Monday, July 28, 2014

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Atlas Wearables Takes On Jawbone And Nike With A Smarter Exercise Tracker

If there’s one lesson to be learned at this year’s CES, it’s that everybody and their mothers are going nuts for wearables. More than a few of these peculiar gadgets are meant to make sure you’re getting enough exercise, but a new fitness tracking hardware startup thinks they’ve got an edge on all the wearable incumbents that have popped up these past few years. You see, rather than just counting your steps for the day, the Atlas — which is being shown off for the first time onstage at our Hardware Battlefield — is capable of determining exactly what exercises you’re doing to give you a better sense of both your fitness level and your form.
Well almost exactly. Creators Peter Li and Mike Kasparian claim that once the Atlas is lashed to your wrists, it continuously keeps track of its movement in space thanks to a built-in accelerometer. While all that is going on, a finely tuned algorithm chews on all of that spatial data to try and figure out what exactly you’re doing at any given moment. After all, the motion signature of bounding up and down while you’re running should look decidedly different from if you’re knocking out push-ups or standing still(ish) for weighted squats. Meanwhile, the Atlas’ backside sports an optical pulse sensor to determine just how hard you’re actually working out, which when combined with all that other data should yield one of the more thoughtful quantified fitness experiences. Down the road, Li hopes to build Atlas more of an educational tool too: he and his colleagues are targeting the wrist-worn gadget for a Q4 2014 launch and with it will come the ability to derive a Form Score to give users an idea of how good (or terrible) their bench presses are.
The reason for the “almost”? In order to accurately determine what exercises you’re doing, the Atlas has to have a baseline reference for the motion data that those exercises generate. And even then, the chances of you having perfect form while you exercise is questionable so there’s a certain level of acclimation involved here as well before you really start to hit your stride. “You can wear it as a Fitbit for a week to get your basal metabolic rate down,” Li said. But that’s the fatal flaw that Li sees with some of Atlas’ contemporaries — to hear him tell it, the number of steps a person takes each day usually doesn’t vary dramatically so the value of that information is limited. Atlas on the other hand was designed to monitor the full range of person’s fitness activities in the hopes that the people who really care about exercise
At this stage, the company is working with personal trainers in Austin to flesh out the repertoire of exercises that the Atlas is capable of picking up on. In its pre-release prototype form, it’s capable of recognizing two dozen exercises like bicep curls, squats, pushups — you know, some of the perennial favorites — with support for 50-100 to come as Atlas inches closer to its initial release. Interest piqued?

H2 Launches Health2Sync, A Tech-Savvy Way To Help Diabetics Manage And Track Their Glucose

Today at the TechCrunch Hardware Battlefield at CES, H2 debuted its Health2Sync technology, a combination of hardware and software aimed at helping diabetics better manage their glucose levels by providing them with a digital solution to a manual problem. Tracking one’s glucose levels is tedious, and normally done in an analog manner. Scrawling glucose readings into a small physical booklet isn’t very useful, as interpreting the data is all but impossible. And, given that it’s easy to forget and annoying to do, people who need to track their blood sugar often don’t do it enough. Health2Sync wants to change the process completely, and has built an elegant hardware solution to make the process of tracking your blood sugar levels simple. At its most basic, Health2Sync is a cable that plugs into the standard data port of most legacy glucometers, and into an iPhone or iPad audio jack. A small square is amidst the cable, allowing it to translate the data incoming from the glucometer. (See above picture.) The result is a tool that allows a user to sync their glucose readings quickly, and at once to their iOS device, removing the need for titchy hand input and the like. Naturally, Health2Sync’s cable needs to speak to something, which is where its software component comes into play. The client software for Health2Sync allows users to tag their various readings with general, but useful categories: When you took the reading (i.e., before or after a meal), what you ate, did you exercise and so forth.
Users can also set low and high bands for their blood sugar levels. Data from their various categorial readings (again, before a meal, after, etc.) are then plotted for them over time, showing how often they meet, exceed, or come under their desired blood sugar range. The result is that individuals with diabetes can use their current glucometer in the manner they always have, and with a daily Health2Sync data transference can quickly draw a picture of their blood sugar over time that they can better understand, and, if they have permissions set up, share with loved ones and caregivers. Health2Sync debuts today. The company, which has raised $300,000 to date and is in the process of raising a Series A round of cash, has an Indiegogo campaign up and running to finance the capital costs of its first set of devices. The Health2Sync cable will retail for no more than $35, making it affordable. According to the company, between 8- and 15% of the population suffers from diabetes, meaning there’s a big market for a product like this. All told, as the global population continues to live longer, we’re going to deal with rising health issues that come with aging. Technologies like Health2Sync could help bring analog health tracking tools online, making them more transparent. The question for the company now becomes how it reaches its end users. If its Indiegogo campaign goes well, that will be an indication of market interest. It’s go time for the company.

MobStac Raises $2 Million In Series B To Help Brands Leverage Mobile Commerce

MobStac, a Bangalore-based startup that helps publishers build and manage their mobile websites and apps, has raised $2 million in Series B funding from Accel Partners and Cisco. With the latest financing, MobStac will expand its existing cloud platform to build mobile websites for consumer brands looking to sell their products on mobile phones. MobStac already has four beta customers using its new platform, the startup’s co-founder Sharat Potharaju told Techcrunch. For its existing mobile content platform, the startup counts some of the top Indian media houses including The Hindu and Times Internet among its customers. Potharaju started MobStac along with his childhood friend Ravi Pratap M in 2009, after raising around $75,000 in seed funding from a bunch of angel investors including batch mates from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). Later, in June 2011, MobStac raised its Series A funding of around $400,000 from Accel and the Mumbai Angels. The latest round brings MobStac’s total venture financing to $3.1 million. Cisco, which has invested $1 million in the startup, is betting huge on enterprise mobility, and MobStac is hoping to gain from its backing. “Cisco’s investment is a great endorsement for our technology platform and also strongly revalidates the need for a solution like MobStac especially in the enterprise business segment that Cisco’s customers fall into,” said Potharaju. MobStac’s rivals include Vancouver-based Mobify and San Francisco-headquartered Moovweb that raised $16 million in March last year from several investors including Sun co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim. As more consumer brands push aggressively to beef up their mobile channels, these startups are seeing huge revenue opportunity. According to Forrester, mobile commerce is expected to reach $31 billion by 2016. ComScore said in August last year that smartphones are now driving a higher (6%) share of total digital commerce than tablets (3.5%). MobStac now has over 5 million unique visitors per month, and it aims to reach 25 million monthly unique visitors within few years. The startup has around 25 paying customers currently. “There is a disparity between consumer and enterprise platforms when it comes to content and commerce. We are changing that by going beyond just building a mobie website,” said Ravi who spent four years with Hillcrest Labs before co-founding MobStac. As part of the startup’s global expansion plans, Sharat would be relocating to New York next month. “There are some 75,000 apparel brands in US alone who could be potential customers for us and others in this space,” said Potharaju.

AdhereTech Introduces Wireless Pill Bottle To Ensure Patients Take Their Meds

Prescription drug adherence is a big problem in the U.S., costing the healthcare system hundreds of millions of dollars per year and often leading to health complications for patients who don’t follow their doctors’ orders. A startup called AdhereTech thinks it has a solution to that problem: a wireless pill bottle that alerts patients when they have to take their meds and keeps track of their usage and dosage. Launching today at Hardware Battlefield at CES, AdhereTech’s pill bottle seeks to increase adherence and reduce the costs associated with missed or haphazard dosage. It does that by connecting to a cloud service wirelessly, collecting usage data and ensuring that patients are taking pills when they’re supposed to. The problem is real: only about half of patients take medicine as directed six months after it’s been prescribed. For many, especially among the elderly, that’s due to forgetfulness. But some patients also choose to purposely omit doses or take more than their physicians prescribe. That results in lost sales for pharmaceutical companies, but more importantly, it also means patients are at risk of having recurring health problems as a result. AdhereTech’s solution monitors dosage in real-time through the pill bottle, keeping patients continually on track. The AdhereTech bottle can alert patients when it’s time to take their medicine, either through a call or text, or via blinking light directly in the bottle. It also has a wireless CDMA chip that sends a small amount of data, measuring when the bottle was opened and how many pills were taken. The bottles hold a charge of about 45 days, but can be recharged when it runs low. The idea is that pharmacists could provide the bottles to patients, who would use them for a month and then swap them out for a newly charged bottle when they pick up refills the following month. The company plans to partner with drug companies, particularly for very expensive drugs, to ensure that patients take them. Those companies would then issue the bottles to pharmacies, which would take care of distribution.

Fitbit Partners With Tory Burch For High Fashion Accessories

The $99 Fitbit Flex is about to get an injection of fashion. Today, at CES 2014, Fitbit is announcing a partnership with the fashion brand Tory Burch for a line of accessories. Pricing has not been announced yet, but chances are these accessories will cost nearly as much as the $99 Flex. Fitbit released the Flex in the spring of 2013. It’s a wonderful fitness tracker, and Fitbit managed to pack an array of sensors into the svelte package. The Flex ships with a wristband, but the actual dongle is a tiny pebble-like device, designed to slip into a pocket — or apparently be worn as a pendant if the Tory Burch concept is any indication. With this partnership comes a milestone for Fitbit. Spawning an accessory ecosystem is often viewed as a positive health indicator for budding consumer electronic companies. Once a device maker, such as Apple or GoPro or Fitbit, can convince other companies to support their products, the road to success tends to get a bit smoother. These Tory Burch accessories are scheduled to hit the brand’s stores and website this spring. The companies’ have yet to announce pricing, but since a Tory Burch silicon iPhone case costs $45, there’s a good chance these Fitbit accessories will not be inexpensive, either.

Sony Doubles Down On Wearable Tech With The Life-Tracking ‘Core’

LG played up its push into wearable tech earlier this morning, and now it looks like Sony’s turn to do the same. Sony Mobile president and CEO Kuni Suzuki took the stage at the tail end of Sony’s CES press conference to show off what he called “the tiniest gadget Sony has ever made” — the life-tracking Sony Core. Yes, life-tracking. A considerable chunk of the wearable gizmos currently floating around on the market are centered solely on tracking user activity in a bid to make them more health-conscious. That’s nothing if not a noble goal (not to mention an awfully lucrative one) but Sony’s approach is meant to also fold into your social and entertainment into the mix as well. The Core is indeed capable of tracking your motion in addition how long you sleep, and the ability to keep tabs on the photos you’ve taken, the music you’re listening to, and how often you interact with particular friends. All of that data gets folded into a (presumably non-final) grid-centric app view for easy perusal, though at this point it’s not clear if Sony means to make that companion app available solely for its own devices. And how does the Core connect to your phone? Bluetooth, naturally. It seems that the Core will occasionally send sensor data updates to the phone at which point it gets mashed together with all that social and entertainment information to complete Sony’s complete lifelogging package. In the event that the connection between the two is lost, the Core will continue to record that data and it’ll vibrate on your wrist as long as you’re within a certain range.
If this all sounds a little vague, know that it’s by design. Suzuki himself admitted that the Core’s time on stage today was little more than a teaser designed to whet wearable nerds’ appetites. And, as if he couldn’t resist the urge to paint a picture of an ambitious wearable future, Suzuki noted that Sony was engaging in talks with other hardware manufacturers so Core adopters will have a sizable array of accessories (like Sony’s own color wristbands) to pair with their tiny trackers. You’ll have to forgive me for being just a little skeptical, as Sony hasn’t exactly had the best track record with its recent wearable forays. Its original SmartWatch was either ahead of its time or fundamentally flawed depending on who you ask, and the the jury is still out on whether or not that device’s successor will have any real staying power in a market that will soon be flooded with wrist-mounted displays. The Core is perhaps one of the more thoughtful takes on wearable tracker formula I’ve seen in recent months, but we’ll soon see if Sony’s clout and resources will be enough to convince the masses of Core’s value.