Etsy’s New AR Tool Makes It Easier to Shop for Art From Home

Etsy introduced a new augmented reality tool aimed at visualizing wall art in your space before you purchase. The functionality is built within the Etsy ios app, and at launch works for all prints, photographs, and portraits.

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

The feature works by moving your phone or tablet around your space, and tapping to place on the wall. In cases where different sizes are available, simply zooming in or out will showcase the various options and help you determine which dimensions fit best.

Etsy is using the launch as a beta test to gather feedback before rolling out to other product categories.

Why It’s Hot

At a time when people are online shopping for their home, from their home more than ever, this tool helps make the process easier and more personalized. As a marketplace that supports independent artists, Etsy is providing a significant advantage by helping bring their art to life and allowing potential buyers to experience how the art fits within their existing aesthetic.

Source

Hands-free@Home

COVID-19 pandemic pushing sales of voice control devices

Sales of voice control devices are expected to experience a boom in growth, thanks to people being locked down and working from home. This is also expected to fuel growth in the broader ecosystem of smart home devices – as instructions to minimize contact with objects that haven’t been disinfected, make things like connected light switches, thermostats and door locks more appealing than ever.

Why It’s Hot:  A critical mass of device penetration and usage will undoubtedly make this a more meaningful platform for brands and marketers to connect and engage with consumers.

With so many millions of people working from home, the value of voice control during the pandemic will ensure that this year, voice control device shipments will grow globally by close to 30% over 2019–despite the key China market being impacted during the first quarter of 2020, according to global tech market advisory firm, ABI Research.

Woman Preparing Meal At Home Asking Digital Assistant Question

Last year, 141 million voice control smart home devices shipped worldwide, the firm said. Heeding the advice to minimize COVID-19 transmission from shared surfaces, even within a home, will help cement the benefits of smart home voice control for millions of consumers, ABI Research said.

“A smarter home can be a safer home,” said Jonathan Collins, ABI research director, in a statement. “Key among the recommendations regarding COVID-19 protection in the home is to clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas,” such as tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, and sinks.

Voice has already made significant inroads into the smart home space, Collins said. Using voice control means people can avoid commonly touched surfaces around the home from smartphones, to TV remotes, light switches, thermostats, door handles, and more. Voice can also be leveraged for online shopping and information gathering, he said.

When used in conjunction with other smart home devices, voice brings greater benefits, Collins said.

“Voice can be leveraged to control and monitor smart locks to enable deliveries to be placed in the home or another secure location directly or monitored securely on the doorstep until the resident can bring them in,” he said.

Similarly, smart doorbells/video cameras can also ensure deliveries are received securely without the need for face-to-face interaction or exposure, he added. “Such delivery capabilities are especially valuable for those already in home quarantine or for those receiving home testing kits,” Collins said.

He believes that over the long term, “voice control will continue to be the Trojan horse of smart home adoption.” Right now, the pandemic is part of the additional motivation and incentive for voice control in the home to help drive awareness and adoption for a range of additional smart home devices and applications, Collins said.

“Greater emphasis and understanding, and above all, a change of habit and experience in moving away from physical actuation toward using voice in the home will support greater smart home expansion throughout individual homes,” he said. “A greater emphasis on online shopping and delivery will also drive smart home device adoption to ensure those deliveries are securely delivered.”

The legacy of COVID-19 will be that the precautions being taken now will continue for millions of people who are bringing new routines into their daily lives in and around their homes and will for a long time to come, Collins said.

“Smart home vendors and system providers can certainly emphasize the role of voice and other smart home implementations to improve the day-to-day routines within a home and the ability to minimize contact with shared surfaces, as well as securing and automating home deliveries.”

Additionally, he said there is value in integrating smart home monitoring and remote health monitoring with a range of features, such as collecting personal health data points like temperature, activity, and heart rate, alongside environmental data such as air quality and occupancy. This can “help in the wider response and engagement for smart city health management,” Collins said.

Source: TechRepublic

Socializing in the Age of Corona[virus]

Digital dance raves. Streaming soundbaths. Book readings by phone. Now we’ve gotta get creative.

Where once technology was thought to be the death knell of human social interaction, it is now bringing us together under quarantine. The housebound are nimbly pivoting to virtual social gatherings.

They’re holding birthday parties and bar mitzvahs over video chat, broadcasting D.J. sets and streaming concerts (some from the luxurious confines of celebrity homes), and establishing quarantine movie nights on Twitter for “virtual companionship.”

A lot of communal events are taking place on Zoom, a videoconferencing app now being used by many classrooms and businesses (thus transforming it into one of the few companies doing well on the stock market). But it’s not just Zoom.

There are, for example, a small but highly vocal number of people gathering in the digital plazas, pet stores and pizza shops of Club Penguin Online. There are happy hours being held on Google Hangout, and poker games taking place over FaceTime. There are flute meditation sessions on Instagram and thousands of people participating in dance raves that are broadcast on Twitch.

It’s a lot for the internet. On Monday, Discord, the chat app popular with gamers, announced that it would increase its capacity by 20 percent to keep up with demand; it crashed shortly thereafter.

Jeff Baena, a film director, loves organizing social activities; it was at one of his game nights, in fact, that he met his girlfriend, the actress Aubrey Plaza. The couple have been in self-quarantine since March 11, and were feeling extremely antsy.

“Our house is one of those hubs where people are always over and hanging out,” Mr. Baena, 42, said by phone this week. “It’s strange to not be able to do that. I was kind of jonesing.”

So he got people together virtually. At 9 p.m. on March 14, a dozen friends — including the actress Alia Shawkat, who said she left the set of a television series she was working on early, before it had been officially shut down because of the new coronavirus — joined a group chat for a few hours of Quiplash and other games by Jackbox, an internet game company.

In order for remote players to see the game screen, Mr. Baena joined FaceTime from two devices, with one camera aimed at his TV.

Of course, the pandemic loomed large over the course of the night. At one point, someone coughed and a chorus of concerned voices wondered who it was.

“It was me!” said Almitra Corey, 40, who is currently working as the production designer for the final season of the Netflix show “GLOW.” (Filming was paused, as for all other Netflix shows, last Friday.)

“I just smoked weed,” she said. “Relax.”

A Remote Rave for 5,000 Guests

In New York this past Sunday, the city’s hottest nightclub was a virtual day rave. Nine hours of electronic music were streamed from an empty warehouse in Brooklyn to nearly 5,000 guests from around the world, including some in Berlin and Seattle, all of whom were watching on Twitch.

The event, which showcased nine electronic musicians, was put together by Christine McCharen-Tran, a founder of Discwoman, a talent agency in Brooklyn and collective of femme and nonbinary D.J.’s and music producers.

“I texted all the D.J.’s that I know that need support right now,” Ms. McCharen-Tran, 31, said. After gatherings of more than 500 were banned in New York on March 13, she said, “I was seeing so many artists being affected directly.”

So last Friday, she reached out to a lighting designer friend named Michael Potvin, who provided a physical space and a domain name (harrisonplace.nyc). Ms. McCharen-Tran got to work building out the site and booking artists.

By the afternoon, harrisonplace.nyc was live and vibing.

“For all of the talk about tech distancing us, it felt very intimate and joyful,” said Jess Ramsey, 35, in a phone interview. Ms. Ramsey, who works on hardware and gaming partnerships at Spotify, projected the rave onto her living room ceiling.

“We’re the most stressed we’ve probably ever been, and there’s no place to go, but you can dance in your living room,” she said. “It was the first time we had danced in a week, and it felt really special.”

Strict safety and hygiene protocols were in place even in the empty warehouse. All D.J.’s wore latex gloves and had access to disinfectant wipes and soap. The suggested size of gatherings has shrunk daily and rapidly, from 500 people to 50, and most recently to 10. At the time, Ms. McCharen-Tran’s 10-person maximum was out of an abundance of caution; now it would be pushing the limit.

Many other bands are performing in empty concert halls for the digital masses. The metal band Code Orange performed a record-release concert with an elaborate multimedia production to an empty room, for example, streaming to more than 12,000 fans.

In order to help fans support the artists in real time, Ms. McCharen-Tran and other producers of these events display the Venmo user names of artists at the bottom of the screen during their sets.

A Google Hangout Happy Hour

Lauren Ashley Smith, a TV writer from St. Louis who lives in Los Angeles, turned to Google Hangout this past Saturday to host a digital happy hour with a few close friends. That turned into 57 close friends, and then, over 60 once her sisters invited friends of their own.

“I know it seems like I invited a lot of people,” Ms. Smith, 34, said, “but I did carefully curate the people that were invited.”

To fit the criteria, a guest had to be someone Ms. Smith felt “wouldn’t take it too seriously” and who was “more extroverted — or would be willing to talk to a bunch of strangers they didn’t know.”

She knew everybody was just home alone, bored or scared. So, she said, “I made a run of show.”

The activities include a game Ms. Smith invented (“in 30 seconds,” she said) called “Who’s That Girl?” She would hold up photos of celebrities (saved on her phone) to the laptop’s camera, and players earned points by being the first person to correctly type the subject’s first and last name in the chat section of the Hangout window.

The celebrities were “obscure, to some,” Ms. Smith said. (They included Lala Kent from “Vanderpump Rules,” the singer Keke Wyatt, Christine Brown from “Sister Wives” and Esther the Wonder Pig, whom Ms. Smith described as “a pig influencer on Instagram.”)

The winner received a prize of $50 on the cash-sharing app Venmo. It was ultimately donated to the Downtown Women’s Center in Los Angeles, which provides services to currently and formerly homeless women.

After the hangout, Ms. Smith said she received “a lot of heartfelt messages” from participants thanking her for including them. She “absolutely” intends to do it again.

“It’s really easy,” she said. “Social distancing is for the greater good of everyone. And you can still make it really fun.”

Before the event, it struck her that she and her wife had yet to host a party at their new home. “But now I feel like we have.”
Conspiracy Theories on Club Penguin

There once was an online Disney media platform called Club Penguin, which was a kid-friendly social media hub where users could interact as animated penguins in a virtual world. It was formally discontinued in 2017.

But the internet being the internet, there are still multiple simulacra of Club Penguin around: unlicensed duplications hosted on independent servers, filled with the same population of late-born millennials and first wave Gen Z-ers that flocked to the Disney version by the hundreds of millions.

Last Friday, masses of users assembled in a popular fake iteration of the original pretend world — this one called Club Penguin Online — to share their anxieties, wishes and predictions for the uncertain future, and to ask everyone where they were from. Also, to keep frantically serving one another digital pizza.

There existed eerie similarities between the cartoon penguin world and humanity’s own, under quarantine. The sports stadium was devoid of chatting penguins. The skate park was nearly empty; ditto the dance club.

In other corners of the penguin universe, users delighted in that activity increasingly outlawed by public health officials: congregating in large groups.

Although conversations can be hard to follow on Club Penguin Online — a user’s typed message appears briefly above his or her representative penguin’s head wherever on the screen that penguin happens to be standing (or dancing), before disappearing forever — the pizza shop became, around midday, a kind of political salon.

One penguin asked another penguin that purported to be from Italy if, in real life, the grocery stores were out of pasta. Other flightless birds lamented the quality of their officials’ responses to the crisis.

A penguin in a chef’s hat approached and said, “They aren’t telling anyone anything,” before walking away to take another penguin’s pizza order.

Outside, in the plaza, a navy blue penguin was spreading disinformation and conspiracy theories. This penguin had presented itself as an expert on the novel coronavirus, imploring fellow penguins to pose to it any medical questions.

One penguin wondered how likely it was to become infected; the blue penguin replied confidently: “if ur under 60years old odds are 0,2.”

“Do you think someone created coronavirus?” a coral pink penguin said.

This was the opening the blue penguin had been waiting for. “YES,” it said. “Have u heard of 5g”? It went on to describe (in halting increments, because messages typed in Club Penguin Online have a limit of 64 characters) an online conspiracy theory that attributes virus symptoms to radiation caused by wireless internet.

The penguins in the plaza did not seem convinced.
Relaxing Gatherings

Online social gatherings are also taking meditative forms. Justine Stephens, 27, guided a live flute meditation on her Instagram account last weekend to help about 40 friends and viewers deal with stress and anxiety during the pandemic.

“Needed this and didn’t know it. Super anxious about the start of the week,” read one comment during the livestream. “Thank you for curing my Sunday scaries,” someone else added.

This past Sunday, Mikael Acatl, an energy worker and shaman who uses the pronoun “they,” held a healing session from their Brooklyn apartment, surrounded by plants, burning copal and bathed in golden-hour light.

And Josh Peck, 39, and Eliza Philpott, 31, who operate a retreat space in the Hudson Valley in New York, livestreamed a sound bath for about a hundred digital participants. They used two high-end microphones to funnel dual sources of audio to listeners simultaneously, which created the sensation of being in a three-dimensional space.

Other soothing practices included a reading by the writer Ashley C. Ford, of poems by Pablo Neruda. More than 100 people tuned in to the half-hour broadcast on YouTube.

There was also free “mom” advice dispensed by Mary Laura Philpott, an author in Nashville, who tweeted that she had “Big Mom Energy to spare. (Seriously, my teenagers are over it.)”

“I was like, Who needs the mom to tell you to drink your water, to wash your hands, that it’s going to be OK, to get off the internet?” Ms. Philpott said by phone. (She was surprised that the answer was: lots and lots of people.)

Gamers are getting into it, too. On Twitch, Nick Polom, a streamer with some 400,000 subscribers, took a break from streaming rounds of Apex Legends starting on March 11, to share more timely “Just Chatting” broadcasts.

Each is hours long, with names like “Doomsday cooking stream” (in which he livestreamed his stir fry, grocery rundown, and jokes about frozen chicken tenders) and “Girlfriend and Boyfriend stuck in quarantine!” (in which he livestreamed himself playing virtual reality games with his partner, for a remote audience of thousands).

As the novelist Sarah Schulman put it after a reading of hers was canceled in New York (and she offered her own individual readings by phone): “If all the institutional theaters are closed and all the competitive curated spaces are closed, we’re back to just entertaining each other.”

Online Twelve Step Meetings

Alcoholics and drug addicts in recovery frequently warn each other that isolation is a route to relapse; going to in-person Twelve Step meetings, sharing personal stories and talking with other addicts and alcoholics is a means of connection for many in recovery.

While long-distance Twelve Step recovery has existed since at least World War II, and moved to email and online chat and video with the rise of the internet, much of Twelve Step recovery still relies on in-person meeting.

With the health guidance for people to not congregate in large groups, those who rely on Alcoholics Anonymous and other recovery groups have organized quickly. Many meeting chairs across the country are creating regular meetings on Zoom.

“Many of us have been saying in these online meetings that if we were still drinking and using drugs this would be the perfect environment to self-destruct — fear of the unknown, lack of support, isolation, financial insecurity,” said Nanea, who asked to be identified by only her first name in accordance with recovery guidelines.

She created her own version called the Online Recovery Group. In addition, the central offices of regional Twelve Step groups have jumped in to show what meetings are canceled and which are replaced by chat, video or email.

“We need to have a way to share our experience, strength and hope to new people struggling with addiction and alcoholism,” Nanea said. “I know a lot of people, not just people in recovery, are afraid and feeling isolated right now. I feel very fortunate to have an active community that knows how to support each other.”

On Sunday morning, the Redemption Church in Costa Mesa, Calif., set up its first livestream, in part to broadcast two infants’ dedication ceremonies.

Kristin Castillo, 30, a brand and marketing consultant, and her husband, Nate, 30, had originally planned to gather their family, friends and loving congregation (about 200 members strong) to witness and participate in the religious service, which would officially welcome their newborn son into the church. Afterward, there was to be a celebratory lunch.

“Obviously,” Ms. Castillo said, “that didn’t happen.”

Instead, Kristin and Nate’s in-person guest list was trimmed to one of each of their parents. When the ceremony reached the point where their infant’s “spiritual aunts and uncles” were meant to affirm their support, the family and friends that were asked to accept this duty participated remotely.

“They were texting us in real time: ‘Yes! Yes!’” Ms. Castillo said.

While she found the experience of being on camera “nerve-racking,” she described their baby, nearly 8 months old, as “surprisingly cooperative.”

“Watching a crazy little guy having a good time, hopefully that lifted someone’s spirits,” she said. “And, ironically, by stripping all of the social trappings away, it helped us focus more on the intent of the actual ceremony.

Why it’s hot: The internet has meant a lot of things to many people, it first brought many together far and wide, and then got a bum rap for making us feel like we’re closer to others when we’re actually just voyeurs into other people’s lives. But now, in the time of COVID-19, the internet and social media are enabling a more positive mandatory social distancing experience. From conference calls for work to concerts and raves, games nights and virtual happy hours, to religious celebrations, people are leveraging creative ways to use the internet in a time that could lead to excessive isolation and depression – way to go internet age!

Source: NYTimes

Live-streaming event helps Chinese cosmetics chain achieve 200% growth

Lin Qingxuan is a Chinese cosmetics company with more 300 retail stores and over 2,000 employees. When forced to close 40% of its stores during the coronavirus crisis, the company acted quickly to leverage WeChat and TaoBao (owned by Alibaba, it’s the world’s biggest e-commerce site) to engage with its customers virtually.

The store sent coupons to their customers and redeployed their 100+ beauty advisors from the closed stores into online influencers. On February 14th, the store launched a large-scale live stream shopping event and were able to engage with 60,000 customers live (they currently have 6 million followers). The sales from one shopping advisor in two hours equaled that of four retail stores.

From “online clubbing sessions” to streamed music festivals, many Chinese brands turned to live streaming during this crisis. It’ll be interesting to see how this industry will grow in the US.

 

 

INSIGHTS | Brands turn to livestreaming as China stays home

Interesting to note that despite having a pretty big following and social presence online, Sephora has canceled all its North American in-store classes and services as of 3/12.

Why it’s hot: This crisis will likely force brands to be braver and creative and, ultimately, expedite their digital transformation.

Loyalty Evolution Success – Starbucks Rewards Revamp

When Starbucks relaunched its loyalty program in April, it was met with some initial criticism.

  • Would it alienate existing core customers?
  • Would people understand it?
  • Would it really contribute to growth or would it backfire?

Overall, Starbucks’ rewards program is a driver or sales… but that’s not new news.

“…when customers join our rewards program their total spend with Starbucks increases meaningfully,” CFO Patrick Grismer.

Having a loyalty program is one thing. Continually optimizing it based on customer feedback is what keeps it fresh, relevant, and valuable.

Starbucks has crafted a loyalty program that adds importance to customers and, for many, becomes a part of their daily lives. Thus, members engage and spend more frequently.

Starbucks Rewards Has Attracted More “Occasional” Customers

The relaunch of Starbucks Rewards in April allowed greater flexibility among members, making it easier to start redeeming. Grismer noted “significant positive customer response to this change, which was exactly what we had designed for.” This has led to a 15% increase in membership during the past year.

But it’s not just the revamp to the customer facing rewards program…

Starbucks added technology that enables the company to better understand its members. While membership in Starbucks Rewards has increased, so too has the frequency of customer visits. Personalization has played a role in customer loyalty at Starbucks as well. “We took the opportunity to introduce an enhanced personalized marketing engine into our technology stack,” Grismer said. “It allows us, through machine learning, to gain insights around what matters most to our customers, which informs the offers we make to them digitally.”

Why it’s hot: While loyalty can be incentived, ultimately it’s earned. Whether you’re providing a rewards program via points or freebies, the key to loyalty is evolving based on your customers’ needs. Starbucks is successful because it listens to its customers to minimize pain points, all while focusing on three main pillars: the in-store experience, beverage innovation, and digital customer engagement. These pillars create a compelling value proposition that customers can both experience and benefit from.

Source: Clarus Commerce blog, Loyalty360

Sony teaches new dog old tricks

Sony’s Aibo robot dog has been around in various iterations for around 20 years (it was actually discontinued in 2006 and revived with a next-gen look in 2018) and has garnered a lot of attention in tech circles. In fact, the re-boot of the Aibo got a lot of buzz at CES 2018 due primarily to Sony’s commitment to make it as cute as possible.

Nevertheless, the toy costs almost $3000 and the company has always failed to plan for what happens when the novelty wears off. Consumers think ahead and $3k is really steep for a toy that’s bound to wind up in a box down in the basement in a couple of months.

Sony is starting to realize that they have to add an element of interactivity and gamification to the experience if this thing is ever going to succeed. Enter the Aibo Food AR app.

Story on Gizmodo

Why it’s Hot

While it’s not yet trained to kill on command, it’s a step in the right direction. Aibo’s  survival depends on Sony expanding the imaginations of its customers beyond simple product redesigns.

Inside Amazon’s plan for Alexa to run your entire life

The creator of the famous voice assistant dreams of a world where Alexa is everywhere, anticipating your every need.

Speaking with MIT Technology Review, Rohit Prasad, Alexa’s head scientist, revealed further details about where Alexa is headed next. The crux of the plan is for the voice assistant to move from passive to proactive interactions. Rather than wait for and respond to requests, Alexa will anticipate what the user might want. The idea is to turn Alexa into an omnipresent companion that actively shapes and orchestrates your life. This will require Alexa to get to know you better than ever before.

In June at the re:Mars conference, he demoed [view from 53:54] a feature called Alexa Conversations, showing how it might be used to help you plan a night out. Instead of manually initiating a new request for every part of the evening, you would need only to begin the conversation—for example, by asking to book movie tickets. Alexa would then follow up to ask whether you also wanted to make a restaurant reservation or call an Uber.

A more intelligent Alexa

Here’s how Alexa’s software updates will come together to execute the night-out planning scenario. In order to follow up on a movie ticket request with prompts for dinner and an Uber, a neural network learns—through billions of user interactions a week—to recognize which skills are commonly used with one another. This is how intelligent prediction comes into play. When enough users book a dinner after a movie, Alexa will package the skills together and recommend them in conjunction.

But reasoning is required to know what time to book the Uber. Taking into account your and the theater’s location, the start time of your movie, and the expected traffic, Alexa figures out when the car should pick you up to get you there on time.

Prasad imagines many other scenarios that might require more complex reasoning. You could imagine a skill, for example, that would allow you to ask your Echo Buds where the tomatoes are while you’re standing in Whole Foods. The Buds will need to register that you’re in the Whole Foods, access a map of its floor plan, and then tell you the tomatoes are in aisle seven.

In another scenario, you might ask Alexa through your communal home Echo to send you a notification if your flight is delayed. When it’s time to do so, perhaps you are already driving. Alexa needs to realize (by identifying your voice in your initial request) that you, not a roommate or family member, need the notification—and, based on the last Echo-enabled device you interacted with, that you are now in your car. Therefore, the notification should go to your car rather than your home.

This level of prediction and reasoning will also need to account for video data as more and more Alexa-compatible products include cameras. Let’s say you’re not home, Prasad muses, and a Girl Scout knocks on your door selling cookies. The Alexa on your Amazon Ring, a camera-equipped doorbell, should register (through video and audio input) who is at your door and why, know that you are not home, send you a note on a nearby Alexa device asking how many cookies you want, and order them on your behalf.

To make this possible, Prasad’s team is now testing a new software architecture for processing user commands. It involves filtering audio and visual information through many more layers. First Alexa needs to register which skill the user is trying to access among the roughly 100,000 available. Next it will have to understand the command in the context of who the user is, what device that person is using, and where. Finally it will need to refine the response on the basis of the user’s previously expressed preferences.

Why It’s Hot:  “This is what I believe the next few years will be about: reasoning and making it more personal, with more context,” says Prasad. “It’s like bringing everything together to make these massive decisions.”

Orwellabama? Crimson Tide Track Locations to Keep Students at Game

Coach Nick Saban gets peeved at students leaving routs early. An app ties sticking around to playoff tickets, but also prompts concern from students and privacy watchdogs.

The Alabama football coach, has long been peeved that the student section at Bryant-Denny Stadium empties early. So this season, the university is rewarding students who attend games — and stay until the fourth quarter — with an alluring prize: improved access to tickets to the SEC championship game and to the College Football Playoff semifinals and championship game, which Alabama is trying to reach for the fifth consecutive season.

But to do this, Alabama is taking an extraordinary, Orwellian step: using location-tracking technology from students’ phones to see who skips out and who stays. “It’s kind of like Big Brother,” said Allison Isidore, a graduate student in religious studies from Montclair, N.J.

It also seems inevitable in an age when tech behemoths like Facebook, Google and Amazon harvest data from phones, knowing where users walk, what they watch and how they shop. Alabama isn’t the only college tapping into student data; the University of North Carolina uses location-tracking technology to see whether its football players and other athletes are in class.

Greg Byrne, Alabama’s athletic director, said privacy concerns rarely came up when the program was being discussed with other departments and student groups. Students who download the Tide Loyalty Points app will be tracked only inside the stadium, he said, and they can close the app — or delete it — once they leave the stadium. “If anybody has a phone, unless you’re in airplane mode or have it off, the cellular companies know where you are,” he said.

But Adam Schwartz, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy watchdog, said it was “very alarming” that a public university — an arm of the government — was tracking its students’ whereabouts.

“Why should packing the stadium in the fourth quarter be the last time the government wants to know where students are?” Schwartz said, adding that it was “inappropriate” to offer an incentive for students to give up their privacy. “A public university is a teacher, telling students what is proper in a democratic society.”

The creator of the app, FanMaker, runs apps for 40 colleges, including Clemson, Louisiana State and Southern California, which typically reward fans with gifts like T-shirts. The app it created for Alabama is the only one that tracks the locations of its students. That Alabama would want it is an example of how even a powerhouse program like the Crimson Tide is not sheltered from college football’s decline in attendance, which sank to a 22-year low last season.

The Tide Loyalty Points program works like this: Students, who typically pay about $10 for home tickets, download the app and earn 100 points for attending a home game and an additional 250 for staying until the fourth quarter. Those points augment ones they garner mostly from progress they have made toward their degrees — 100 points per credit hour. (A regular load would be 15 credits per semester, or 1,500 points.)

The students themselves had no shortage of proposed solutions.

“Sell beer; that would keep us here,” said Harrison Powell, a sophomore engineering major from Naples, Fla.

“Don’t schedule cupcakes,” said Garrett Foster, a senior management major from Birmingham, referring to Alabama’s ritually soft non-conference home schedule, which this year includes Western Carolina, Southern Mississippi and New Mexico State. (Byrne has set about beefing it up, scheduling home-and-home series with Texas, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Notre Dame, but those don’t start until 2022.)

In the meantime, there is also time for students to solve their own problems, which is, after all, the point of going to college. An Alabama official figured it would not be long before pledges are conscripted to hold caches of phones until the fourth quarter so their fraternity brothers could leave early.

“Without a doubt,” said Wolf, the student from Philadelphia. “I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s the first game. There will be workarounds for sure.”

As for whether the app, with its privacy concerns, early bugs and potential loopholes, will do its job well enough to please Saban was not a subject he was willing to entertain as the sun began to set on Saturday. He was looking ahead to the next opponent: South Carolina.

 

Why It’s Hot:  

Another example of a brand/institution using gamification to influence behavior, this takes it a step further – pushing towards the edge of the privacy conversation, and perhaps leading us all to consider what might be an acceptable “exchange rate” for personal information.

An Insurance Company that Pre-Pays?

Australian insurer, National Roads and Motorists’ Association (NRMA), is refunding customers that spend money to protect their homes from disaster by using claims data to identify homes at risk of flooding, storm damage and other disasters.

It invited people to download Safety Hub, a custom-built app, and rewarded them for carrying out home maintenance tasks that reduced the risk of catastrophic damage.

The app combined geographical data with risk profiles to tell people about personalized tasks that they could complete to lower the risk of damage to their homes.

Each time a task was completed, money was paid straight into the customer’s bank account. If the task required the services of a professional, NRMA would pay for that, too.

By giving customers authority over the safety of their home and rewarding them for completing checks, NRMA can not only reduce how much it must pay, it creates transparency. And giving people partial control over their safety can work to empower those in high-risk communities where they are more likely to suffer disasters.

Source: Contagious

Why it’s hot:

NRMA has the chance to create a new standard in insurance with this new initiative. While it saves the company money, it also demonstrates its commitment to its customers, to help them avoid disasters.

This is a good example of how a company leveraged its first-party data with geographical data to create a predictive model and help incentivize customers to avoid costly disasters.

Tip your (non)local coffee-bean picker

We’re spoiled in the US. We get to drink premium coffee from the best farms in the world, and at a reasonable price. But many of the farm-workers involved in actually making that cortado a reality generally aren’t compensated equitably.

Some people would be willing to pay more for coffee if they knew that increase was going to support the workers who need and deserve it, but making that change through the traditional economy of producers, distributors, wholesalers, and retailers is extremely difficult. Even direct-trade coffee partnerships are subject to the demands of the global coffee industry, which must feed a voracious worldwide caffeine habit.

Propina is trying to side-step the traditional model of farm-worker compensation by allowing people to support farm-workers by making a direct contribution to a farm-worker’s pension fund when they’re at the till of their favorite coffee shop. In-shop videos like the one above drive awareness while patrons wait in line to make their order. Additionally, similar to the Patreon model, patrons can become recurring contributors and get updates from the farm.

Why it’s hot

1. Using technology to bridge the gap from producer to consumer empowers money-havers to give to a cause they believe in.

2. Technology shrinking the world, making something global feel like more of a local connection.

3. We may see more of these “capitalism hacks” that attempt to use technology to circumvent systemic inequalities that otherwise seem insurmountable.

Why it’s not hot

1. Like the US server-tipping model, this idea could potentially drive down guaranteed wages for farm workers if employers see them gaining any amount of significant external compensation. In a sense, this idea only works well if it remains an insignificant portion of a farm workers livelihood.

2. This model relies on the generosity of the globally wealthy to “support” poor farm workers, instead of creating systems of equitable exchange that account for the needs of all stakeholders. Admittedly, the latter is a much more difficult challenge.

Source: Contagious

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.)

Google project Shoelace aims to connect people around shared interests

Screen Shot 2019 07 11 at 2.06.56 PM

A new project from Google’s in-house incubator, Area 120, aims to help people find things to do and others who share your same interests. Through a new app called Shoelace, users can browse through a set of hand-picked activities, or add their own to a map. For example, someone who wanted to connect with fellow dog owners could start an activity for a doggie playdate at the park, then start a group chat to coordinate the details and make new friends.

The end result feels a bit like a mashup of Facebook Events with a WhatsApp group chat, perhaps. But it’s wrapped in a clean, modern design that appeals more to the millennial or Gen Z user.

Why it’s hot:

If Shoelace is successful at bringing like-minded and like-interested people together, the functionality could be used by clients, like Enfamil, that are trying to inspire real-world and real-life connections between moms, in an authentic and less brand-centric way.

 

Source: New Google Area 120 project Shoelace aims to connect people around shared interests | TechCrunch

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.

‘Tinder for Cows’ Helps Farmers Find Perfect Matches

From the makers of the UK’s SellMyLivestock website comes a new Tinder-style app for cattle farmers. Tudder provides an easy way for farmers to locate breeding matches by viewing profiles of cattle and their age, location, and owner. A swipe right to show interest directs farmers to the SellMyLivestock platform, which 1/3 of the UK’s farmers are already using.

While the marketing of the app includes playful language such as “seeks to unite sheepish farm animals with their soulmates,” the purpose is quite functional. Bringing a bull to a physical market is tedious and takes time away from other farm responsibilities. On the app, farmers can quickly search for organic or pedigree cattle, find out the cow’s health information, and get in touch with owners to make an offer.

Why It’s Hot

The app is a playful, easy way to facilitate cattle transactions — bringing real digital innovation to a timeless practice.

Source: http://time.com/5526883/tinder-cows/ 

live someone else’s story with unrd…

In a world that’s exploded with media channels, we have many ways to tell or experience a story in 2019. Even many immersive ways. But a new app called unrd has added a fresh one to the mix.

The app allows you to choose from a number of characters, and instead of just reading a story, or watching a video or film, your phone essentially becomes that characters phone, and you experience their story as if it was happening to you.

Per its website, unrd bills itself as “real-time fiction”, and claims it allows you to “live someone else’s life and receive messages, videos, photos and audio messages – and even watch them LIVE on video.”

Why it’s hot:

In a way, we’re all already “experiencing” each others lives through social media and other messages on our phones. But while our friends lives might or might not be interesting, it’s nothing like “becoming” one of them in a crazy situation, such as “You have the phone of a missing girl. Amy Morris disappears after a night out with friends.Over 7 days receive texts, photos and video messages and discover the truth behind her disappearance.” It’s interesting how unrd has not only built a new storytelling platform, but also one that seemingly builds off our proclivity for following other peoples “stories” on our phones.

 

Patients Can Snap A Mouth Selfie To Receive Dental Diagnoses

The Toothpic app connects patients with local dentists, helping more people access dental care by diagnosing issues virtually and potentially saving an unnecessary office visit.

For some, a trip to the dentist is part of their yearly routine. For others, it can be an anxiety-ridden visit that they’d rather avoid. Dental health platform Toothpic is providing a convenient alternative, allowing patients to have local dentists check out their teeth via an app.

Since they look at so many different mouths, dentists can fairly easily detect problems from a photo. Mark Moore, CEO of Toothpic says that newer mobile devices make this possible, as “The quality of image which can be taken with modern smartphones is comparable to the images captured in dental offices. This has been borne out in a number of previous studies.”

The app aims to serve both patients and dentists: While clients save time and do not need to make an office visit unless there is a problem, doctors can reserve in-office appointments for those who need medical treatment. Toothpic has partnered with a network of dentists and can now be downloaded on multiple platforms.

Why it’s hot: This is a breakthrough way to get consumers with anxiety about the dentist to care about their dental health. However, this should not replace dentist visits — but instead, serve as a preventive/educational tool for users to take better care of their teeth.

Source: PSFK

Target Invites Consumers To Co-Create Products Using A Secret App

Target has a secret app called Studio Connect that allows for a select group of customers, personally invited by the retailer, to participate in the brand’s product development process. The platform’s interface is similar to Instagram. While brands such as Everlane have used the social media platform to host an invite-only community, Target takes this consumer-loyalty initiative in-house.

SVP of product design and development at Target Julie Guggemos explains, “Studio Connect enables our designers to interact with guests at any point while developing products, encouraging conversations and adding a level of flexibility to the formal feedback process.”

A recent study shows that consumers are more inclined to trust brands that encourage them to be a part of the R&D process, and 79% of consumers expect brands to show how much they value customer insights. Through its use of a familiar interface, Target is able to build a community with consumers outside of the purchase stage of the customer journey. For example, When Target was creating tee shirt designs for Mother’s Day, consumers were able to provide slogan ideas via the app within 24 hours of the retailer’s inquiry.

Why it’s hot: Although this isn’t a net-new tactic for a company to implement, it is a step in the right direction for Target to further understand their consumers and develop the products they want and need.

Source: PSFK

The Aviva Dash Cam Will Save Drivers Time and Money

Insurance company Aviva added a new Dash Cam functionality to their app. The app begins filming as soon as it senses the vehicle move.

It films the journey in short, unsaved loops unless the motion reading from the smartphone detects a potential collision. In that case, the video footage is saved as video evidence that can be submitted with an insurance claim.

While the free app is available to all drivers, there are major benefits for those who are insured by Aviva, including safe driver car insurance discounts and easy ways to complete a claim via the app.

Why It’s Hot: 

  • This functionality makes it easier for drivers to quickly file insurance claims directly from their phones.
  • Video footage can help drivers clearly indicate who is at fault in an accident

Lyft partners with 25 cities to integrate public transit options

Lyft has partnered with 25 cities to integrate public transit options into its app. This is part of a larger app update that takes effect this month. The new app will give users the ability to walk to set destinations along a route for pickup to make shared rides faster. Lyft Line is also taking on a new name: Shared Rides. In early testing among employees, the company says that shared rides have increased 5% with the new app design.

This update is intended to have a Lyft drop off a passenger at (for example), a train station, and then pick them up once they reach their destination to take them on the next leg of their journey. In effect, a Lyft could roll up to meet you just as you’re stepping off the bus. If it makes sense for the rider to take public transit as part of their journey, Lyft will suggest a route and include the price of public transit in its total fare.

Why it’s hot: I think this is a step in the right direction for Lyft – they already have had superior ride-share options than Uber (cheaper, direct pick up and drop off), and I think this is the logical next step for them. Additionally, it’s not surprising that this new app design has increase rides by 5% already!

Source: FastCo

 

Target Announces ‘Drive Up’ Service

Target announced that it will introduce drive-up service to hundreds of its stores in an attempt to make brick-and-mortar experience as convenient as online shopping. Customers place their order using the Target app and wait in a designated parking space outside of the store. Employees will then hand-deliver the purchases, which are available about two hours after the order is placed.

Stores near the company’s headquarters of Minneapolis adopted the service this past fall. They are not the only brick-and-mortar to try this  — about a year ago, Amazon opened two grocery stores with ‘curbside pickup’ in Seattle, and Walmart began testing an automated kiosk that allowed customers to place their order pull up to retrieve it. Even Walmart implementing their system for employees to drive you your groceries, or Amazon implementing their store with no check out line can fall under this category. By the end of the year, Target “hopes to implement the service in a thousand more stores across the country.”

Why it’s hot: While this isn’t necessarily new and hot, it is yet another example of brick and mortar trying to offer their customers seamless experiences.

Source: PSFK

Spotify is testing a new voice search feature

Spotify is testing a voice search feature that lets users more quickly access their favorite artists, tracks, albums, and playlists. The feature, which appears based on a 2017 experiment involving a “driving mode,” has begun appearing inside the iOS app for a small number of users.

To access the new voice search feature, you tap the magnifying glass icon at the center of the bottom row of tabs. If you have it, you’ll see a microphone icon inside a white bubble in the lower-right hand corner of the screen.

So far, voice control appears limited to finding music inside inside Spotify’s vast catalog. Ask it “Who are the Beatles?” and it will start playing a Beatles playlist without telling you anything about the band.

Why it’s hot: This is a great step forward for navigation in app that has sometimes requires too much tapping and typing to get where you’re going.

Source: The Verge

Sound Me In

Ticketmaster has partnered with audio startup Lisnr to develop an app that checks in event goers using sound technology.The app uses unique signals sent and received by mobile devices to identify who is entering the venue. When a person is in close proximity, they can simply open the app to check in.

Microphones installed at the event listen for audio signals emitted from devices at frequencies usually inaudible to people and checks them against the venue’s database. Once a person is identified and verified, their app lights up in green, signaling that they have been checked in successfully. This means that attendees can walk through without having to queue to get a ticket scanned or checked.

VIDEO – https://techxplore.com/news/2017-07-event-goers-audio.html

At some places, people can also use their Presence app to check in by simply tapping their phones on specially installed sensors and scanners. The digital passes can be used to view, transfer and sell tickets within the app, as well as through text messages and email.

Ticketmaster and Lisnr have hinted that, in addition to reducing ticket fraud and queues, the partnership can enable brands and event venues to personalize the experience for users.

Why It’s Hot:

  • It was a very obvious, yet innovative way to bring the ticket into the 21st century
  • Not only does this digital dog whistle allows you to waltz right in hassle free, it also recognizes you as an individual fan, allowing brands to serve you customized content, offers, and experiences.
  • Requires no additional hardware, no need for wifi, mobile service or Bluetooth connectivity allowing brands to scale this solution quickly and easily.

Source: Contagious

 

 

No Food Left Behind

An average restaurant might waste 100,000 pounds of food a year. Of the 50 billion pounds wasted en masse by restaurants across the U.S., only 1.4% is donated. Most edible food ends up in dumpsters. Any attempts to donate food might have involved multiple calls and complicated coordination, taking time that restaurant workers and short-staffed shelters/food banks didn’t have.

To solve the problem, a collaboration between DoorDash and Feeding America was born.

Using MealConnect, a Feeding America app, restaurants can now snap a photo of extra food, and the platform finds a nearby food bank, shelter, or other nonprofits that need it. Then DoorDash uses its delivery algorithm to find the most efficient way to transport it. DoorDash drivers who donate their time then come to collect and deliver the food.

 

Why It’s Hot:

-It’s not only a solution for the shelters, but also for the restaurant who are able to clear space as well as limit their waste

-It’s a great example of tech-for-good vs for profit

-It’s a plug and play solution that runs itself (more or less)

Source: FastCo.

Die with me – really?

Die with me is the name of an app that opens a chatroom with random people when their batteries are running low ( 5% or bellow).

According to an article at The Verge ” It’s a place to bond, for a fleeting moment, with strangers sharing the same near-death phone experience, one with a built-in countdown timer on your conversations: what will you say in the moments before your screen goes black? “.

The creator said the idea came from a trip where they were lost in a strange city because they ran out of battery – they felt lost and fragile and started having philosophical conversations about that sentiment and how dependable we are on technology.

Why it’s hot:
Personally, I think the idea is silly – why would I spare my last 5 moments with random people, to discuss the awfulness of being disconnected? It’s just weird.
But then, I realized two things:
1. A lot of weird things become big things, especially because it’s weird – can it be fun?Maybe?
2. Superbowl is almost a week from now, maybe this is a teaser for a campaign? 

become a jedi master with AR…


Fortuitously timed, a genius developer has created an app that lets you appear to wield a Star Wars styled Light Saber using Augmented Reality. Per its creator:

“It’s an iPhone app that turns a rolled up piece of paper into a virtual lightsaber. I think the best thing about it is that it brings a special effect that has typically been reserved for advanced video editors to a mass audience.”

Why It’s Hot:
Augmented Reality has of course seen many new uses since becoming a widely available capability on iOS. Some are useful, and some just let you live out childhood fantasies like this. In either case, it’s amazing the digital layer of the world we are building on top of the physical one we have known for our entire lives.

[Source]

The guy living next door

For years, hotels have been focused on selling their services to people coming from outside of town instead of those who live and work around it. One of them thinks differently. Hotel group Accor Hotels has launched an app to connect travelers with local businesses. The app also provides non-guests the chance to use its hotel services and use it as a drop off and pick up point for services provided by local businesses. e.g. dry cleaning drop off/pick up.

Why it’s hot: helping local small businesses while finding incremental audiences in a competitive market.

Source: Contagious

Internal Innovation Meets Telemedicine

As telemedicine becomes more and more prevalent in our healthcare, Warby Parker just took a very traditional appointment from the exam room; to your living room. The eye exam.

Warby Parker, whose “try before you buy” model of online glasses shopping has already disrupted the traditional eyewear retail store found that many of their users were needing more of an “Rx check” rather than a comprehensive eye exam.

This prescription confirmation, as WB calculates it is nearly a $5B market. So they decided to launch their own startup to capture the demand.  during the 2017 Fast Company Innovation Festival co-CEO Dave Gilboa stated

“We realized that we could use tech to make the experience newer, better, and faster,”

The new Perscitipn Check app leverages a desktop plus mobile experience to check the “health” of your current prescription. After the user completes a few tests the results are compared to a database. If the results are within spec, the user pays $40 for a licensed dr to confirm and write a new prescription. If out of spec, the app instructs the user to go for a traditional comprehensive eye exam. The $40 fee is over a 50% discount from a traditional eye exam.

 

Why It’s Hot

Warby Parker has once again launched innovation in a stagnate market space. Not only did they see that there was an experience gap for their customers, but also decided to take the risks and empower innovation from within. Companies who are humble enough to understand their “on-top” status won’t last forever often employee their best and brightest to create their own competition. This way they get the best new innovation without the delays of typical corporate sponsorship, and they see how the market might compete before a real competitor does.

$weet $weet Money

A combination of India’s lack of digital payment adoption and shop owners never having enough change to give back to customers after a purchase has resulted in a very unique cultural practice: giving candy as change to consumers, instead of coins. Though it may sound sweet (eh? eh?), this leaves customers feeling scammed and shop owners feeling annoyed.

Taking note of this mutual pain point Paytm, a digital payment app, created its own brand of candy. These could still be given as change to consumers, but with a twist – the candy wrappers could be redeemed as real money with the download of their app by inputting the promo codes on the inside of the candy wrappers.

Though Paytm didn’t monetize (the candies were given to shop owners for free) they massively reduced their acquisition costs from $ 0.92 to $.18) with over 1M people downloading their app.

Why It’s Hot:

  • The campaign stemmed from a real culture insight/pain point and the brand sat in the middle of the solution
  • Really smart way of turning an everyday object into a medium (the wrappers)
  • Leveraged an old behavior (cash economy) to transition people to a new one (digital payment)

Increased Use of Point of Care Tactics Offer Opportunity For Better In-office Experience

MM&M announced this week that “up to 20% of pharma brands are moving digital media spend to point-of-care tactics” which was grounded in a study fielded by ZS Associates. To a certain extent, this is unsurprising as many forms of digital media such as social and display continue to face increasing scrutiny around the topic of ad fraud.

This will have an impact on two key audiences in healthcare marketing – patients and providers – which if well thought through, should be overwhelmingly positive.

Phreesia Patient Intake Platform

Patients

Platforms such as Phreesia offer patients the opportunity to engage with content as part of the intake process. The biggest challenge here will be placements that are relevant to the specific patient as there is a potential to spend effort on poor placements. Case in point; when I took my son to the pediatrician for his flu shot this year, I was offered the opportunity to “Learn More” about a branded product. The only thing I can recall about the brand is that is had nothing to do with why I was there and wouldn’t be appropriate for my son. Contextual relevance will be critical to success in these moments.

epocrates advertising platform from athenahealth

Providers

HCPs, particularly PCPs, are the target of massive amounts of marketing. Overwhelming is an understatement here. When you consider the necessity of staying abreast of current trends and new therapies, to a certain extent, they need to be exposed to these messages. However, when it’s all said and done, the moment that matters is when the Rx decision is made. The opportunity to be a relevant part of that moment as part of the HCPs workflow in the EHR/EMR offers pharma companies an incredible opportunity. When you consider the number of drugs that don’t have the budget for mass DTC advertising, the HCP really is the decision maker in the therapy of choice.

Why It’s Hot

While contextual relevance for audiences is improving and offers plenty of potential, the real win will be when a brand can own the conversation across the moments in an office visit.

Consider a diabetes patient checking in for a check-up who is offered a message around potential therapy they may be eligible with a DTC ad based upon key factors pulled through from their EHR.

Then, at the end of the appointment, the HCP if offered a targeted message in the EHR with a savings offer the patient can print and take with them.

With brands doubling down on these POC channels, we have the opportunity to take the in-office experience to new levels.

FDA’s Digital Health Innovation Action Plan Targets Software – Not Hardware – For Regulatory Approval

A few weeks ago I posted an article that spoke to the value connected medicine dispensing could bring to healthcare.

What I neglected to mention is the plethora of HIPAA hurdles that the healthcare industry faces when it begins collecting patient-specific healthcare data on mobile devices such as phones, tablets or wearables.

Thankfully there may be a solution on the horizon that significantly circumvents this challenge.

In the past, if a client were to build an app that collected patient-specific medical data, the entire phone would then be considered a “medical device.” The challenge with this lies in the relative inability of a healthcare company to effectively to manage HIPAA compliance on a device they rarely have contact with.

However, the FDA’s new Digital Health Innovation Action Plan is looking at ways to view the software as the components of a tech solution that needs to be regulated. This effectively paves the way for healthcare companies and the companies to more deeply integrate mobile technology with healthcare.

As part of the plan, the FDA is seeking 9 that meet the following criteria for its pilot initiative;

  • Business is developing or planning to develop tools that meet the FDA’s definition of a device — one intended to be used to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent a disease;
  • Company has an existing track record in developing, testing, and maintaining software products use key performance indicators for quality control;
  • Must agree to provide access to performance measures during the pilot
  • Collect real-world post-market performance data and provide it to the FDA;
  • Availability for consultations and site visits from FDA officials
  • Provide quality management system information

So who did the FDA deem worthy this past week from the pool of over 100 applicants?

  • Apple
  • Fitbit
  • Verily (the health unit of Google parent Alphabet)
  • Samsung
  • Roche
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Pear Therapeutics
  • Tidepool
  • Phosphorus.

“We need to modernize our regulatory framework so that it matches the kind of innovation we’re being asked to evaluate, and helps foster beneficial technology while ensuring that consumers have access to high-quality, safe and effective digital health devices,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. “These pilot participants will help the agency shape a better and agiler approach toward digital health technology that focuses on the software developer rather than an individual product.”

The end goal of the program is to develop a regulatory framework for software as a medical device so that companies with established, tried and tested quality assurance protocols would be able to update their products faster.

Why It’s Hot:

in the past, mobile devices such as wearables, phone or tablets that collected patient data weren’t HIPAA compliant. This new FDA initiative opens up the potential to build technology that makes these devices HIPAA compliant opening up vast new opportunities for the healthcare industry.