Water ATM’s in Rural India

How Piramal Sarvajal is using IoT to tackle safe drinking water issue for rural India

“Water is wealth; water is life. Without water, life would not endure, and access to freshwater and sanitation is a basic fundamental right of humans.”

Having said that, the availability of freshwater is still a significant challenge in India, especially in rural areas. According to reports, 25 million people in India lack access to safe drinking water, and rural Indian women waste 700 hours annually collecting water. It is also estimated that by the year 2025, almost more than half of the urban population of India will live in water-stressed areas as this precious commodity is becoming scarce rapidly.

In this context, Piramal Sarvajal is committed to leveraging innovative technology to create easy access to safe drinking water in rural areas. Seeded by the Piramal Foundation in 2008, Sarvajal has been working in the water space to provide clean drinking water in the far-flung rural regions of India.

Even today, three-quarters of India still drink unfiltered water, which, in turn, leads to diarrheal deaths and permanent fluorosis. To change this, Sarvajal founder Anand Shah created a program to achieve low-cost scalable solutions serving “safe water for all.”

Why it’s Hot: (In case you’re not sure if you want to read the loooong case study.) This is a really innovative convergence of technology, data and business model – aligned to solve a pervasive public health challenge, which negatively impacts the lives of millions of people every day. Interesting perspective, as we collectively consider ways in which clients might respond to the current global public health challenge.

A Mission To Provide ‘Water For All’

Water scarcity has been a global issue; however, Piramal Sarvajal believed that the problem is multidimensional, and therefore the solutions had to be locally suited. Additionally, the voluminous nature of water, coupled with its vulnerability to contamination demanded a localised and efficient purification-cum-distribution system. While many well-intentioned NGOs have tried to implement charity-based water delivery solutions, these ventures have not proven financially sustainable over time. And therefore, the need of the hour was to apply business thinking to solve public service delivery problems.

In recent years, decentralised solutions for community-level drinking water installations have achieved significant success in creating safe water access, even in remote rural areas. Serving large enough numbers at affordable prices leads to financial sustainability while creating a local entrepreneurial ecosystem. A market-based, pay-per-use model aims to democratise drinking water access and achieve operational break-even by selling drinking water to the community at affordable prices. Piramal Sarvajal has been at the forefront of developing technologies and business practices in the safe drinking water sector that are designed to ensure sustainable solutions in both rural and urban deployment conditions. Sarvajal created a business model that operates at community levels to provide decentralised drinking water solutions to underserved communities.

Challenges

During its inception, Piramal Sarvajal had their first version of its purification unit, which had no governance-based technology involved, and all the operations were done manually. Since the initiative was bound to be a multi-location affair, distributed operations posed a severe challenge to efficiently and cost-effectively managing the project. Besides, generating sufficient demand meant breaking existing taboos around buying water by educating consumers about water-health linkages was also a challenge. Sarvajal’s team, therefore, innovated a solution that could be customised for the water contamination profile of any location with pioneering remote monitoring technology. It also invested in community awareness activities while tapping into local entrepreneurial drive and resources by adopting a franchise model.

The company used to charge to the franchisee, based on the volume of water purified by our unit. Although there was a mechanical flow meter installed in the unit that used to measure the volume of water purified by our unit, every month, a person had to go to the field to note down the reading from each unit. This process, therefore, used to take about two weeks to complete the round and collect the data. This manual reading process created a delay in the billing cycle. Additionally, they noticed some tampering with water meters at various locations, which indeed is a separate challenge altogether. To resolve these, Piramal Sarvajal explored applying cloud-based technology in order to create a smooth process by using sensors for the measurement of vital parameters like quantity, quality, pressure etc.

Water ATMs: Automated Water Dispensing Units

The company started its technological journey using the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) with sensors and Human Machine Interface (HMI), which were attached with the PLC. “PLC-based automation has helped us in automating the unit’s operation and in remotely managing and monitoring the purification unit from our centralised location,” said Anuj Sharma, the CEO of Piramal Sarvaja. “Due to the fast-paced changes in PLC technology, we needed to update our software frequently. This triggered the design of our own, micro-controller based, control unit.”

Being the first organisation in India to develop the Water ATM, Piramal Sarvajal, operated the project in collaboration with a local entrepreneur or the local panchayat and community-based organisations to create sustainable livelihood opportunities within the chosen community. These cloud-connected and solar-powered WaterATM dispenses purified water 24×7. Villagers were issued RFID cards for collecting water, and these cards have a pre-paid balance, which can be recharged periodically as per consumption pattern. The RFID card gave the consumer the convenience of taking water anytime, anywhere across connected ATMs in a given location of flexible litres.

The IoT enabled technology installed at the purification level, ensuring the quality of every drop dispensed and supported oversight management on a real-time basis, while remotely managing locations for better governance. “The dispensing solution via Water ATM not only helps us manage and monitor user-level data but also supports targeted subsidies and variable pricing to support equitable and sustainable solutions at the last mile,” said Sharma.

The adoption of IoT technology for remote monitoring of the units helped the company in bringing transparency in operations across every transaction and ensured governance of widespread locations for both the service provider and the donor. This technology also assisted in managing the pay per use model, which, in turn, helped the consumers to pay an affordable price for clean drinking water — paying only for the service.

Operating Models

The technology that the company deployed was the Internet of Things (IoT), which required GSM/GPRS network as it acts as a backbone for communication between device and server. And, Sarvajal’s devices communicate with their centralised server over GSM/GPRS (2G) network. And ensuring that every installed unit has the availability of proper signal strength at the desired location. “Sometimes, we have noticed that even though there is a proper signal strength available at the place, still there is a delay in data exchange, which was due to the network latency,” said Sharma. And, hence, the company considered other network options like NB-IoT, which works on LTE (4G); considering its availability in most of India. The company also considered other alternate non-standard options, where telecom network is still not available, but it is under feasibility study.

Piramal Sarvajal also has enabled a technology device called Soochak, which is a remote monitoring device designed to be mounted on a commercial-scale water purification plant, to capture minute-by-minute machine status. This process works on Piramal’s technology backend, which allows the company to bring affordable, safe drinking water to underserved communities sustainably. At the same time, the touch screen of the machine easily guides the local operators on the daily functioning of the plant in the local language.

The company aimed to deploy technology at every stage — for specific parameter measurement Piramal Sarvajal have used state of the art sensors. As part of their regular preventive maintenance, these sensors are calibrated periodically so that they provide accurate data. With the help of IoT, the company gets its data from all units installed in the field, and these data are stored in their server’s database system. Also, considering the received data is large in volume; it practically wasn’t possible to do analysis manually, hence, decided to apply data analytics that provided them with meaningful information from the available data. “This helped us to know how many units are working in normal condition and how many units require attention from our maintenance team,” said Sharma. “Our devices are intelligent enough to provide real-time alerts to our operations team for any attention needed by them. Our operations team immediately acts on alerts and attends the situation.”

Application & Benefits

Sarvajal’s proprietary technology played a vital role in providing a comprehensive solution for delivering low-cost drinking water at the last mile. The various components of the technology include — water purification plants, monitoring device, the water ATM, and Sarvajal’s enterprise management system.

Sarvajal’s purification model was agnostic of the method of filtration and was utilising purification technology as per the source water. The water was getting purified through a site-designed five-step filtration process including media filtration, micron filtration, reverse osmosis (RO) filtration and UV purification. The employed proprietary technology of Sarvajal helped them in monitoring and controlling the machine operations, the source water quality, product water quality, litres produced (both rate and total), the overall health of the machine, and the amount of effluent created in the process. This real-time online monitoring enabled the company to assure a greater uptime in machine usage.

Sarvajal’s Enterprise Management System is the information processing hub of the entire company’s network of distributed installations. The SEMs receives all data sent over the cellular network for the Soochaks and Water ATMs and serves as the conduit for all operational activities within the business, such as inventory management, maintenance tracking, accounting, and asset tracking.

Additionally, the water ATM devices were solar-powered, cloud-connected, and operated automatically, which was designed to dispense water at the swipe of an RFID card. The ATMs tracked every transaction that took place, which enabled a sophisticated market forecasting and proactive multi-unit management. It also enhanced the scale of impact and optimised net investment per installation. Consequently, the ATMs established water-price transparent markets and assured 24×7 access to safe drinking water. Sarvaj’s initiative also presented an option to provide direct-targeted subsidies through government-run programs. Currently, the company is serving more than 7.30 lakhs of people daily, directly from our 1765+ touchpoints in 20 states.

While there are many players in the water space, Sharma believes, “What sets us apart is our effort of conducting community engagement activities to improve impact to increase the off-take.” Also, “Soochak throws data about machine health, so all maintenance activities are planned. Service tickets are even generated to track and also study the data generated. Our database shares information on all machines functionality at any given point in time.”

Sharma further added, “Being a technology expert in the water sector, we also aim to help the government by demonstrating the use of technology, so that the government can monitor the water supply schemes very effectively.” Sarvajal has extended the application of this model for a water pipe model too. The company partnered with the central government-run Jal Shakti mission to create a pilot model of monitoring the IoT-based water tracking mechanism at villages of Gujarat, Assam and Bihar.

The Corona Running Boom?

It is clear that the Corona pandemic will radically change people’s behavior for the foreseeable future. What is less clear is precisely how behaviors will change and whether new habits will stick around after the pandemic is over (fingers crossed).

The New York Times reports that a running boom is happening–which makes sense given the number of people who can no longer exercise at gyms or indoors. But with potentially millions of people taking up running, how many of them will discover that they enjoy the habit and continue even when their gym membership is available again? The impact could be huge for years to come.

Running along the Hudson River.

Why it’s hot: What other activities are taking off? What activities are being displaced? What long-term impact could new habits have after the pandemic ends?

Skincare + AI: Making Mass Personalization Easy

A skincare startup is tackling the complexity consumers face when navigating the category to select the best products for their skincare needs. Rather than adding to the clutter of products, ingredients and “proprietary formulas”, or attempting to educate consumers through exposure to research + science, Proven Skincare simply prescribes personalized solutions for each individual.

After collecting customer input based around 40 key factors, Proven Skincare’s AI combs through a comprehensive database of research, testimonials and dermatology expertise, to identify the best mix of ingredients for each person’s situation.

Ming Zhao, Proven’s CEO, co-founded the company while struggling with her own skincare issues.

“The paradox of choice, the confusion that causes this frustrating cycle of trial and error, is too much for most people to bear,” says Zhao on the latest edition of Ad Age’s Marketer’s Brief podcast. “There’s a lot of cycles of buying expensive product, only for it to then sit on somebody’s vanity shelf for months to come.”

As the human body’s largest organ, skin should be properly cared for—using products and ingredients that have been proven to work for specific individuals. That’s the core mission behind Proven Skincare, a new beauty company that has tapped technology to research the best skincare regimen for consumers.

Why It’s Hot: In a world where the benefits of things like AI and big data are not often apparent to the “average” person, this is an example of technology that solves a real human problem, while remaining invisible (i.e. it’s not about the tech).

Can you see this now?

In Ukraine, a lack of people taking eye examinations combined with increasing mobile device usage has led to a national eyesight problem, so Luxoptica, a Ukranian optician, decided to leverage the problem device to get people to take eye exams, all on their own accord.

Luxoptica ophthalmologists created an eye test that sat within Instagram Stories. All users had to do to take the test was tap on the brand’s Instagram story and hold their smartphone at a distance, then text appeared on the screen. If they could see the letters clearly, they would be instructed to tap to the right, which took them to the next text – in smaller type.

As soon as users could no longer see the writing, they were instructed to swipe up. The result of the test then appeared on the screen with a prediction of their visual ability and a recommendation about what to do next.

Body image for Instoptica

If the vision score was below normal, Luxoptica recommended a visit to an ophthalmologist to prevent further reduction in vision and provided a direct link to book an appointment at any Luxoptica store.

Why it’s hot: Luxoptica was smart in its “show don’t tell” strategy by providing consumers with a free experience of an eye exam instead of lots of medical claims and reasons to go to your optometrist to get an exam. Its creative use of Instagram stories made their message easily accessible to their target audience, mobile phone users, giving them the freedom to experience the exam on their own time, ultimately driving 1 in 7 people to an optician for an eye exam, over 6,800 visits.

Source: Contagious

Planned parenthood launches tool to help navigate state abortion laws

Planned Parenthood recently launched an Abortion Care Finder tool, which provides those seeking abortions with location-specific information relating to laws and regulations, nearby health centers and different medical options. It was designed in-house by Planned Parenthood’s Digital Products Lab after the team noticed an increase in searches on its website that were variants of “abortions near me.”

When a user inputs their age, location, and length of their pregnancy, the digital portal will allow them to locate the nearest Planned Parenthood clinic, and tell them whether in-clinic procedures or abortions via medication are available. The Care Finder will also update its information when states pass new laws.

If the nearest Planned Parenthood is more than 60 miles away, the tool refers users to a map created by the National Abortion Federation that includes independent providers. Though it offers more expansive results and describes abortion laws by state in greater detail, that organization’s map does not give customized results based on personal details or exact location.

The biggest barrier to creation was, and still is navigating the ever-changing state laws, which can be hard to parse. For example, in the first half of 2019 alone, states enacted 58 restrictive laws governing abortions.

Why it’s hot:
It’s simple. They built something based on need, not just because they wanted to ‘building something cool.’

Sleep Therapy for the Masses May Be Coming to You Soon

CVS Health wants to help millions of American workers improve their sleep. So for the first time, the big pharmacy benefits manager is offering a purely digital therapy as a possible employee benefit.

The company is encouraging employers to cover the costs for their workers to use Sleepio, an insomnia app featuring a cartoon therapist that delivers behavior modification lessons.

CVS Health’s push could help mainstream the nascent business of digital therapeutics, which markets apps to help treat conditions like schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis. The company recently introduced, along with Sleepio, a way for employers to cover downloads as easily as they do prescription drugs. The company said it had already evaluated about a dozen apps.

Some industry executives and researchers say the digital services should make therapy more accessible and affordable than in-person sessions with mental health professionals.

Big Health, the start-up behind Sleepio, is one of more than a dozen companies that are digitizing well-established health treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy, or devising new therapies — like video-game-based treatments for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — that can be delivered online. Since last year, a few pharmaceutical companies, including Novartis,announced partnerships with start-ups to develop digital treatments for mental health and other conditions.

So far, the use of treatment apps has been limited. But with the backing of CVS Health, which administers prescription drug plans for nearly one-third of Americans, those therapies could quickly reach tens of millions of people. A few employers have started offering Sleepio, and more are expected to sign on this fall, CVS Health said. Like in-person therapy, the insomnia app does not require a prescription.

“We are at this pivotal moment,” said Lee Ritterband, a psychiatry professor at the University of Virginia School of Medicine who has developed online health interventions for more than a decade. “For years, these have been bubbling under the surface.”

Other experts argue that online therapies may not be ready for mass adoption. In a recent study in Nature, researchers warned that most digital treatments lacked evidence of health benefits. Although first-of-their-kind medical apps that claim to treat diseases must obtain clearance from the Food and Drug Administration, health apps that make vaguer wellness claims — like better sleep — generally do not need to demonstrate effectiveness to federal regulators.

Sleepio unfolds more like a low-key, single-player video game, where the user is on a quest for better sleep, than a clinical health program. The app features an animated sleep expert with a Scottish accent, called “the Prof.” An affable but firm therapist, the bot offers people who have insomnia symptoms a series of six weekly online sessions.

“At times, you may feel like quitting or even give up, but don’t despair. This is totally normal,” the animated therapist says in the first session. “What I can tell you for sure is, if we work closely together on this, we have an excellent chance of defeating your poor sleep.”

Big Health has raised $15 million from investors including Kaiser Permanente, the California-based health system. In 2015, the start-up began selling Sleepio directly to employers, sending them aggregated data on their employees’ progress. Companies pay a fee for each employee who uses the insomnia app, but Big Health declined to disclose its pricing.

Delta Air Lines and Boston Medical Center, two of the companies that work directly with Big Health, said employees who used Sleepio reported improved sleep.

 

CVS Health’s rollout of Sleepio is part of its larger effort to popularize online health treatments as employee benefits. Dr. Brennan said the company planned to move forward with the apps it deemed to have solid evidence of efficacy.

“We’re doing it because we think patients are going to benefit from it,” Dr. Brennan said. “That’s an important step for physicians. That’s an important step for patients.”

Source: New York Times

Why It’s Hot

We’ve seen “digital therapeutics” as an emerging trend — from health monitoring comes apps like Calm and text messaging with psychologists. But the mainstreaming of it and association with employer health plans (what data will be shared?) is interesting.

A New Google Maps Feature Has Potential to Save Lives

In recognition of National Recovery Month, Google has released two new map-related tools aimed at both aiding those in recovery from drug addition and helping to make the life-saving drug Naloxone more accessible.

The centerpiece of the company’s effort is a new website, Recover Together, which seeks to centralize resources for those looking to overcome addiction.

A screenshot of the Naloxone Locator Tool.

The Recovery Locator Tool, as the name would suggest, is a Google Maps page specifically designed to help individuals find recovery resources near them. And the Naloxone Locator Tool is a Google Maps page that aims to assist those looking to acquire Naloxone — a drug that can reverse overdoses.

According to the press release, the initiative was launched based on the insight that people use Google on a daily basis to seek out information on addiction and recovery:

“[In] fact, just last month, we saw an all-time high in search interest for ‘rehab near me,’ ‘addiction treatment near me,’ and ‘how to help an addict.'”

While the aim is to help those searching for this info, Google has taken privacy into account and is assuring that visits to this website would not be associated with any specific users. Page views will be measured, but anonymized and only in the aggregate. What’s more, the company claims it will not use Naloxone-related searches to target ads.

Why It’s Hot

It’s great to see Google using their search data for good, not for profit. Providing these tools for those who are struggling to ask for help and turning to Google for anonymous advice is filling a critical need.

Source

The Coke Challenge… Kind of

It’s a testament to the staying power of the Pepsi Challenge —first introduced in 1975—that random pedestrians aren’t freaked out by bubbly strangers asking them to eat unlabeled food. Instead, the offer evokes a giddiness at being selected for such an important task.

So the people chosen for a recent “Coke Challenge” were understandably intrigued, even excited at the prospect of learning a bit more about their own tastes. Instead, they got a brush with death.

The “coke” in this case was, of course, cocaine—one baggie filled with pure powder, and the other containing cocaine laced with enough fentanyl to kill anyone who snorted it. Cocaine is increasingly being cut with the synthetic opioid to increase its effects, but that is driving overdose deaths. In 2017, the CDC attributed more than 7,500 deaths to cocaine laced with fentanyl or other synthetic opioids.

Fentanyl tampering can’t be detected by sight, smell, or taste, so recreational drug users take a risk every time. They’re also in more danger than regular drug users, because they typically have no tolerance to opioids.

Like the real Pepsi Challenge, though, the head-to-head comparison was a marketing tactic, created by DanceSafe, a U.S.-based non-profit that sells fentanyl test strips they say can detect the presence of the drug. The organization’s focus is on safety and education in the electronic dance community and is known for bringing adulterant screeners to raves that can check for unexpected tampering. DanceSafe is neither for or against drug use, so there’s no judgment in the campaign, just a bit of humor, evident in the tagline, “Know before you blow.”

Rather than taking a staunch anti-drug approach, the campaign focuses on reducing potential harm to people who choose to use recreational drugs. The video of the challenge was released in time for International Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31.

Why it’s Hot:

Sometimes you don’t have to reinvent the wheel – you just need to re-frame it (re-spoke it? re-mount it? cars, Idk). Part of what makes this execution so relevant is it takes something everybody knows (the Pepsi Challenge) and turns it on its head. Grounding something foreign (fentanyl) in a cultural known (taste testing) lends credibility and lightheartedness to a topic that can seem daunting.

Culturally, this product also fits into a new attitude surrounding drugs. With the opioid epidemic continuing to grow and fatalities rising, gone are the days of “just say no” and “this is your brain on drugs” (cue cracking eggs) – the priority with products like DanceSafe and Naloxone is trying to reduce overdoses when people use drugs. Question: Will this new mindset surrounding drugs have any halo effect on the medical field as a whole?

Source: AdAge

OK, Focus!

  • Concentration with the world at your fingertips is hard.
    • Its harder when you have pinging of texts, emails.
  • Cambridge researchers say they have a solution!
      • A GAME that helps you stay focused!(What an oxymoron right?)

      (Also a fun fact, anytime you get sidetracked, it takes an average of 28 minutes to get back on task.)

      The game is called Decoder.

    • You detect a series of numbers (3,5,7) (2,4,6) (4,6,8).
    • These numbers are the codes that direct them to clues to solve missions.
  • This works the frontal parietal lobe (involves concentration). The idea is that the more you work this, the stronger it gets.
  • Plasticity of the brain, learning or strengthening new things.

FINDINGS

  • After users played decoder for 8 hours (within the month) they showed significantly better attention than people who didn’t play the game.
  • SOME say it is comparable to the effects of Ritalin (ADHD drug) Some researchers are skeptical

Why is this hot?

  1. This feels like a big trend. With timers on YouTube, and Apple reminding us screen time to get away from our phones. This game helps us focus.
  2. Attention is a serious thing to think about especially, that kids who are younger and younger are using tech. What is it doing to their attention spans?

Ending Q’s:

  • Is there a way for a brand to either use these techniques to harness attention, or get behind this and help push this trend of put your phone down?
  • Which brands do you think should help you put your phone down?
  • Should this be something that companies can use for their employees? 20 minute decoder break.
  • Would you use this?

Brain Training App

Phone a Friend: a mobile app for predicting teen suicide attempts

Rising suicide rates in the US are disproportionately affecting 10-24 year-olds, with suicide as the second leading cause of death after unintentional injuries. It’s a complex and multifaceted topic, and one that leaves those whose lives are impacted wondering what they could have done differently, to recognize the signs and intervene.

Researchers are fast at work figuring out whether a machine learning algorithm might be able to use data from an individual’s mobile device to assess risk and predict an imminent suicide attempt – before there may even be any outward signs. This work is part of the Mobile Assessment for the Prediction of Suicide (MAPS) study, involving 50 teenagers in New York and Pennsylvania. If successful, the effort could lead to a viable solution to an increasingly troubling societal problem.

Why It’s Hot

We’re just scratching the surface of the treasure trove of insights that might be buried in the mountains of data we’re all generating every day. Our ability to understand people more deeply, without relying on “new” sources of data, will have implications for the experiences brands and marketers deliver.

Selfies Get Serious: Introducing the 30-second selfie full-fitness checkup

Keeping an eye on subtle changes in common health risks is not an easy task for the average person. Yet, by the time real symptoms are obvious, it’s often too late to take the kind of action that would prevent a problem from snow-balling.

Researchers at the University of Toronto have developed an app that appears capable of turning a 30-second selfie into a diagnostic tool for quantifying a range of health risks.

“Anura promises an impressively thorough physical examination for just half a minute of your time. Simply based on a person’s facial features, captured through the latest deep learning technology, it can assess heart rate, breathing, stress, skin age, vascular age, body mass index (yes, from your face!), Cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke risk, cardiac workload, vascular capacity, blood pressure, and more.”

It’s easy to be skeptical about the accuracy of results possible from simply looking at a face for 30 seconds, but the researchers have demonstrated accuracy of measuring blood pressure up to 96% – and when the objective is to give people a way of realizing when it might be time to take action, that level of accuracy may actually be more than enough.

Why It’s Hot

For marketers looking to better identify the times, places and people for whom their products and services are likely to be most relevant, the convergence of biometrics with advanced algorithms and AI – all in a device most people carry around with them every day – could be a game-changer.

(This also brings up perennial issues of privacy & personal information, and trade-offs we need to make for the benefits emerging tech provides.)

Smart Diapers – it’s about more than just poop!

Pampers has announced a new product called Lumi by Pampers, a “connected care system” to monitor your baby. The package includes a special “smart” diaper, which tracks your baby’s pee and sleep patterns, a mobile app, and Logitech video monitor. The one thing it doesn’t track? Poop.

Introducing the world's first all-in-one Connected Care System

Pricing has yet to be announced, but as a disposable product, they’re likely to become expensive. The bigger question is why, especially since this tracker tracks everything except your child’s poop patterns. This is a bigger trend in the diaper and baby industry overall. Getting “smart” keeps companies and products relevant and as people are starting families later and having fewer babies, Pampers, and other big diaper brands (Huggies) are trying to maintain their bottom lines.

Why it’s hot:

In addition to the “smart” revolution in which we’re currently in the midst, these types of innovations and new utilities don’t always come naturally to every brand. It’s interesting to see how the diaper industry is trying to find its way. We’re also seeing this challenge on Enfamil, which is trying to partner with companies to show their commitment to both babies and moms — while not every baby needs this type of monitoring, it could be an interesting partnership opportunity for the brand.

Article source: Mashable
Additional product links: Pampers

Purina Street Campaign Tests Dogs’ Urine To Assess Health

Pet product brand Purina knows how much pet owners love their furry friends, and wants to encourage routine vet visits. Accordingly, its latest campaign in France involves an outdoor billboard that can check a dog’s health via its urine.

Special billboards use pheromones to attract dogs to urinate on them, and then will run the sample through several tests to tell the owner the results. The tests look specifically for four common problems— diabetes, kidney issues, urinary infection or cholesterol. The results even recommend a particular Purina diet or to take the dog to the vet’s office for a checkup.

The goal is not just to make sure people’s pets are healthy, but also to encourage customers to associate Purina with health and wellness for their pups. “Purina’s objective is to provide simple and efficient solutions to improve the wellness of our pets. We wanted to raise awareness on the importance of veterinary checkups, but also to offer a solution that fits in the daily lives of pet owners—the daily walk on the street or in the park,” Véronique Herman, marketing manager specialist at Nestlé Purina Pet Care, says in a statement.

Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot: 

A good way to show a brand’s dedication a a broader cause for it’s audience, as well as execute on more innovation OOH marketing.

 

Pharma Budgets Soaring, but Marketers Closely Watching Washington

According to the 2019 MM&M Deloitte Consulting Healthcare Marketers Trend Report, marketing budgets increased 26% when compared to the previous fiscal year. The mean budget jumped from $8.3 million to $10.5 million, and 92% of respondents reported a year-over-year increase! This growth has been fueled by a record number of approvals of new treatments, as well as the Trump Administration’s Laissez-faire approach to the industry. This recent growth, however, faces numerous challenges in the near-future. The political climate present when such issues are addressed will strongly influence their outcome, and experts have agreed political action is inevitable.

Joe Plevelich, a commercial operations executive for a pharmaceutical company commented:

“If you look at some of the leading potential contenders for the presidency and some of the platforms they are trying to establish, [many] are talking about better controls and transparencies around pharma pricing and profits. I think there are definitely changes afoot. Whoever is going to be in power is going to have an impact on pharma pricing and our recent ability to continue to raise pricing on a whim.”

As we embark upon an active and critical time in healthcare regulation, development, and modernization, both democrats and republicans agree pharma is an industry worthy of attention.

The following have been identified as key discussions to watch as we approach 2020:

  • A reduction or elimination of tax deductions for marketing expenses (expected this year)
  • Requiring list prices of drugs to be included on TV advertisements
  • Price caps on drugs (Congress has already opened hearing on rising drug prices)
  • Investigations into sales and marketing practices

Why It’s Hot

The outcomes of these and similar healthcare regulatory topics will strongly impact pharma marketing budgets, and will determine if they will remain as fruitful as they are today. Many are concerned an unfavorable decision in any of these issues, could lead to significant change. Pharma marketers should remained tuned into the latest developments in these and other healthcare related issues, as well as the 2020 presidential election.

Source

First of it’s kind medical gym to debut in London

Leading medical spa operators Lanserhof Group has partnered with The Arts Club, a private members club in central London, to develop a state-of-the-art medical gym.Expected to open in May 2019, the new facility is billed as the ‘ultimate medical and gym facility’, and will be the first of its kind to open in the UK.

Designed by Dusseldorf-based firm Ingenhoven Architects, the six-storey gym will be the first facility of its kind to offer club members an MRI scan as part of its tailored training programme. Members will also have access to additional personalised services and offerings such as cardiovascular screening, body metabolism analysis, and two physical therapy labs.

The facility will also feature a world-class gym, class studios, consulting and treatment rooms, cryotherapy treatment chambers and high-end diagnostic and medical facilities, as well as a carefully crafted menu of healthy food options.

Why it’s hot:

Two reasons:

  1. Experiences today define brands and categories – is it time for a luxury experience for healthcare testing and treatments? By mixing the experience of a gym, spa and a diagnostic center, it redefines what treatment and diagnostic centers should look like and may alleviate some anxiety.
  2. On the other hand, it offers advanced testing to highly health conscious consumers who want to quantify their progress and are hyper aware of their health metrics without having to leave the gym.

 

 

Burn, Baby, Burn!

Burger King wants to burn the competition. Literally. So much so that, in Brazil, anyone who opens their app and points their camera at a competitor’s ad will see that ad engulfed in flames and replaced with a coupon for a free Whopper.

It’s cheeky, engaging, and hot.  You can read more about it here.

Why It’s Hot
Well, it’s on fire. But that’s not all. The use of augmented reality is engaging, but it also creates an implicit hierarchy which puts BK at the top, conquering it’s competition.

But what really makes this a hot idea is how it can be a springboard. Thinking about how this idea could take shape in healthcare marketing elicits some big ideas.

Living healthy is often about making choices; choosing healthy foods, making time for fitness, avoiding bad habits. If a healthcare brand creates an app like this that treats a fast food restaurant, the comfortable couch, or a pack of smokes as the competition, it can drive people to healthy behavior by helping them to make better choices and rewarding them in an engaging way.

Online therapy gaining traction

From Bustle:

In recent years, websites and apps that offer remote access to trained therapists have risen in popularity. The convenience of communicating with a therapist via smartphone and the relatively low cost are some of the drivers behind why people use these services; even the American Psychological Association recognizes online therapy as a resource on its site. Well-known platforms include BetterHelp, which matches users with an online counselor they can communicate with live via text, phone, or video starting at $40 a week, and Talkspace, which allows the exchange of text, audio, and video messages with a therapist beginning at $49 a week. Other platforms include MyTherapist and telehealth services available through employee assistance programs (EAPs). While these apps and services aren’t replacements for traditional face-to-face therapy, as the respective FAQs for BetterHelpTalkspace, and MyTherapist note, these platforms can help users get more familiar with their mental health.

Ashley Batz/Bustle

See this additional article in The Guardian for more. 

Why it’s hot: Patients say that therapy apps have been a cost effective way for them to gain judgement-free access to mental health care that they otherwise may not have even pursued, lowering the barrier to entry to address extremely common but often ignored issues. The convenience factor also plays a big role, as patients don’t have to worry about scheduling or getting to appointments, and can receive on-demand therapy when they need it – to cope with a loss, for example – or ongoing therapy for chronic mental health disorders like anxiety.

Woebot – Highly Praised App for Mental Health

AI counseling is the wave of the future. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy administered by a smart chatbot, via an app relying on SMS, has become highly popular and well reviewed. Woebot isn’t just the face of a trend, it’s a notable player in technology transforming healthcare.

Why It’s Hot

It’s not new. It’s better. The first counseling software was called Eliza. It was ~1966. Part of the difficulty was it required human intervention. Ironically, in 2019 when many believe a lack of human contact to be part of the problem, that void actually addresses a barrier in therapy. Perceived lack of anonymity and privacy. Sure therapist visits are confidential blah blah but people naturally have difficulty opening up in person. Plus there’s the waiting room anxiety. With an app, studies have shown that people get to the heart of their problem quicker.

Why it Matters

There’s a ton of demand for “talk therapy” and others. Human counselors can’t keep up. People wait weeks and months for appointments. That’s in the U.S. where they’re compensated well. In this On Demand age, that’s seen as unacceptable. Woebot, and others, address the market need for immediate gratification care. Another issue is cost. Therapy is expensive. Apps are obviously a solve here. No co-pay.

Obligatory Statement

All the apps remind users they’re no substitute for human counselors but they are helpful in reflecting behavior patterns and emotional red flags back to their users. At the very least, it’ll help you make the most of your next therapy visit.

Is There Nothing An Influencer Won’t Promote?

Okay. It’s one thing to look to social media influencers for inspiration on a new handbag, sneakers, foundation, hotel stay… What about medication? Surgery? Having advanced in the highly regulated world of medical advertising and come to terms with how to remain compliant with guidelines, pharma is solidly in a new phase of advanced advertising. Yes, many other industries have been using influencers on social for years but pharma is often hesitant. No longer (for some).

Pharma influencers are paid an ~$1,000 per 100,000 followers. There’s deep pockets in this industry so they’re not just using one or two, they’re using a fleet of influencers to sell a lifestyle. That’s not a stretch either. If you think about the TV ads, they’re not selling psoriasis treatment, they’re selling the freedom to walk with naked legs and arms holding hands with your love interest before you take a dip in the pool. So instead of print, a 60 sec spot, or radio ad, pharma gets the pseudo storytelling candor benefits of influencers’ social feeds.

Oh, can’t end without an obligatory mention that the Karshians are, at least, partially to blame.

Kim Kardashian made the news for (mis)promoting morning sickness pills.

Healthy and Informed? That’s Hot.

There’s a million ways to use social media, like finding material for self-righteous indignation. It can also be used to improve public health. Aside from all the Twitter text alerts, patient reviews of medications on YouTube, and questionable use of Instagram by branded treatments, there are legitimate ways using social media can actually improve public health.

HOW DOES IT WORK? A notable method of providing a service to society is the use of podcasts. People can learn about public policy, like the Affordable Care Act debate, in a way that’s easy to comprehend with The Healthcare Policy Podcast. Interested in the future of your Healthcare beyond video therapy sessions and chatbots to diagnose common ailments? Think robotic assistants for surgeons, lasers replacing the scalpel in new ways, and enhanced apps to improve med compliance. The weekly MedTech Talk Podcast has that and more.

WHY’S IT HOT?

Recognizing the seismic shift social media is bringing to healthcare, we’re constantly looking at our proposals to ensure our recommendations place brands at the forefront. Though Healthcare is right to be cautious, there’s actually a plethora of use cases that can be applied.

Chalk and Soap

Soap company Savlon started with a problem: Kids in India eat with their hands but often don’t wash them with soap, and it’s one of the leading causes of illness and school dropouts.

Since most primary grade students in rural India still use black-slate and chalk sticks to write in schools. This led to the idea of Savlon’s Healthy Hands Chalk Sticks – made with a mixture of chalk powder and soap granules. Before lunch break when kids put their hands under the tap, the chalk powder on their hands turned into soap on its own. This simple innovation by Ogilvy, Mumbai automatically turned washing hands with soap into an everyday habit.
For the first phase, Savlon identified 100 rural schools across India based on health data analysis. Under ‘Healthy India Mission’ these special chalk sticks were provided to 150,000 students for free. Owing to a great response and demand from schools and NGOs across the country, distribution models were set in place for NGOs whose requirements exceeded over 50,000 boxes.

Once implemented in 100 schools, on Children’s Day, this innovation was released as an online video to start a conversation about the importance of hand hygiene in children.

Why its hot?
Didn’t create anything new or spent much to create a powerful innovation. A simple idea that turned a tool already being used (chalk) into the solution (antiseptic soap chalk)

Coughing and tweeting bear

Toxic air is London’s silent killer and is linked with more than 9,400 premature deaths a year – that’s 40 times as many deaths caused by car accidents.

raise awareness of the city’s poor air quality and put pressure on the government to do something about it, air pollution monitoring company BreezoMeter set up roadside memorials in the most toxic locations.

The main feature of the memorials, which are designed to look like those typically laid out after a roadside death, is an animatronic soft toy called Toxic Toby. Every time pollution levels get dangerously high, the furry bear starts coughing and, simultaneously, posts a Tweet to the local MP, urging them to address the problem.

Why its hot
Made the invisible visible. Turns out London’s air quality is as bad as Beijing and Delhi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you even lift?

“Across the board, across all industries, you see about $96 billion in worker compensation costs,” says Benjamin Kanner, CEO and founder of Worklete. “About 64% of those are related to musculoskeletal injuries–your back injuries, your shoulder injuries, your knee injuries.

“If we can teach these folks basic rules for human movement, and say, ‘Yes, there is a better and a worse way to move,’ that’s really how we win. That’s how we help blue-collar, underserved populations stay injury-free so they can work hard all day long and then go home and enjoy their lives outside of work, too.”

Worklete trains workforces to move in better, smarter, and safer ways, whether that’s teaching the proper driving posture when operating a forklift or the best technique for lifting a five-gallon water jug. Today, 20,000 frontline workers use the smartphone app, which runs each employee through 10 two-week training modules. The first week of each module is centered around movement “basics,” with photo- and video-based lessons followed by short quizzes. The total time commitment is about five minutes per week.

The second part of each module involves in-person practice sessions with partners or teams. These trainings are led by “champions,” unofficial leaders on the ground. Champions, typically shift managers, are selected during new client onboarding. For Worklete subscribers, an admin dashboard allows managers to monitor employee progress on training modules on an individual basis, evaluate performance at the city or regional level, and review team rosters, including new hires (marked with red), who might benefit from extra attention.

Why its hot

This is great on multiple levels. Not only does it solve a problem (workforce injuries from heavy lifting/general stress), but it also creates brand evangelists within the companies themselves, keeping employees engaged and using the service. Throw in the cost savings from keeping your employees healthy and it’s a no brainer for any company with a lot of physical labor. I would love to see companies with even less physical stress, where people mainly sit all day, use something like Worklete as well.

Preying on Facebook Groups

Thanks to a confluence of rising rates of opioid addiction and the availability of insurance dollars for rehabilitation service, vulnerable people affected by addiction are increasingly being targeted with misleading marketing communications, making disingenuous claims and failing to disclose ties to for-profit addiction centers. In particular, members of Facebook groups are being directly contacted by marketers looking to pull them into these treatment centers. Marketers are compensated with anything from a flat pay rate to bonuses attributed to the number and quality of patient referrals.

Rehab marketing has been under scrutiny in various ways for making false and misleading claims targeting vulnerable individuals, but the infiltration of Facebook Groups takes the shady to a whole new level. Marketing scams used by unethical treatment centers involve private messaging group members in an attempt to get a client to their treatment center, absent of any clinical consultation or assessment.

This article from The Verge dives into detail around one such group, Affected by Addiction.

Marketers from the treatment center had to approve every post in the group, which gave them the first opportunity to privately message good candidates for their rehab and try to talk them into going to Windward in California.

Why it’s hot: If it continues, what impact will this bad apple behavior will mean for the future of Facebook Groups, a community-builder that Zuckerberg has been all-in on? (Communities seemed to be one of the saving graces of the platform during all the #deleteFacebook convesration). Will this and similar activity happening in other communities cause people to further lose trust in Facebook? Will they leave en masse (in favor of darker dark social) or again change how they use the tools? If it continues unabated and has negative impact on user engagement, there could be significant ripple effects felt by brands who rely on Facebook Groups for social listening insights as people move to experiences that are more difficult to monitor or maintain.

Birth Control Pill Emoji Officially Under Consideration

The process of getting an emoji added to the Unicode Standard is a surprisingly complex one. (If you’re interested in learning more, check out the 99% Invisible podcast episode linked below!) It involves submitting a lengthy application to the Unicode Consortium, who can then vote on the proposal, request revisions, or deny the proposal altogether, then getting final approval by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), in a process that can take over 18 months to complete. The Unicode Consortium is responsible for selecting and approving of all emojis, and their voting board comprised mostly of multinational American tech companies like Apple, Adobe, Facebook, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Netflix, Oracle, and SAP. (The government of Oman is the only non-tech voting member.)

You have to be savvy about getting emojis approved because the voting members are huge corporations and, once approved, the emoji will literally populate every emoji-enabled keyboard in the world – so the voting vendors have to feel comfortable releasing the emojis in all markets and all cultures. For example, as Emojination co-founder Jennifer 8. Lee mentions in Engadget, the same-sex family emoji was scorned in Russia, and the alcohol emojis were a big issue in Muslim countries. (Unicode circumvented the alcohol issue by calling the emojis “wine glass” and “beer mug” instead of “wine” and “beer”.) In 2015, Durex submitted an application for a condom emoji, and that was pretty swiftly rejected. (Part of the reason may have been because it was submitted by a company who stood to profit financially from the popularization of the emoji – but still, yeah, that did not go over well.)

So, basically, to get an emoji approved, you have two obstacles: the thoroughly corporatized and self-interested voting board, and the complex cross-cultural norms and expectations. Within this framework, it’s easy to see why a birth control pill emoji would be a complicated one. But last month, two women, Nora Hamada and her friend Megan Giller, sent in a proposal for just that.

Hamada and Giller submitted their application with the support of the organization Emojination, a nonprofit dedicated to democratizing the emoji approval process through encouraging and supporting people in submitting emoji proposals to the Unicode Consortium. Some of Emojination’s successful projects include the dumpling, hijab, and ballet flat emojis.

The women came up with the idea after attending an Emojination workshop in NYC. Hamada says, “When you search for emoji to represent women and safe sex, the things that come up most often are breastfeeding and babies,” and she realized there should also be an emoji for women who are deciding not to have children. They were also inspired by the invention of the birth control pill in the 60s as a historical turning point for women. As Giller says, “the pill stands for equality and the right to choose.”

In their application, Hamada and Giller smartly named the emoji “pills in a circular case” – but that’s the only politically-minded concession they made. The rest of their application, in fact, is very explicitly political. They go into depth on the historical significance of the pill and how relevant and widespread it is in today’s society. And it’s no coincidence that their application coincides with the current devastating rollbacks in female reproductive rights in America. As Hamada says, “Our rights for birth control are being taken away. In a way, this is a small form of protest against that.”

In a positive development, the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee recently came back to the two women asking for revisions and more statistics. (The original submitted design is on the left above; revision is on the right.) The next steps are certainly not guaranteed to go well, but it’s a good sign that the Subcommittee showed interest and engagement with their proposal. Hopefully we’ll hear more news about this potential emoji soon.

Why It’s Hot: With their emoji application, these two women are forcing the hands of each voting member of the Unicode Consortium to vote on a symbol that represents so many things that corporations are historically total cowards about: feminism, female sexuality and sexual autonomy, womanhood separate from motherhood, etc. The emoji is politically charged for the corporations either way – which message will they decide to send?

Learn More: Engadget

99% Invisible podcast: https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/person-lotus-position/

Fitbit (FINALLY) Adds Period Tracking Functionality

Fitbit’s plan to launch “women’s health” tracking (aka period tracking – not necessarily just for women!) has finally come to fruition and was launched this week. The tracker is available on the Fitbit app and on two devices, the Ionic and Versa smartwatches. All Fitbit users who have self-identified as female will receive a notification that tracking is available; all other users who wish to use the tracking have to opt in manually.

The tracker offers four features, none of which are new or revolutionary at all:

  • In-app period tracking: Log your period, record symptoms, and get notifications alerting you to predicted period start date
  • Smartwatch integration: See where you are in your cycle directly from your smartwatch
  • “News You Can Use”: Tracker includes relevant content written by doctors
  • Community feature: Fitbit created new community groups focused on periods, birth control, trying to conceive, pregnancy, and perimenopause/menopause

One perceived benefit could be that users can now see their period tracking data alongside their other health data – but even that isn’t a value-add for Fitbit specifically, because many standalone period tracker apps integrate with Apple Health so that you can see all your data side-by-side through that platform.

What’s the most interesting about this development is how uninteresting it is, ultimately. The fact that Fitbit just now, in 2018, rolled out period tracking is pretty bad optics. Apple Health, after much outcry, added period tracking in 2015! As The Verge notes, Fitbit itself admitted that period tracking has been a top-five user requested feature for “a while” (sideeye). Is it purely a coincidence they’ve finally decided to focus on period tracking after a dismal holiday earnings report, a bad year last year, and the news that they are no longer the top wearable maker in the US? Their users currently are over half men, so creating this female-focused feature seems like a pretty transparent grab at a new audience segment.

Why It’s Hot: A seemingly thoughtful, well-meaning update meant to benefit a historically ignored population turns out to (probably) be a thinly veiled ploy to buy more customers.

Learn More: Engadget | The Verge

A coral re(li)ef

From Hawaiian Airlines’ initiative in April to educate visitors on the harmful effects that many generic sunscreens have on the coral reefs, Hawaii has become the first state to introduce a ban on the sunscreens with chemicals believed to harm the reefs! The bill was introduced on Tuesday and if all goes well, it’ll take effect starting January 1st, 2021.

Why it’s hot:
Years of tourism has brutally impacted the reefs and accompanying ocean life leaving Hawaii to step up as they try to preserve what’s left.

source: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/05/02/607765760/hawaii-approves-bill-banning-sunscreen-believed-to-kill-coral-reefs

Who doesn’t want to play amateur Maury Povich?

The 23 & Me craze has spilled into the animal kingdom for pet owners who want more info on their pet’s breed and medical predispositions. Companies such as Embark and AnimalBiome will gladly take your money to test your dog or cat’s dna. Is it worth it? Probably more for dog owners curious about their breed, but don’t spend too much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here to see video.

Why It’s Hot

While there’s nothing wrong with digging into your pet’s dna, it does feel like someone is taking advantage of a larger trend.

AI Software Predicts Heart Attacks During 911 Calls

An AI program currently in use in Copenhagen, Denmark is set for wider rollout after a series of successful initial testing. The software, called Corti, listens in on emergency calls and detects common heart attack cues such as breathing patterns, tone of voice, and background noises. It then gives the call dispatcher recommendations in real time of how to proceed.

The phone dispatchers in Copenhagen can recognize cardiac arrest from phone calls around 73% of the time; Corti can improve that rate to up to 95% accuracy. This is key because when dealing with someone going into cardiac arrest outside of a hospital, time is of the essence–the chance of survival decreases about 10% each minute, so getting to a diagnosis quickly can literally save lives. Making that diagnosis can be challenging for dispatchers, who have to make sense of symptoms that are being relayed by a panicked friend or relative, often competing with a lot of background noise (sirens, yelling, etc) as well.

In one example, when the platform was in testing, it recognized that a man who had fallen off a roof was in cardiac arrest. The dispatcher on the phone deduced that the man had broken his back from the fall, so they gave instructions to the relative on the phone as though the man were otherwise stable. But the AI recognized because of the man’s breathing patterns that he had suffered cardiac arrest and fallen as a result. Since the software was in testing only, it did not alert the dispatcher, and unfortunately the paramedics were unable to revive him. But had the software been able to intervene, it could have alerted the dispatcher, who could have then given CPR instructions to a bystander, better prepared the first responders, instructed someone to find an automated defibrillator, etc.

Expanded tests will take place in four sites across Europe from September 2018 to April 2019, and the startup will soon announce their expansion plans in America as well.

Why It’s Hot: AI in medicine is not new. What about emergency medicine? Are we ready to let AI into our darkest and most fearful moments? In moments of panic, will we trust machines more or less than humans?

Learn More: Fast Company

Meet Tess: the mental health chatbot

If you’re experiencing a panic attack in the middle of the day or want to vent or need to talk things out before going to sleep, you can connect with Tess the mental health chatbot through an instant-messaging app such as Facebook Messenger (or, if you don’t have an internet connection, just text a phone number).

Tess is the the brainchild of Michiel Rauws, the founder of X2 AI, an artificial-intelligence startup in Silicon Valley. The company’s mission is to use AI to provide affordable and on-demand mental health support.

Tess mental health chatbot

A Canadian non-profit that primarily delivers health care to people in their own homes, Saint Elizabeth recently approved Tess as a part of its caregiver in the workplace program and will be offering the chatbot as a free service for staffers.

To provide caregivers with appropriate coping mechanisms, Tess first needed to learn about their emotional needs. In her month-long pilot with the facility, she exchanged over 12,000 text messages with 34 Saint Elizabeth employees. The personal support workers, nurses and therapists that helped train Tess would talk to her about what their week was like, if they lost a patient, what kind of things were troubling them at home – things you might tell your therapist. If Tess gave them a response that wasn’t helpful, they would tell her, and she would remember her mistake. Then her algorithm would correct itself to provide a better reply for next time.

Read more: The Guardian

Why It’s Hot
While the accessibility of support like this is appealing, Tess raises the usual questions of mis-use and ‘mistakes’.