56 posts categorized

November 24, 2015

Saving Lives with Mobile Technology



The thought of surgery being performed by a robot might be a bit too close to science fiction for folks to stomach. However, the healthcare industry is quickly approaching the intersection of once far-fetched medical technology and a global need for better healthcare. 

Mobile technology is a huge part of this growing trend in health sectors across the country, and the world. In fact, mobile advancements in healthcare are predicted to play a large role in saving lives, and influencing preventative medicine. Here’s a closer look at some of the specific mobile advancements on the cusp of this fast-approaching technological horizon:


Healthcare and Gamification 

Along with making medical technology more available, creating ways to empower and proactively engage patients for long-term success is just as important as medical prognosis. 

Gamification involves adding game elements to the outpatient process and preventative repertoire to help patients stay on track with a diet, take their medicine, and maintain healthy habits.

We’ve already seen great examples of this in mobile apps like Luminosity, for brain stimulation, and HAPIfork, which monitors healthy eating. By incorporating mobile technology into the medical paradigm, doctors can help patients well after they leave the hospital. 


Comprehensive Communications 

Mobile is also a unique tool in healthcare because of the communication access it delivers and its ability to spread information democratically. The Internet and digital resources play a large roll in this as well, but mobilizing these resources has added millions of new Internet users to the healthcare network.

In 2014, mobile Internet access surpassed desktop usage—in other words, the mobile community is farther-reaching than ever before, making it possible to share, crowdsource, store, and gather pieces of medical information on a globalized network.


Saving Lives 

Aside from these abstract healthcare improvements, mobile technology has the ability to save lives immediately. For example, UNICEF has implemented a mobile communication system in one of the most dangerous and densely populated areas in the world: the Gaza Strip. 

Using mobile technology, school children in these areas are able to attend school more regularly, and safely, by allowing school administrators to communicate with parents directly. School administrators can send out SMS messages warning parents of potential treats, as well as let them know when school will resume. Since 2011, 29 schools have used this program regularly, and more than 11,000 students are benefiting from the results. 

From 3D printing and robotic nurses, to wearable tech and live-streaming surgery, the future may be in fact be closer than we think, and mobile technology has found a relevant niche within this growth to do its part in making the world a healthier and safer place to live. 

November 04, 2015

Can Smartphones Help Manage Bipolar Disorder?


Bipolar disorder is a condition characterized by mood swings that vary from extreme elation to severe depression. Patients suffering from this mental illness experience extreme highs and hyperactivity, and at other times suffer devastating lows and lethargy. Because symptoms of most mental disorders can only be seen as changes in a person’s behavior, rather than a chemical or biological change, treating these mood changes can be extremely difficult. But recent studies indicate that phone apps may be able to help people with bipolar disorder manage their conditions so that they can live more productive lives.



Italian researchers have found that smartphones can be used to diagnose and manage mental health illnesses such as bipolar disorder. Thanks to their built-in sensors, sudden mood changes can be tracked easily. Just recently, computer scientist Venet Osmani of the Trento, Italy-based Centre for Research and Telecommunication Experimentation for Networked Communities (CREATE-NET) used data mining to study human behavior and health. He knew that people with bipolar disorder often demonstrated signature behavior patterns and used smartphones to measure these patterns. According to Osmani, the behavior patterns associated with bipolar disorder can be accurately detected by smartphone sensors, which allow changes in mood to be spotted as they occur. This is amazing news for patients, as it could lead to faster treatment and better outcomes for sufferers.


How the Smartphone App Works

How will the smartphone app work? The bipolar manic phase is often characterized by physical hyperactivity, which can be measured by an accelerometer and a GPS; symptoms like rapid speech could be measured by sound analysis software, and frequent conversations monitored through phone call patterns. Similarly, slow movements, fewer locations travelled, sluggish speech, and fewer conversations with others can be signs of the depressive phase. The app includes GPS information to localize the user in case of a manic crisis, and it can be used either as part of a treatment with a therapist or as a standalone app. There are currently a number of different apps on the market being used to detect mental and physical ailments as they occur. This is just the beginning of how innovation is changing medicine.



All of this is good news for bipolar sufferers. Patients with bipolar disorder are more susceptible to stress events or changes in their routine. With a smartphone app, the possibility of early detection in a patient’s state could mean facilitating timely intervention and getting him or her the best treatment possible. 

For the most party, treating bipolar illness comes after the fact. Patients are usually given questionnaires after an episode has already occurred. An accurate way of diagnosing mood changes in real-time would be hugely useful, both for patients and their health providers to predict oncoming symptoms. 

With technology continuing to change, and innovation creating better and faster ways to communicate, many of today’s health problems might soon be more easily detected. 


Written by Jeremy Pollack


October 28, 2015

Mobile Tech as CPR Guide


It’s always nice to see technology working for the greater good and not merely motivated by profit. Some apps, like PulsePoint, aren’t working for profit at all—they’re in the business of saving lives. The non-profit app has been endorsed by a number of agencies including the American Heart Association and the Red Cross for delivering updated CPR guidelines and empowering the public to become more than bystanders at the scene of an emergency.  

Did you know that almost sixty perfect of US adults have had training to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or use an automated external defibrillator (AED)? What’s more, these trained individuals would be willing to put their skills to good use in the event of an emergency. However, it’s been estimated that only 11 percent of these people ever use their training. 

These numbers have become a viable resource in the fight against heart diseases and the struggle to protect patients who succumb to cardiac arrest. Using mobile technology, PulsePoint has modernized the CPR guidelines while finding a way to tap into this trained population. 

In the event that someone goes into cardiac arrest, the time it takes the EMS team or paramedics to arrive can greatly impact that person’s chance of resuscitation. Starting CPR quickly can double and sometimes triple the rate of survival. Now, imagine a well-trained and mobilized populace that could provide assistance during this critical window.


How the App Works 

That’s where PulsePoint comes in. Individuals trained in CPR, or the use of an AED, register with the app and are notified if they’re ever in the proximity of someone experiencing cardiac arrest. The app is also equipped to notify the trained individual where they may locate the nearest public AED. 

Once the EMS workers arrives, they’ll take over—but until then, having help there a few moments sooner could be the difference between life and death. As soon as someone calls 9-1-1 with a cardiac arrest emergency, the app alerts anyone nearby that has installed PulsePoint and is trained in CPR.

The app is already working in cities both big and small, including places like Cleveland and Fargo, North Dakota.

One of the most interesting features of this app is that it has a lot of crossover potential into other areas of public health, education, and security. Depending on how well the app does in assisting with cases of cardiac arrest, we might see variations of this software developed for other civil service functions.  

October 20, 2015

Be Wary of the Latest Text Message Bank Fraud Scam


Internet scams make the news fairly regularly, spurring conversations about prevention with advice from experts as well as victims. While most of us know not to provide personal information via email, or when asked to do so by a pop-up window, few practice the same caution with regards to their smartphones. 

The latest scam involving identity theft is presenting itself to mobile users via text messages. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) recently got involved after several complaints surfaced regarding text massages from alleged financial institutions requesting data verification through a live link in the message. The BBB warned consumers about the fraudulent texts and reminded them of a similar case back in 2012. 


How it Works 

According to the BBB, mobile users were receiving alerts from their personal banks, asking them to verify their names, online IDs, and passwords at a site linked in the messages. In most cases the URL had the bank’s name included (or some variation of the name) and appeared to be almost identical to the legitimate website. Unsuspecting users would enter their personal data into the fraudulent site and would become at rick of identity theft and subsequent financial loss.  

Scams like these are, in essence, very similar to those we regularly encounter on laptop or desktop computers—usually via email or pop-up window. Over time most people have learned to avoid these scams and report them to the appropriate authorities.

So, what makes this so different? The success of this scam is tied to the emotional and irrational belief that our smartphones are safer because they are typically in our possession at all times. The intimate space of text messaging is falsely perceived as secure, more trustworthy, and relevant. 

This is unfortunately not the case. Just like unwanted push notifications, incoming solicitations and scams are very real threats if certain settings are left unchecked on a smartphone.


How to Combat Text Scams 

Most of have learned to deal with dubious emails and pop-up windows by deleting suspicious messages. Use the same caution on your smart device. Ignore the instructions of a text message asking for your participation to retrieve or verify personal data via text.

Further, you should check your phone bill every month. Check for services you haven’t ordered. Fraudulent changes may appear as one-time charges or be labeled ‘subscriptions,’ and may appear on each monthly bill.  

Commercial text messages, push notifications, and text subscriptions should lawfully provide you with an easy way to unsubscribe from them. If the option doesn’t appear to be available to you, check with your service provider to ensure your account hasn’t been compromised.  

Finally, ask your phone carrier about blocking third-party charges. Most phone carriers allow third parties (app companies, special ringtone services, etc.) to charge you for their services. Some carriers also have a way to block third parties from making charges. 

Don’t be afraid to call your service provider if you ever have any questions or suspect fraudulent activity. The worst thing mobile users can do if they suspect they are being scammed or unlawfully charged for services they don’t receive is nothing. Be proactive about your mobile safety, and you won’t become a victim of mobile scams. 

October 14, 2015

Infographic: Breast Cancer Awareness



October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so we decided to look at the role mobile technology has to play in fighting the disease. 


September 30, 2015

SMS Is Helping Women in Kenya Track Their Pregnancies


In remote areas of east Africa, regular healthcare for expecting mothers is hard to find. Nairobi, Kenya, for example, is desperately impoverished; the infant mortality rate in this region is one of the highest in Africa, with 40 out of 1000 babies not living past infancy. This is a story Malele Ngalu, marketing director for Kenya-based Totohealth, laments on a personal level. 

Ngalu was born in Africa; his mother faced medical disadvantages that resulted in the loss of his twin brother shortly after birth. Today, Ngalu has teamed up with Felix Kimaru, founder of Totohealth, a free SMS text service to help mothers and their infant children during a five-year program.  

Kimaru has raised more than $50,000 to get his startup off the ground and implemented in several rural areas throughout east Africa. Nairobi was one of the first areas Kimaru and Ngalu tackled, sampling the service to 2,000 parents.

According to Ngalu, most parents don’t realize their infant is sick until it’s too late. 

“We asked the parents why they did not bring the children in when they saw they had a problem, and they said they didn’t know there was one,” he said.


Texting for Health

To combat this problem, Kimaru has developed content to be delivered on a weekly basis via text message. The content relates to various developmental stages (up to the age of 5) as well as women’s health. The texts also advise regular checkups and include ready access to a help desk, where trained medical doctors and nurses are available to answer questions, as well as refer parents to nearby clinics or hospitals.

Since its launch early last year, Totohealth has seen significant user growth across the continent. Word of mouth from the original 2,000 users helped double the number of parents actively using the service in nearly 30 different countries. 

Unlike most developed countries, providing this service via app is not yet possible in east Africa—the infrastructure just doesn’t exist yet. 

“Even in low income settings like Kibera, the majority of people have basic phones,” said Ngalu.  

Most basic phones have the ability to receive and send text messages, so for the time being, SMS is the best way to deliver the information as well as track patient progress.  

According to Kimaru, the parents who use the service have a 96 percent likelihood of attending every recommended checkup and appointment. These kinds of results are getting the attention of large groups like the World Health Organization. 

The other advantage to using text is that it’s relatively inexpensive, costing only about 25 cents a month per user. Right now, county governments are footing the bill for the service, hoping that government policy and social awareness will help drive further change to reform maternal programs.  

Kimaru is looking to raise another $300,000 in funding to expand Totohealth’s operations throughout other parts of Africa. 

September 01, 2015

Infographic: How Mobile Has Transformed Education

In 2015, the vast majority of American teenagers have access to some kind of mobile device, and most classrooms provide Internet connectivity. Textbooks have been replaced by tablets and e-readers, and new apps are constantly being developed to help our young people learn more effectively. There's no doubt about it: within a generation, technology has made education practically unrecognizable to those of us who  attended school with nothing more sophisticated than a calculator...


August 28, 2015

How to Reach Students with Your Mobile Marketing Campaign


There’s a good reason marketers scramble to get the attention of college students. Sure, they’re increasingly hard to reach, but according to a new eMarketer report, college students are “poised to out-earn and outspend non-college millennials for decades to come.” 

There are 19 million college students in the US, and nearly all of them are mobile users engaged in multiple social networks. These networks have become the primary playground for creative marketers, as they bypass traditional media buys with shareable content. 


The Social Student 

College students aren’t just looking to be entertained. According to the report, students are influenced to buy by several factors including peer recommendations and money-saving discounts. While this may or may not be surprising, it does speak to the tech-savvy side of millennials—marketers can’t just throw money at targeted mobile displays or video. A student-targeted mobile marketing campaign needs to be cleverer than that.  

According to Michael Hanley, an advertising professor at Ball State University, “About 65 percent of students report receiving mobile ads, and 70 percent of them don’t like it.”

Social campaigns are the remedy to this marketing problem. Matt Britton, CEO of MRY, a creative and technology agency headquarter in New York, said, “The most effective form of social media marketing is always creating content that’s highly shareable.” 


Short and Sweet 

To keep marketers on their toes, the sharable content should also be compact—small enough to consume within the restrictive space of mobile screens and short attention span of the college user. 

“When you think about people on their phones,” Britton continued, “they’re scrolling so quickly that if you try to come up with long-form content, they’re not going to take time to read it.”

Some apps are built for this kind of content; SnapChat and Vine, for example, proliferate this kind of content with an emphasis on creativity and viralability. Marketers simply have to find ways to appeal to students from within these and other social networks to succeed in communicating new products and services. Explore what these apps can do for your next mobile marketing campaign.


Say Less, Show More 

Britton also advises the use of imagery as a means to communicate more effectively within the time and size constraints. Instagram is one app that has defined the practical use of creative imagery to build brand recognition and communicate sales and discounts. Moreover, GIFs have recently increased in popularity across nearly every social media channel, which really drives home Britton’s point.  

Does this mean the written word is doomed on the Internet? As far as marketers are concerned, it would seem so, with long-form content being replaced by hashtags and images that are presumably worth 1,000 words. As for the students, most of their reading must get done in textbooks. 



August 16, 2015

BYOD Has Taken Off in Our Schools


If you had asked me ten years ago if I thought it was a good idea to allow students access to personal mobile devices during class time, I would have shuddered at the thought. I belong to one of the last generations that can remember what life was like before iPhones, tablets and Google. My younger sister, born only four years later, can hardly remember a time before AOL.  

For those of us who can make the distinction, I think it’s healthy to fear the unknown ramifications of our tech advancements, particularly on the youth. However, not everyone agrees with this view. 

Despite how many of us might feel about technology in the classroom, nobody wants to be the one stuck harping on the past. Today’s young learners have become so accustomed to mobile, tablets, and desktop computers that it would seem regressive to deny them access to these tools during a formal education—tools that may help students to learn smarter, faster, and more efficiently. 

Instead of resisting what comes naturally to these students, wouldn’t it be better to change the way we teach

According to a report by Sophic Capital, mobile education is the platform of choice for current students and teachers. The popularity and accessibility of mobile devices has made them as common among students as pens and paper. Many school districts are taking advantage of this and adopting Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) polices. 


What Is BYOD?

The BYOD policy provides educational institutions with a way to implement technology in the classroom and manage budgets by putting most of the cost on students. Instead of spending money on a uniform platform or device, students can use the device they already have or are most comfortable using. 

The benefits are unique and largely new to the landscape of public education. First, students will take ownership of the learning process by having more control over the ways in which some information is received. Further, they will have more flexibility outside of the classroom to review material during times most suitable to their schedule. 

Teachers will also gain significant insight into their students’ progress, gaining valuable analytical tools. Teachers can also communicate with students more regularly and gather real-time information from students to ensure material is being absorbed properly; if not, the teacher will have more time to adjust the lesson plan.  

If it all sounds too good to be true, that’s because there are some serious drawbacks that must be addressed. For most of the educational tools to function within the BYOD policy, students will also need access to the Internet. Parents and administrators alike agree that open access to the web is dangerous. From social media, inappropriate content, and predatory concerns, the list of issues and dangers grows with every passing year.  Formal safeguards among school districts have included comprehensive network security, limited access, and monitoring. Time will tell if these safeguards are enough to proliferate BYOD polices across the country. 

August 14, 2015

Textbooks Vs. Tablets


In 2013, the Los Angeles Unified School District made headlines for spending $30 million on iPads for nearly 640,000 students. Currently, the K-12 publishing market is an $8 billion industry, dominated by just three publishes: McGraw, Pearson, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The debate as to whether more school districts should make the digital leap is met with fierce opposition from publishers as well as other tech naysayers, who see the value of printed textbooks unrivaled by tablets.  

Why should school districts replace textbooks? If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right? Textbooks aren’t broken, but students today learn and engage differently with technology than previous generations. Tablets allow students to feel empowered by the learning process by playing to their strengths. Moreover, most K-12 teachers believe technology benefits students’ learning goals. 

Some of the more practical reasons tablets are working well in places like Los Angeles involve the hardware itself. For starters, one tablet has the ability to store more books than a student will ever need for the entire duration of his or her public education. Plus, in addition to textbooks, tablets can store homework, quizzes, and tests, eliminating heavy loads from students’ backpacks and desks. 

Additionally, tablets allow teachers to give their students the most accurate and up-to-date information possible. Publishers have been criticized for making minor amendments to text volumes and charging schools top dollar for new editions. Once textbooks go digital, the print costs will be eliminated, which will result in textbook savings of as much as 60% for school districts. 

But aren’t iPads expensive? Yes, they are. One of the strongest arguments against a paperless system is that technology doesn’t come cheap. The trouble isn’t so much with the tablet cost as all the software and infrastructure school districts would have to develop to support these devices. To put things into perspective, the average battery life of a tablet is less than the length of a school day. Imagine 640,000 iPads plugged in: that’s a lot of juice.

Additionally, wear and tear on a textbook can go much further than on an iPad. And a forgotten textbook on a picnic table doesn’t have the same appeal as a state-of-the-art tablet. Some paperless opponents believe students will be targeted for theft if tablets become a common student item. 

There are more obvious problems facing the paperless fight. Open access to the Internet is like opening Pandora’s box; students are notoriously distracted by social media, gaming, and texting. 

Whatever stance a school district takes, the omnipresence of mobile in student life will remain. Will we choose to adapt to student preferences, or are the risks too high?