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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 20, 2015

Swrve Raises $30m



Last week, mobile marketing software company Swrve raised $30 million in funding to further the company’s goal of global expansion and product development. To date, the company has raised more than $50 million, with this latest round led by Evolution Media Partners and Irish investment firm TPG Growth and Participant Media. 

The funding money was a huge victory for Swrve and its CEO Christopher Dean, who recently helped acquire, a data automation platform for mobile. 

With help from the latest round, Swrve and are positioned to roll out the latest produce line called Swrve Amplify, which allows clients to manage multichannel campaigns with real-time targeting data. 

“We’re excited about the simplicity of Swrve Amplify in allowing us to make real-time decisions based on all of our data sets,” said Dean. 

What he’s referring to is a combination of predictive analytics, which contain an evolving behavioral algorithm that predicts user behavior, segmentation, AB testing, and in-app messaging. The sum of these parts has resulted in the California-based company’s major success; today Swrve is considered the word’s leading mobile marking automation platform. 

In 2015, Swrve made considerable headway in terms of building out its client portfolio. Earlier this year, Swrve added The Guardian, Condé Nast, Glamsquad, Warner Brothers, and Microsoft to a growing client list.


Important Mobile Developments

“Mobile has reached a point where brands and games can’t ignore it,” said Dean. 

In addition to improving and simplifying omnichannel communications, Swrve is attempting to fully measure the app user’s collective behavior online as a distinct category of activity from the spectrum of devices and channels we choose (or don’t choose) to interact with every day. 

The end game is a more sophisticated advertising and marketing strategy for business, and what will hopefully result in more meaningful and relevant content for users. 

With the addition of $30 million, Dean and Swrve have found a bit of breathing room to let the innovation process begin. 

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


November 01, 2015

Mobile Helps Propel UK Adspend to Record Highs


According to the Advertising Association/Warc, UK ad spending hit a record high in 2015. Spending increased by 5.8% to reach £9.42bn in the first half of the year, and mobile is predicted to exceed the billion-pound barrier for the first time. Digital channels remain the force behind this growth, as Internet spending is up 13.3% for H1 to £3.9bn. Mobile makes up 79% of this growth, with ad spending increasing more than 52% to £1.08bn. 

Growth is noticeable throughout the industry, including both television and cinema forms. Only print has seen a decrease in revenue. 

“Advertising’s resilience points to the strength of the broader economy in the first half,” said Tim Lefroy, chief executive at the Advertising Association. “The UK leads the world in eCommerce and the trend to mobile means serving the public better ads in the right place at the right time.”

Ad spending is expected to demolish the £20bn barrier in 2016, with the Advertising Association’s media breakdown is as follows:  

  • Radio: Radio ad spending decreased by 2.2% to £116m in Q2, branded content excluded. Full-year growth is expected at 3.0% in 2015, and 2.3% with branded content included.
  • TV: Spot advertising “recorded solid YOY growth of 2.9% to £1,144m in Q2, compared to a quarter in which the FIFA World Cup was held last year.” TV spot advertising also enjoyed a fantastic Q1 via ad revenues rising to 11.5%. An “increase of 6.7% is forecast for 2015 as a whole.” 
  • Out of Home: YOY growth was strong at the beginning of 2015 with an increase of 9.7% in Q1, though it decreased 3.6% to £249m in Q2. 
  • Regional Newsbrands: These newsbrands saw a decline of 7.2% in ad spend in Q2 2015 compared to 2014. This “represents a 12.1% drop for print (to £246m) and a 24.0% increase for digital revenues (to £55m).” 
  • National Newsbrands: Print ad revenue decreased by a staggering 19.2% Q2 2015 to £239m. Digital ad spending, in comparison, increased 5.9% to £51m.
  • Magazine Brands: Ad spending declined by 6.8% in Q2. Print advertising saw a 11.0% decline to £168m, while digital saw an increase of 5.2% to £70m. 
  • Internet: Internet ad spending included a 12.8% increase in Q2 2015, which was followed by “revised growth of 13.9% in Q1 (+1.1pp).” Mobile made up 79% of total internet growth during H1, resulting in ad spending of £1,079m (up 52.1%). 

Cinema and direct mail ad spending saw increases as well. Separate Advertising Association research indicated the UK as the biggest mobile advertising spenders in Europe, and the third-highest spenders in the world following the United States and China. 

October 17, 2015

SMS Can Help Suicidal Teens Seek Help


Text messaging is an increasingly popular tool for public and essential services, forming a key part of their armories. Calling 911; reminding patients about doctor’s appointments; putting people in touch with mental health organizations - all these vital tasks can benefit from a communication technology now used more than any other.  

Now, teen suicide prevention has been added to that list.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers. According to the American Association of Suicidology, close to 5,300 under-24s took their own lives in 2013. Organizations like the Samaritans and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline operate contact centers offering 24/7 support to those in need, but many teens and young adults feel reluctant to make that call. Text messaging is a communication platform they’re comfortable with, at least as a first point of contact. It’s been successfully trialled by the U.S. Department of Veterans affairs for several years, and now the aforementioned suicide help lines are beginning to roll out their own SMS messaging services.

The Samaritans’ Massachusetts branch recently began a text messaging initiative to supplement the traditional phone line. At time of writing, it’s only available between the hours of 3pm-11pm - but it’s a start. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers SMS and online assistance at a number of its 160 crisis centers, and has so far found that nearly 40% of people reaching out for help via these channels have indicated they would not feel comfortable seeking help by phone.

Crisis center volunteers are generally young themselves, ranging from 16-30; they understand the language and quirks of text message communication, including grammatical idiosyncrasies and emojis. 

Many of us feel uncomfortable using the phone for even the most basic tasks, so something as important as expressing suicidal thoughts is enough to overwhelm people who are already under a huge amount of stress. Emotions that are hard to convey in a conversation can become clearer when written down. Additionally, text messaging offers a degree of privacy that a phone call cannot. Teens and young people who struggle to find a safe, private place to call a crisis center can turn to SMS messaging as a discreet alternative. If, for instance, a kid is being repeatedly bullied on the school bus, they can communicate with a volunteer even as they face bullies. 

The hope is that these organizations and others will make SMS messaging services as easily and widely available as phone help lines.

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 26, 2015

Are Canadian Banks Mobile Ready?


According to a new report from CenturyLink entitled Banks: Customers Expect That You’re Always On and Available, Are You Ready?, 40 percent of Canadian banking executives say they do not have the IT infrastructure required to meet customers’ core banking service needs.  

“To stay competitive in a technology-driven marketplace, Canadian banks must be both financial institutions and mobile technology innovators,” said Roji Oommen, managing director of financial services at CenturyLink. “Given that many of these banks don’t believe they have the infrastructure in place to fully embrace mobile technology, strategic technology partners like CenturyLink can help identify and integrate the right IT and mobile technology solutions.”

The CenturyLink report notes that 26 percent of Canadians use mobile banking, which is up five percent from 2010. Much like Americans, Canadians now expect secure, round-the-clock solutions for their banking needs, making the call for mobile banking options greater than ever. 


Challenges for Banks

However, Canadian banks are struggling to meet these demands. Even the biggest names in Canadian banking note the pressure they feel to “get their products to market quickly,” and that their new tech-based competitors are “a disruptive force.” They still list digital customer service as a top priority, though they feel they lack the resources to make mobile payments and similar services happen quickly. In addition to the more than one-third of C-suite executives who say they don’t have the IT infrastructure they need to meet customer expectations, nearly 70 percent say they don’t have the infrastructure for digital channels, or the means to improve them. 

Canadian banks subsequently need not only to work with current mobile trends, but also to plan for the future. The future of mobile banking solutions, according to CenturyLink, is all about mobile-first applications that personalize the consumer experience. Most Canadians own at least one mobile device, and are very Internet happy, as they clock around 45 hours of usage per person per month. As of 2012, over 6.7 million Canadians pay their bills online. 

Despite widespread mobile use among Canadians, security issues still loom. Many older Canadians pay with cash due to perceived security threats, however use of cash is diminishing among Canadians of all ages.  

So how can Canadian banks provide customers with the mobile options they need and compete on a global scale? Outsourcing IT infrastructure is one solution currently being considered by banking executives. Ensuring mobile banking solutions are completely secure is another. Mobile banking is hardly a trend; rather it’s something that’s absolutely here to stay. Canadian banks must work with technology partners to make certain they go forward instead of remaining stagnant.

September 22, 2015

Making Mobile Banking Less Risky


The world of work has undergone some radical changes over the last decade. Businesses have offices and employees scattered all over the globe; meetings take place via optic cables and tablet screens. The very notion of a ‘headquarters’, where all the important stuff happens, seems anachronistic in 2015. 

One of the key concerns for this diffuse employment culture is ensuring the security of financial transactions conducted over wireless mobile networks. There are a few ways to do this, each with their own advantages and drawbacks:


SMS Messaging

SMS has changed the banking industry inside and out, enhancing customer service and improving internal communications in a secure, reliable way. According to research by OpenMarket and International Data Corp (IDC), almost 90% of financial services companies believe mobile messaging has had a positive impact on the user experience, and 73% see text messages as an effective way to communicate with employees. 

SMS’ secret weapon is two-factor authentication (2FA), which drastically reduces the risk of fraudulent activity on an account. Even with 2FA in place, most financial organizations send notifications regarding high-dollar, high-risk transactions. 

The benefits of mobile banking go further than security (though, clearly, that’s the priority for both customer and bank). One in five financial services companies are using mobile messaging to ensure business continuity and enhance multichannel capacity, and one in four use it to improve risk mitigation (according to the IDC study). More than a third of banks use SMS to attract new business and improve retention rates for existing customers. 



Face, voice and fingerprint biometrics are making headway into finance security management. Facial recognition usually requires users to look at a screen and blink when prompted; for voice recognition, they read a short phrase.  

The simplicity of these actions is significant. It means biometrics and mobile messaging needn’t be mutually exclusive for the sake of convenience - they can work together to create a multi-factor authentication process that enhances security. Add to that the security of a password-restricted biometrics app, contained on the mobile device of the user, and you have a pretty tight ship.


Behavioral Biometrics

Even newer and shinier than physical biometrics is the concept of behavioral biometrics. It works by monitoring session behavior in desktop, mobile and cloud apps and creating a unique profile that draws on physiological data such as palm size and swipe and press patterns, as well as behavioral traits like usage preference and location habits. 

A number of behavioral biometrics systems are being developed for use by banks. Clearly, these additional layers of risk analysis and security can help protect customers - even across multiple devices - and provide a more frictionless experience at the same time.

This is all good news for mobile banking, which is already used by around half of customers at the main U.S. banks. Passwords are still expected by users, so are unlikely to disappear from view any time soon. Behavioral and physical biometrics are beginning to run alongside traditional log in data as a secondary line of defense, continually tracking the online tendencies of users to build an accurate picture and identify cyber security risks more quickly. The beauty of biometrics for the user is that there’s no need to download software or endure long sign up processes. All they have to do is, literally, be themselves.


September 07, 2015

Avoid These Common Mobile App Marketing Mistakes


Mobile apps have taken the world by storm.  A recent study cited in Forbes estimates that by 2017, 87 percent of all connectable devices sold will be mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Companies that aren’t marketing on mobile are missing out, however companies that market badly on mobile networks are simply wasting their energy.

Here are some of the most common mobile app marketing mistakes and the top ways to avoid them:


Using the same marketing strategies you’ve always used.

Mobile is not your traditional media, and it doesn’t mesh well with traditional marketing strategies, according to a recent white paper by Fiksu. Traditional marketing often fails to resonate with mobile-first audiences, who are increasingly younger groups with a keen sense of their likes, dislikes, and desires.

In order to avoid this mistake, don’t market for a broad audience. Instead, leverage data-driven marketing tools to put specific messages in front of specific audiences.  Then, give audiences a way to interact, such as by downloading a free item, playing a game, or clicking a link to learn more.


Assuming you can simply transfer the desktop experience to mobile.

Mobile users are, by definition, on the go. Meanwhile, a desktop website or app rarely translates well to the smaller touchscreen format of mobile devices.  A “mobile” site that simply recreates the regular site, but at one-eighth the size, is likely to be baffling, un-navigable, and take too long to load. Any one of these will cause a user to click away quickly.

Instead, a recent article in Kissmetrics recommends crafting a mobile-specific version of your desktop site. Aim for something that will load in three seconds or less, has a few easy-to-read menus, and puts the essential message of your brand front and center.


Failing to tailor content to mobile messaging.

Whether you choose an app, a mobile site, SMS messaging, or all three, you should tailor your content to meet your specific goals. For instance, to send a link to users, make sure the link fits well into a text message or email, and then make sure that the content it links to works on all devices.  


Building an app without promoting it.

Over half a million apps currently exist, according to one Entrepreneur article, and more are created every day.  Without a plan for promoting your business’s app, even the most carefully designed, appealing, and easy-to-use apps will quickly get lost in the “noise.”  Before you launch the app, make sure you know how you’re going to promote it to existing customers and to new ones and follow through.


Neglecting to track and optimize marketing in real time.

Sure, millions of potential customers use mobile devices.  But how many of them are you reaching? What’s the payoff for the money and effort you’ve sunk into your mobile outreach? How could you do better?

Mobile marketing changes even more quickly than traditional marketing.  Today’s “sure thing” traffic source is tomorrow’s ghost town. To make sure your message keeps reaching your target audience, track the data and respond to the trends and patterns you see.

Engage customers, integrate networks, and decrease costs by working with a company that specializes in making mobile app marketing work for you.