of food shopping and eating behaviors in the developed world that perpetuates waste and obesity.  It might seem like a simple problem with simple solutions, to have half of the world ill from poor nutrition and vitamin deficiency, and half dying of diseases caused by obesity. Even stranger to have people going hungry while half the food we produce goes to waste. But these are problems of different systems, and changes in one system, while impactful, do not necessarily cause change across the board.

The challenges of agriculture, infrastructure development, storage and shipping of food, and nutrition in the developing world, are related systems that can be affected by resources, research, and hard work. In the developed world, resources, research, and hard work are also needed to affect change. But what is it that we need to change? Patterns of behavior, cultural standards, entitlement, habit? Are we all just spoiled brats who want what we want, and if it isn’t right, we throw it away in a snit? Will we have to face a global Armageddon on fresh strawberries and the decimation of the artisanal cheese industry before we start showing some care about our food?

We can leave the whole charged issue of spoiled brat/snit to the sociologists. The rest of us want to do better. We want to eat healthy food, and we want to eat ugly squash and tomatoes to save them from an afterlife in the landfill, covered with flies and making methane gas. We don’t want to throw away food, but we also don’t want to overeat, and after two weeks in the fridge, the Chinese food take out really needs to go. We would all probably eat less meat and more quinoa if we had a clue how to cook it, or what you were supposed to do with it in reference to a pot of chili. And we all want to support local organic farmers and reduce the carbon footprint of monoculture farms, but some mornings we just need to grab a muffin and go, and we don’t care how far that muffin had to travel to get into our hands.

These are guilt-laden conundrums, in which we take on responsibility for the fate of the planet as a direct consequence of how far our coffee beans were forced to travel. It’s no wonder that eating, tasting, growing, a simple cob of corn comes with a mantle of blame and quiet desperation before we even begin to douse it in butter and salt. It’s ridiculous, but it’s us.

But individual changes in behavior, while helpful, are not going to change a system that is unsuited for the current population growth v. resources issue as we understand it. At this time, most of us have kitchens in our homes or apartments. We shop for groceries in the grocery store, and take food home to cook for meals. We eat out in restaurants or fast food places a couple of times a week. In this system, farmers are going bankrupt, farm workers who pick produce are starving, fast food and restaurant workers are living below the poverty line, and grocery stores are showing huge profits. In addition, much of the food we buy is better travelled than we are. Those crazy jet-setting grapes, that arrive in the store after a long ocean voyage from South America!

Food waste happens in the current system in several places: at the farms, unattractive fresh fruits and veggies are not even picked–too expensive, and no market. At the grocery store, the nice-looking stuff goes fast, while the asymmetrical squash sits until it is past prime.  And when those lovely grapes are on sale, we take home a huge bag, and after several days of gorging on grapes, we let the rest of the bag sit until it starts to form raisins, even in the fridge, and we throw it away. There are several nonprofit groups who are developing systems to deal with food waste, including rescuing ugly produce and delivering it to food banks. While these groups are doing good work, they are not changing the system that is producing the problem. Continue reading

wearables

Smart Clothing for Woman

The dress works like this: it’s made of efoil, a new textile that is engineered to change opacity, and connected to an integral heartbeat monitor. When the wearer’s heartbeat accelerates, such as with the approach of a lover, the dress turns transparent. Part of an ongoing collaborative series about intimacy, technology, and fashion, the Intimacy 2.0 dress is the work of FashionTech designer/engineer Anouk Wipprecht and Dutch Studio Roosegaarde.

The majority of Anouk Wipprecht’s  FashionTech clothing, a wonderful mix of robotics, artificial intelligence, and wearable electronics, features a fierce beauty, like powerful exoskeletons, clothing that is ours to command. This FashionTech isn’t designed to make us pretty, but to make us powerful, a wearable host-system that can poke the eye out of any stupid bastard that approaches us with evil intent. The fierceness of most FashionTech, clothing that will bring a smile of delight to the eyes of powerful women everywhere, is why the Intimacy 2.0 dress has it backward.

Imagine this. You walk into a party, dressed to the nines in your new efoil dress, and naturally you feel a bit nervous, a bit excited, so your heart is beating excitedly, and then, just as you always knew it would, your clothing betrays you, turns translucent, and you stand naked in front of a crowd of strangers.

Your heart beats faster with the approach not just of a lover but of an enemy. A heart beats faster with challenge, dread, excitement, and what we need our clothing to do when our heart beats faster is to protect, not reveal. Continue reading

femtech

Female startups rising

The last years have seen a number of exciting startups securing venture capital and developing innovative products that include healthcare wearables. FemTech is the name for the women-led, women-designed new product startups, and the success of these traditional and consumer health care products can be summed up in two words: market potential.

Women’s healthcare has been underfunded by the research and development world, but the last few years have seen a number of innovative products brought to market. While much of femTech is focusing on reproductive technology and sexual health, such as fertility startups that are helping young women harvest and save their eggs for later childbirth decisions, to a birth control telemedicine and delivery model, to apps that are as sensitive as the birth control pill for contraception, not all the focus is on reproductive health.

Cardiovascular disease remains the number one killer of women worldwide, and Bloomer Tech is developing a number of wearables with biometric sensors to collect and analyze heart heath data. The data can be used to guide real-time medical decision making, while collecting big data amounts of women’s heart health data for research. The material developed has flexible, washable circuits embedded in textiles, a technology that will allow a number of interesting developments in the ability of wearables to collect biometric data. Their first product is a bra with the flexible circuits embedded to collect data on heart disease risk factors. It communicates to an app on a smartphone via Bluetooth. Most important, the user decides on how much and what data can be shared with a medical professional, researcher, or other person.

Bellabeat, the maker of LeafUrban jewelry, is leading the jewelry/design/health monitoring pack. The beautiful leaf-shaped jewelry looks nothing like a fitness tracker, and provides several important tools for women hoping to find a better tool to monitor health: it helps track menstrual periods, so women can keep track of fertility and contraception, and it monitors signs of stress and offers guided meditation. Like other health and fitness devices, it monitors activity and sleep, and gives the user data.

However, the largest amount of VC funding remains with startup companies focusing on a product that has both cachet and market potential. Many, or most, new products focus on women’s sexual and reproductive health. Elvie raised $6 million for a small device to help women do Kegel exercises properly. Women’s health care startups in FemTech have raised, to date, over $1.1 billion for research and development. Continue reading