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FDA Approves Digital Drug Tracking System For Meds

November 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Soon making sure medication is taken correctly will be easier to track.

The US Food and Drug Administration has approved the first drug in the US with a digital ingestion tracking system.

Abilify MyCite, an aripiprazole tablet embedded with an ingestible sensor, uses digital tracking to record whether the medication was taken. The tablet has been approved for the treatment of schizophrenia, acute treatment of manic and mixed episodes associated with bipolar I disorder, and for use as an add-on treatment for depression in adults, the FDA said.

The pill’s sensor sends a message to a wearable patch that transmits the information to an app, allowing patients to track the medication’s ingestion on their phone. Patients can also let their doctor or carer view the information through a portal online.

 Abilify MyCite’s sensor has been around since 2012, developed by Proteus Digital Health. In 2016, British Airways got in on the digital drug game, patenting a sensor-packed smart pill that measures your temperature, stomach acidity and more to help fight jet lag.

Is SAP Losing Steam

October 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The maker of expensive management software, which no-one really knows what it does, SAP has seen its profits take a dip.

The outfit missed market expectations for third quarter profit as it invested heavily to shift business customers into cloud computing.

SAP said it is in the middle of a transition to offering cloud-based services to its business customers and management had flagged that 2017 would see a trough in profit margins as it invested in datacenters and redeployed staff.

The outfit said it should see a recovery next year and had a “very good shot” at stabilizing margins in the fourth quarter. Chief Financial Officer Luka Mucic told a conference call:  “Going into 2018 we see a margin turnaround.”

Revenue for the German business planning software provider grew eight percent to 5.59 billion euro from a year earlier, falling short of the mean forecast of 5.71 billion euro from 16 analysts surveyed by Reuters.

Core profit excluding special items rose by four percent to 1.64 billion euro at constant currency rates, SAP said, below the 1.69 billion euro expected by analysts.

The euro’s strength sliced four percentage points off core profits, which was flat after taking currency moves into account. Analysts at Baader Helvea said they expected currency headwinds to continue for the next three quarters.

The company nudged up guidance for the full year core operating profits to 6.85-7.0 billion euro and said 2017 total revenue would range from 23.4-23.8 billion euro, marking year-to-year growth of around six to eight percent, excluding currency effects.

Cloud subscriptions and support revenue rose 27 percent in the third quarter to 938 million euro, excluding currency effects, compared with the 29 percent analysts had expected, on average.

This was offset by its classic software license and support business revenue, which rose four percent to 3.72 billion euro, slightly above the 2.2 percent growth rate expected by analysts.

Chief Executive Bill McDermott was bullish for the fourth quarter: “We are gaining share against our competitors. SAP is growing faster in the cloud – and we are doing it organically.” During a conference call, he contrasted his company with the the acquisition-fueled growth of its rivals.


Wrixo Offers Wristband With Info For Emergency Situations

July 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

There’s a new low-tech wristband that is capable of sharing your medical information when you unable to.

Unlike smart wearables with built in CPUs, antennas and displays, Wrixo is a simple waterproof wristband that can use a preprinted QR code or built-in NFC chip to access important patient health information — including medical history, prescriptions, and allergies — that you’ve previously stored in an online cloud.

Users can also upload other relevant information like their blood type, insurance and even past records like X-rays, MRIs or lab reports. According to Wrixo, the technology is HIPPA-compliant, although we still have some questions about privacy and security, which are especially sensitive topics for media information.

The product — starting at $19 — uses its QR code to allow doctors to access the information by scanning. Or, the embedded Near Field Communication wireless chip allows emergency responders with NFC-enabled phones to tap the wristband for information. Wrixo’s cloud-storage service for medical information and records comes in both free and premium ($6 per month) tiers.

A tag turns the device into a necklace or keychain. For people with service dogs, there’s a clip to attach it to the dog’s collar or vest.

The wristbands are now available for preorder on the Wrixo website, and Idol Memory has launched an Indiegogo campaign that will give a percentage of the wristband proceeds to Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.

Right now, there’s no telling how effectively these wristbands will perform under high-intensity emergency situations, but the company is confident the device will do its job successfully.

“It could truly be the difference between life and death,” said George Shih, founder of Wrixo, in a press release. “It is crucial that emergency and medical personnel have immediate access to patient records and information so they can administer the proper treatment in a matter of seconds.”

Anthem Agrees To Pay $115M Over Data Breach

June 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Anthem, the behemoth health insurance company, has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit over a 2015 data breach for a record $115 million.

The settlement still has to be approved by US District Court Judge Lucy Koh, who is scheduled to hear the case on August 17 in San Jose, California. And Anthem isn’t admitting any wrongdoing or that “any individuals were harmed as a result of the cyberattack.”

“Nevertheless, we are pleased to be putting this litigation behind us, and to be providing additional substantial benefits to individuals whose data was or may have been involved in the cyberattack and who will now be members of the settlement class,” an Anthem spokeswoman said in a statement confirming the settlement.

Assuming it’s approved, it would be the largest data breach settlement in history, according to the plaintiffs’ lawyers, who first announced the agreement Friday.

The funds would be used to provide victims of the data breach at least two years of credit monitoring and to reimburse customers for breach-related expenses. The settlement would also guarantee a certain level of funding for “information security to implement or maintain numerous specific changes to its data security systems, including encryption of certain information and archiving sensitive data with strict access controls,” the plaintiff attorneys said.

The 2015 breach resulted in the exposure and theft of nearly 80 million records, including client names, dates of birth, physical and email addresses, medical IDs and Social Security numbers. Using a stolen password, hackers were able to break into a database that contained information of former and current customers.

Although a mammoth breach at the time, the Anthem hack doesn’t compare in scale to breaches Yahoo has since reported. One of them, which occurred in 2014 and was revealed in September, affected 500 million user accounts. Then three months later, the company disclosed an even bigger breach that happened in 2013 and affected a billion user accounts.

Yahoo is facing its own data breach-related lawsuits. But for now, Anthem’s appears to be the most costly to date for a US company in terms of litigation payouts. In May, for example, Target agreed to pay $18.5 million to 47 states to settle claims stemming from a 2013 breach of credit card data. And Home Depot agreed to pay $19.5 million last year to settle a breach-related class action suit.

Ybrain Headband Treats Depression

June 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The 21st century is increasingly acknowledging that depression as a serious illness, and now a team from South Korea wants to treat it with 21st century technology.

South Korean startup Ybrain’s Mindd headband sends weak electronic currents to the frontal lobe of your brain, reports The Korea Herald. The process, neuroscientifically referred to as transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), aims to stimulate the frontal lobe — where decreased activity is associated with depression.

Ybrain has received over $9 million in funding over the past four years, and says clinical trials have shown the Mindd headband to be effective and yield no side effects. It’s been used in 12 hospitals throughout South Korea already, Ybrain CEO Lee Ki-won said to the Herald, and the company hopes to bring the headband to Europe later this year and to the US in 2019.

Depression and suicide are a major problem in South Korea, with nearly 38 people killing themselves every day in the country in 2015, according to South Korea’s National Statistical Office. That’s about a third of the daily suicides in the US in the same year, a country which has roughly six-times the population.

The Mindd headband works alongside a phone app, in which patients can log their sleep, exercise and medical treatment.. All of that information will be sent to doctors for monitoring.

Ambulance Drones Shows Promise In Race To Save Lives

June 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The use of drones to reach patients could aid in slashing one crucial aspect of emergency care: response times.

A drone unveiled in 2014 offered the possibility of providing much quicker care to heart attack victims by coming equipped with a defibrillator — and now, the concept has passed the first test.

By staging a series of simulated cardiac arrests around the city of Stockholm, Sweden, a team of researchers led by Andreas Claesson of the Karolinska Institutet demonstrated that drones can cut response time by a median of 16 minutes. Their research has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“Some 800,000 people suffer a cardiac arrest in the EU every year, and only 8 percent survive,” said Alec Momont, who developed the original drone in 2014.

“The main reason for this is the relatively long response time of the emergency services (approx. 10 minutes), while brain death and fatalities occur within four to six minutes. The ambulance drone can get a defibrillator to a patient inside a 12 km2 zone within one minute. This response speed increases the chance of survival following a cardiac arrest from eight percent to 80 percent.”

The drone for Claesson’s tests was equipped with an automatic external defibrillator (AED) weighing 0.8 kilograms (1.7 pounds), a GPS, a high-definition camera and autopilot software. It was placed at a fire station, and deployed to 18 simulated cardiac arrests within a 10-kilometre (6.2-mile) radius, all at locations where real cardiac arrests had taken place between 2006 and 2014.

Whenever the remotely operated drone was deployed, the team would also send an ambulance.

The drone was faster. The median time from call to dispatch of the ambulance was three minutes, compared to three second for the drone. The median time from dispatch to arrive was 22 minutes for the ambulance, and just 5 minutes and 22 seconds for the drone. The median reduction in response time was 16 minutes and 39 seconds.

“Saving 16 minutes is likely to be clinically important. Nonetheless, further test flights, technological development, and evaluation of integration with dispatch centers and aviation administrators are needed,” the study reads. “The outcomes of out-of-hospitcal cardiac arrest using the drone-delivered AED by bystanders vs resuscitation by EMS should be studied.”

There are some limitations to the study. All the test flights, of which there were only 18, were conducted in good weather, and all were over short distances. And it didn’t take into account what happens after the drone reaches the patient, which would require a person present who is able to operate the defibrillator.

Momont’s 2014 system’s solution to this problem was to equip his drone with a livestream audio and video connection so that a trained operator could walk a bystander through the process of using the equipment.

Researchers Show How Heartbeats Can Be Used As Passwords

January 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Researchers at Binghamton State University in New York believes your heart could be the vital to your personal data. By measuring the electrical activity of the heart, researchers say they can encrypt patients’ health records.

The fundamental idea is this: In the future, all patients will be outfitted with a wearable device, which will continuously collect physiological data and transmit it to the patients’ doctors. Because electrocardiogram (ECG) signals are already collected for clinical diagnosis, the system would simply reuse the data during transmission, thus reducing the cost and computational power needed to create an encryption key from scratch.

“There have been so many mature encryption techniques available, but the problem is that those encryption techniques rely on some complicated arithmetic calculations and random key generations,” said Zhanpeng Jin, a co-author of the paper “A Robust and Reusable ECG-based Authentication and Data Encryption Scheme for eHealth Systems.”

Those encryption techniques can’t be “directly applied on the energy-hungry mobile and wearable devices,” Jin added. “If you apply those kinds of encryptions on top of the mobile device, then you can burn the battery very quickly.”

But there are drawbacks. According to Jin, one of the reasons ECG encryption has not been widely adopted is because it’s generally more sensitive and vulnerable to variations than some other biometric measures. For instance, your electrical activity could change depending on factors such as physical exertion and mental state. Other more permanent factors such as age and health can also have an effect.

“ECG itself cannot be used for a biometric authentication purpose alone, but it’s a very effective way as a secondary authentication,” Jin said.

While the technology for ECG encryption is already here, its adoption will depend on patients’ willingness to don wearables and on their comfort with constantly sharing their biometrics.

Novartis, Google Delays Testing Of Autofocus Contact Lense

November 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

google-novartis-lense-150x150Novartis has scrapped a 2016 goal to kickoff testing its autofocus contact lens on people, though it said the groundbreaking product it is making with internet giant Google is “progressing steadily.”

“It is too early to say when exactly human clinical trials for these lenses will begin,” a spokeswoman for the Basel-based drugmaker said in an email on Friday.

“This is a very technically complex process and both sides are learning as we go along. We will provide updates at the appropriate time,” she said.

Novartis Chief Executive Joe Jimenez said last year his company’s Alcon eye care unit was on track to begin testing in 2016.

In 2014, Jimenez said he hoped the lens would be on the market in about five years.

Novartis and Google joined forces two years ago to develop two kinds of “smart” contact lenses: An autofocusing lens for people with presbyopia, or far-sightedness, and another for measuring blood glucose levels in diabetes patients.

The lenses are now being developed with Alphabet Inc.’s life sciences unit Verily, which was carved out from Google in 2015.

Measuring blood sugar via the eye could allow diabetics to stop having to prick their fingers, while an autofocus contact lens would help people whose ability to focus is impaired when their eyes age.

It is unclear when testing for the diabetes lens will start.

Since the partnership with Google was launched in 2014, Alcon’s sales have slid and its leadership team has been replaced.

New division head Mike Ball has been tasked with halting the revenue decline in advance of a possible sale of the unit.

But Novartis said that did not bar investment in innovative projects such as the lens effort with Google.

“Advancing innovation such as the smart lens technology, is a key part of Alcon’s growth strategy,” the spokeswoman said.

“The ‘smart lens’ technology has the potential to transform eye care and further enhance our pipeline … in the contact lens and intraocular lens space.”

IBM’s Watson Joins Fight Against Cancer

November 11, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

ibm-watson-research-150x150IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence platform has teamed up with researchers at MIT and Harvard to study how thousands of cancers mutate to become resistant to drug treatments that initially worked to beat back the disease.

By discovering how cancers adapt to overcome drug therapies, researchers at MIT’s and Harvard’s Broad Institute genomics research center hope to develop a new generation of therapies that cancers cannot circumvent.

While a growing number of treatments can hold cancers in check for months or years, most cancers eventually recur, according to the Broad Institute researchers. This is in part because tumors acquire mutations that make them drug resistant.

That cancer drug resistance is a major cause of nearly 600,000 annual deaths in the U.S. alone, according to Eric Lander, the founding director of the Broad Institute. While scientists have discovered the cause of drug resistance in a small number of cancer cases, which has led to the development of new, successful treatments, most cases are not fully understood.

The new five-year, $50 million genome project will study thousands of drug resistant tumors and draw on Watson’s computational and machine learning methods to help researchers understand how cancers become resistant to therapies.

The study’s funding will come from IBM.

Earlier this month, IBM and Quest Diagnostics launched IBM Watson Genomics, a service available to U.S. oncologists to help advance personalized medicine by combining cognitive computing with genomic tumor sequencing. The service marked the first time that Watson for Genomics was made widely available to patients and physicians across the country.

The collaboration with the Broad Institute announced today is the latest application of Watson for Genomics to help researchers and clinicians tackle the challenges and opportunities of cancer genomics.


Watson for Genomics will sift through anonymized patient data that will be made available to the scientific community to catalyze research worldwide, and uncover hidden patterns that could help scientists better understand the molecular underpinnings behind cancer treatment resistance.


Researchers Develop Smartphone Sensor That Detects Cancer

November 3, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

wsu-cancer-sensor-150x150Researchers at Washington State University have developed a portable sensor that utilizes smartphones cameras to detect a biological indicator for several types of cancers with 99% accuracy, yielding laboratory quality results.

The sensor, a light spectrometer, can process up to eight blood or tissue samples at the same time (or one sample in eight wells) and can detect the human protein  interleukin-6 (IL-6). That protein is a known biological marker for lung, prostate, liver, breast and epithelial cancers.

“At a time when patients and medical professionals expect always faster results, researchers are trying to translate biodetection technologies used in laboratories to the field and clinic, so patients can get nearly instant diagnoses in a physician’s office, an ambulance or the emergency room,” the researchers said in a statement.

A spectrometer analyzes the amount and type of chemicals in a sample by measuring the light spectrum. The research was published in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics.

While smartphone spectrometers exist today, the WSU researchers said the eight-channel smartphone spectrometer is unique, and inexpensive to produce — about $150.

A custom smartphone multi-view app uses the phone’s built-in camera and was developed to control the optical sensing parameters and to align each sample to the corresponding spectrometer channel. The captured images are converted into a  spectrum in the visible wavelength range.

The initial cancer spectrometer was created for an iPhone 5, but it can be adjusted to work with any smartphone, according to Lei Li, an assistant professor in WSU’s School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering. Li, who led the research team, also filed a provisional patent for the work.

“With our eight-channel spectrometer, we can put eight different samples to do the same test, or one sample in eight different wells to do eight different tests. This increases our device’s efficiency,” Li said.


SAP Buys Could Up-Start Altiscale

October 4, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

SAP the esoteric business software outfit which makes expensive business software which no one can be certain what it does, has just bought the cloud start-up Altiscale.

SAP said that Altiscale offers cloud based versions of the Hadoop and Spark open source software for storing, processing and analysing different types of data. It is thought that the deal was worth about $125 million but this is mostly guessing.

Altiscale has published a blog post to let its customers know that it will become a part of SAP. Apparently SAP wants to harness its technology:

“Altiscale is a natural fit for SAP, as we share our overall focus of helping enterprises derive business value from data — and successfully use big data. Since Altiscale is a leader in big data-as-a-service based on Hadoop and Spark, it enables SAP to drive end-to-end value in Big Data across the technology, data platform PaaS (platform as a service), analytics, and application stack”.

Raymie Stata, Altiscale cofounder and chief executive, notes that the startup will focus on integrating its technology with SAP and will also work on SAP strategy around data and platform.
Altiscale flogs its stuff to Accel Partners, AME Cloud Ventures, Northgate, General Catalyst Partners, Sequoia Capital and Wildcat Venture Partners.


Health Insurer Aetna To Offer Discount On Apple Smartwatches

September 29, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

aetna-and-apple-150x150Health insurer Aetna Inc said it would provide some customers discounts on Apple Inc’s smartwatch, marking the first deal made by the tech giant with an insurer for its devices.

Aetna, which has about 23 million members in the United States, will also give away the Apple Watch for free to its nearly 50,000 employees, Aetna said in a statement on Tuesday.

The deal could help Apple boost the appeal of its Watch to potential customers as the company looks to target health and fitness conscious users with its new device.

Aetna will discount a significant portion of the cost, and will offer users monthly payment options to pay off the remaining amount.

The discounts on the devices will vary for customers, according to Aetna spokesman Ethan Slavin.

However, reaction to the second edition of the Apple Watch has been muted since its launch earlier this month with the device likely to remain a niche offering, according to some analysts.

Apple shipped 1.6 million units of the original Apple Watch, in the second quarter, down by 56.7 percent from last year, according to research firm IDC.

In comparison, Fitbit Inc shipped 5.7 million units in that period.

Aetna is also developing health applications for Apple’s devices that will remind users to take their medications, order refills for prescriptions and message or call their doctor.

The applications, which will use Apple Wallet to allow customers to pay their bills, will be available early next year.

Surgical Robots Are Poised For Big Growth In Operating Rooms

July 29, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Although many physicians see need for improvement, surgical robots are poised for big gains in operating rooms worldwide.

Within five years, one in three U.S. surgeries – more than double current levels – is expected to be performed with robotic systems, with surgeons sitting at computer consoles guiding mechanical arms. Companies developing new robots also plan to expand their use in India, China and other emerging markets.

Robotic surgery has been long dominated by pioneer Intuitive Surgical Inc, which has more than 3,600 of its da Vinci machines in hospitals worldwide and said last week the number of procedures that used them jumped by 16 percent in the second quarter compared to a year earlier.

The anticipated future growth – and perceived weaknesses of the current generation of robots – is attracting deep-pocketed rivals, including Medtronic Inc and a startup backed by Johnson & Johnson and Google. Developers of the next wave aim to make the robots less expensive, more nimble and capable of performing more types of procedures, company executives and surgeons told Reuters.

Although surgical robots run an average of $1.5 million and entail ongoing maintenance expenses, insurers pay no more for surgeries that utilize the systems than for other types of minimally-invasive procedures, such as laparoscopy.

Still, most top U.S. hospitals for cancer treatment, urology, gynecology and gastroenterology have made the investment. The robots are featured prominently in hospital marketing campaigns aimed at attracting patients, and new doctors are routinely trained in their use.

Surgical robots are used in hernia repair, bariatric surgery, hysterectomies and the vast majority of prostate removals in the United States, according to Intuitive Surgical data.

Doctors say they reduce fatigue and give them greater precision.


MedStar Health Restoring Network After SamSam Ransomware Attack

April 1, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

MedStar Health announced that it is still restoring computer systems following a cyberattack that reportedly involved file-encrypting malware.

The not-for-profit organization, which runs 10 hospitals in the Washington, D.C., area, was hit with ransomware, the Baltimore Sun reported on Wednesday, citing two anonymous sources.

MedStar Health officials could not be immediately reached for comment. The organization issued two statements Wednesday, but did not describe what type of malware infected its systems.

It said in one statement that its IT team has worked continuously to restore access to three main clinical systems. It said no patient data or associate data was compromised.

Ransomware has become one of the most prevalent kinds of malware on the Internet although it has been around for more than a decade.

Several medical facilities have come forward over the last few weeks and publicly said ransomware had disrupted their operations. The targeting of medical groups has added a new and dangerous angle to these kinds of cyberattacks because patient care could be directly impacted.

MedStar encouraged patients on Wednesday to call doctor offices directly to make appointments, as it was still trying to restore its electronic appointment system.

Nonetheless, MedStar said it has been able to keep humming along. Since the attack, it has cared for 3,380 patients a day across 10 hospitals, performed 782 surgeries and delivered 72 babies.

“The malicious malware attack has created many inconveniences and operational challenges for our patients and associates,” according to a statement. “With only a few exceptions, we have continued to provide care approximating our normal volume levels.”

The Baltimore Sun reported the hackers offered MedStar a bulk decryption discount: three bitcoins to decrypt one computer, or 45 bitcoins, roughly US$18,500, to unlock them all.

Authorities are largely at a loss for how to stop ransomware. Some of the ransomware gangs, believed to be in Eastern Europe or Russia, are far out of the reach of law enforcement.





Bluetooth SIG Prepares For The IoT

February 16, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

Bluetooth SIG, the organization that coordinates development and promotes the use of our favorite communication platform named after a Danish king, has announced the arrival of a toolkit which it said will connect billions more devices to the Internet of Things (IoT).

The Bluetooth architecture and toolkit will allow developers, makers, hackers and OEMs to quickly and easily create connections with the cloud in a format that is already widely in use across almost every device imaginable.

The INQUIRER spoke to Martin Woolley, technical program manager at Bluetooth SIG, to tell us more.

“A lot of people aren’t aware of the possible range for Bluetooth devices. We know of one manufacturer whose chips can range up to 450m. It puts us in an ideal position to become a central part of the IoT. I’m particularly interested in the connected home and we can do amazing things there,” he said.

One of the key features that will give Bluetooth an advantage in this area is ‘meshing’, which is rolling out in the latest versions of the Bluetooth stack.

Bluetooth devices can bring connectivity where there was none before by adding IPv6 support and the ability for each Bluetooth device to act as a relay to others without a direct connection to a central hub, thus forming a ‘mesh’ around the premises. Their backwards compatibility means that it requires only the hub and a node to be mesh-ready to make the entire network compliant.

There are a number of other formats that have the march on Bluetooth in the IoT field, but Martin pointed out that there is good reason.

“It’s because it has been a massive undertaking and now it’s ready. It can be so easily configured to work with products already on the market which are currently using individual systems. There are 120 companies working together in the Mesh Working Group, Bluetooth is a standard for the IoT that already exists. The toolkit allows it to do more,” said Woolley.

Bluetooth has been instrumental to the BBC Microbit learners kit that has finally started distribution to UK schools. Bluetooth plays a big part in the communication capabilities of the device.

“I really think this is a landmark in computing. I really want to see the next generation of computer pioneers saying they were first sparked by the day they got their BBC Microbit,” he said.

The Bluetooth Internet Gateway Smart Starter Kit is available for download now.



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