Saturday, January 30, 2010

Microbes and Us

Microbes and us from Aurametrix, Live on Vokle, February 12, 2010 

an improved version of my last diagram :Image:...Image via Wikipedia

Who's the True You? A human or a habitat for microbial communities?

Immediately after birth, every macroscopic creature is colonized by myriads of micro-critters that outnumber cells comprising the host.

Guts, ears, nose, skin, mouth, vagina, all environmentally exposed surfaces are home to thousands of species of bacteria, protists, algae, fungi (including yeast, molds, etc) and viruses. The types of microbes vary systematically across body habitats and time, as well as geographical location. Each finger tip is likely to have a distinct set of residents, so are left and right palms. If you are a woman, the number of populating you species is even larger.

Known as microbiota, the trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms could be our little friends. Some of them, dubbed probiotics, help to metabolize calories , provide nutrients, even shape immune responses during health and disease. A common gut bacteria called Bacteroides fragilis alleviates inflammation by restoring a balance of immune cells. It was shown to prevent inflammatory bowel disease in mice. Other bacteria shown to be protective in inflammatory bowel disease includes Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus salivarius, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subspecies bulgaricus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium infantis, Escherichia coli Nissle 1917, Streptococcus salivarius subspecies thermophilus, Bacteriodes thetaiotaomicron, Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, etc.

Many other diseases called autoimmune strike when the immune system gets out of balance. Perhaps some microorganisms could protect us not only from IBD but also from disorders such as asthma, type-1 diabetes, or multiple sclerosis (incidence of which increased more than 3 times in the past years).

Humans are much more similar to one another at the level of the genome than the microbiome. Microbial ratios change with an individual's weight, travels, medications, stress, diet. For early men, changes in bacterial ratios favoring increased fat/energy storage was beneficial - as the periods when food was plentiful would be always followed by times when food is scarce. For a modern man, this is a potential health hazard rather than an advantage.

The most abundant bacterial groups detected by molecular screening are Bacteroides (relatively stable population profile) and the bacteria belonging to the Clostridium coccoides group and the Clostridium leptum group (see this article on the Normal Bacterial Flora of Humans).
A lower proportion of gram-positive anaerobes related to Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, Ruminococcus flavefaciens-Ruminococcus bromii, Eubacterium rectale-Clostridium coccoides, and Eubacterium cylindroides. The most widely promoted prebiotics inulin and fructooligosaccharides (neither is absorbed in the upper gastrointestinal tract) have been suggested to increase the number of bifidobacteria. Dahlia inulin was shown to cause a pronounced increase in the number of bacteria related to R. flavefaciens-R. bromii and E. cylindroides.

Other findings suggest that heavier individuals may have a different makeup of gut bugs than thin ones. The gut microbiota of obese mice has been shown to have significantly more of one main type of bacteria called Firmicutes and fewer of another kind called Bacteroidetes (both types populate human guts as well); in normal mice, the distribution is the opposite.
Whether you call them thongs, flip-flops or jandals, the simple rubber sandals could be a breeding ground for bacteria too. They allow easy access to oxygen, skin cells and oils, dirt and moisture. Eighty per cent of the population already have Staphylococcus aureus - found on sandals after being work for 4 days - on their skin, in their nose and armpits, yet this microbe aureus could make you pretty sick if it gets into a cut and into your blood, and if your immune system is not robust.
Some of bad bacteria can be even found in bottled water or in Fast Food Soda Fountains (see this article published in International Journal of Food Microbiology). 48% of soda fountains at fast food restaurants contain coliform bacteria. More than 11% of the beverages analyzed contained Escherichia coli and over 17% contained Chryseobacterium meningosepticum. Other opportunistic pathogenic microorganisms isolated from the beverages included species of Klebsiella, Staphylococcus, Stenotrophomonas, Candida, and Serratia.

Bacterial phylotypes Clostridium cocleatum, Clostridium thermosuccinogenes, Coprobacillus catenaformis, Ruminococcus bromii-like, Ruminococcus torques and R. torques were detected in similar amounts in IBS-C and IBS-D patients. C. thermosuccinogenes, however, was quantified in significantly different quantities depending on constipation or diarrhea-predominant cases. Bacteria similar to R. torques was more prevalent in IBS-D patients' intestinal microbiota than in that of control subjects. a R. bromii-like phylotype was associated with IBS-C patients. These findings further emphasized the possible contribution of the gastrointestinal microbiota in IBS. For IBD, novel invasive species of Escherichia coli possibly replacing some Clostridiales were found in inflamed mucosa. The number of E.coli correlated with the severity of Crohn's disease involving the ileum.

Differences in microbiota may depend on genetics, metabolism, environmental exposures during childhood, state of health. Selective increase in novel invasive species of E.coli seems to be involved in the etiopathogenesis to Crohn's disease involving the ileum (different species are implicated in UC). Other bacterial species specific to Crohn's are B. ovatus and B. vulgatus.
Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Encephalopathy/Chronic Fatique Syndrome may be another condition caused by microbes. People with Cystic Fibrosis, for example, have more microbes enriched in aromatic amino acid metabolism in their airways. Note that this disease causes a distinct acidic breath - the more severe the condition is in an individual, the more acidic his breath becomes. The microbes were especially sensitive to amino-acid starvation indicating that therapeutic measures may be more effective if used to change the respiratory environment, as opposed to shifting the taxonomic composition of resident microbiota.

Altered breath resulting from changed micrflora is a known phenomenon and it can be detected not only by complex mass spec machines, but also by devices used in QA testing of foods (e.g. Cyranose pick up the scent of penzane, isoprene acetone, and benzene in the breath of lung cancer patients) and car air quality sensors to study human "fermentome". Hydrogen Sulfide Urine Test was developed (Kenny de Meirleir's work on testing was never published in a Peer Reviewed Journal) and is available for at-home use. Some people, however, prefer to use their nose instead of spending money for testing kits. Candida overgrowth usually is not associated with excess hydrogen sulfide. Biomed diagnostics offers inexpensive tests for Candida species.
Their InTrayTM ColorexTM Screen also detects E.coli, Proteus mirabilis, Enterococcus sp., Klebsiella pneumnaiae, Staphylococcus aureus bacteria and Dermatophytes fungi. Many tests are available for urinary tract infections and various metabolites in urine. See also ongoing clinical trials on chemicals in human breath for diagnostics of diseases. The science of Grossology has only just scratched the surface of all the possibilities.

So, even seemingly innocent gut bacteria may be affecting many aspects of health and behavior. One day we may be even allowed to say: I’m sorry, sir, my microbes made me do it.

Even though the vast majority of our microbes are good for us or can be even used for diagnostics of the processes in our bodies, some are there to get us, contributing to skin diseases, body odor, malabsorption, gastrointestinal problems, ear infections and more.

Almost anything we touch or wear could be a breeding ground for bacteria. Remember the heavily reblogged and retwitted statement: "Wearing headphones for just an hour will increase the bacteria in your ear by 700 times"? Well, not exactly 700 times, 11 times and these are mostly our own bacteria that liked heat and humidity created in the ears and started to multiply more actively, but pretty much anything you stick in your ears - stethoscopes, hearing aids, audiological gear - comes out covered in microbes.

Parade beads could be be contaminated with bacteria too. Gasparilla beads, were shown to be covered with several types of bacteria includinf E. coli and salmonella.

Even cigarettes - besides their harmful toxic chemicals - host a bacterial bonanza —hundreds of different germs, including those responsible for many human illnesses, according to a new study. For example, Campylobacter, which can cause food poisoning and Guillain-Barre Syndrome; Clostridium, which causes food poisoning and pneumonias; Corynebacterium, also associated with pneumonias and other diseases; E. coli; Klebsiella, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Stenotrophomonas maltophilia, all of which are associated not only with pneumonia but also with urinary tract infections; and a number of Staphylococcus species that underlie the most common and serious hospital-associated infections.

Anoter source of pathogens is undercooked and spoiled food. Take pork, for example. Five out of 90 samples of retail pork in Lousiana tested positive for MRSA — an antibiotic-resistant staph infection — thanks to antibiotics piglet's ears. MRSA (pronounced “mersa”) stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus whose new strain ST398 is on the rise.

And of course, people could also pass microbes to each other: Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) (causing mononucleosis - infamously known as the kissing disease), Herpes Simplex Virus-1 (causing cold sores) bacterium Streptococcus (causing various infections such as gum disease and strep throat), H.pylori, Candida or other yeast species, Hepatitis B Virus and cytomegalovirus (CMV) are spread via oral transmission from microbe-containing saliva.

How can we control populations of microbes colonizing us? Besides drugs wiping out entire populations - assuming they are not resistant to these drugs, food could help in cultivation efforts too. Example: vinegar. It was shown to reduce counts of not-so-benefitial bacteria. Diluted solutions of various household sanitizers (apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, bleach, and a reconstituted lemon juice product) were tested for their effectiveness in reducing counts of inoculated Escherichia coli and naturally present aerobic, mesophilic bacteria on lettuce. Of the sanitizers tested, 35% white vinegar (1.9% acetic acid) was the most effective in reducing E. coli and other aerobic microbes.

Aurametrix is developing decision support systems to help you evaluate health risks, decide on preventative measures, estimate cost/benefits of performing diagnostic tests, determine your nutrition needs and life style adjustments. Better solutions for a healthier world.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Silicon Valley Meetups and Startups

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Highlights of January Meetups (that we did not have the time to attend):

Co-founders wanted January meetup

High Note,
Customized Concerts
Contact; Chongkee at
Looking for: Expert ROR developer, Equity only

Contact: Aaron Tait
Seeking equity compensated founders and investors
personalized broadband TV
Contact: sethc at

Bright Lights
Headlight restoration

Sexy Enterprise XRM
Contact: Sudhir at (Sudhir Kshirsagar)
Looking for Equity-based Partner(s)
Money, Brains, Personality, Coffee-powered, FT/Pt (Significant)

Contact: Sabir Ibrahim
online language learning community

No name company
Contact: mattt314
new communication medium
3 founders developing the prototype
looking for full time engineer founder; equal equity split

- a lovechild of eBay and Facebook
plan to IPO in 2012 or 2013
looking for co-founder/China Operations

- that is to Expedia/Orbitz as Generics are to name Brand Drugs
Looking for people who want to disrupt travel space

Healthy Home and Office Experts
Rapidly Growing List of Contacts across networks
wanted Lead Architect/Engineer Cash/Equity Package
winston Choe

(See also November minutes of co-founders wanted group).

The SiliconValley NewTech Meetup Group [SVNewTech] featured the following presenters:
* - iphone app suggestion service that actually works. It's like Netflix for apps on your phone. [David Li]
* - Data Collection on the iphone, that is super easy to build and use. Some customers include Hershey Chocolates, Comcast, and a number of Universities. [Chris Reichart]
* - Will be launching a new mobile payments service [Aaron G. & Michael Anderson]
* Expert Talk Series - Putting a Term Sheet together. [Brad Rock, Partner DLA]

Also, check out this SlideShare Presentation from the Semantics in Financial Services meetup organized by Peter Berger and Silicon Valley Semantic Technology Group.
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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tele-Tracking and Remote Health Monitoring

gps-shoes-957Image by gaspar via Flickr

Medical Care Technologies Inc. (MDCE) today announced completion of version 5.1 of the Trackker(TM) technology for patients suffering with Alzheimer's and Dementia.
The Trackker and its Tele-Health Suite use wireless connections to link a GPS monitor that is worn by the patient and is linked to a 24/7 monitoring service. By programming the GPS to certain safety zones, the service can send a phone or email alert to a caregiver immediately. GPS systems (based on 24 satellites and their ground stations) typically track patients in open areas outside of buildings however, the Patient Tracker system has the ability to monitor the location of patients within and around facilities.
According to the Alzheimer's Disease International, in 2008 there were 30 million people with dementia worldwide. By 2050, it is projected that this figure will have increased to over 100 million and so will numbers of people with Alzheimer's disease. Much of the increase will be in developing countries, especially China, India, and their south Asian and western Pacific neighbours.

Many other remote monitoring systems are commercially available (See, for example, GPS shoes that let mommy know where kids are) Among silvertech offerings, Japanese conglomerate Marubeni’s technology seems to be particularly advanced.

Developed by the Advanced Institute of Wearable Environmental Information Networks, the sensor intended to be worn on the chest measures just 3×3cm and is 5mm thick. Vital signs such as body temperature or heart rate can be monitored remotely and analyzed using special software.

Acciordign to The Nikkei, sensors cost around $350 each, while Marubeni charges $110 monthly for using the software. The company aims at generating $11 million in sales in the first year with the system.

And you may even not wear anything at all in order to be monitored - if you have a tiny chip implanted under your skin. Formerly known as VeriChip, PositiveID ( SVUL) is beginning a study of its Health Link implantable microchip in diabetic, hypertensive and obese patients. The implanted chip can be scanned to access the patient’s online medical records, check glucose and cholesterol levels (see HealthScreenDirect) and is expected to improve disease management. The company’s critics fear the chip will one day become mandatory, leading to a complete loss of medical privacy and healthcare benefits. Credit and Health monitoring may be even integrated. Google and Microsoft are said to be among those possibly testing the chips.

This is a continuation of telemedicine/wireless health series by Aurametrix. Previous blogs included Telemedicine: part 1; Telemedicine: part 2; survey of Health 2.0 Software tools, Devices to keep you healthy; Going for the piece of a healthcare pie; On M-Health, wireless health and smart plasters.
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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Amazon EC2, Google App Engine, Azure and Other Cloud Services

Bowl of cloudsImage by kevindooley via Flickr

What platform is the best to build an application for cloud computing? Google App Engine? Amazon EC2 and their other hosted services? Microsoft Azure platform? The following tips and recommendations are based on several articles and presentations telling how to navigate the cloud wisely and choose the right platform for particular applications.

The big heralds of Amazon's offering are flexibility, configurability and pay-only-for-what-you-use model. Many pharma companies - Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Johnson & Johnson - have tried and liked AWS. If you are craving control, are already set on a database model and have a ton of data to import, go with Amazon - their command-line access is heavily praised.

Unlike Amazon, Python-centric Google App Engine starts out free, and only costs after you get a lot of traffic and use a ton of computing resources. GAE/J supports Java and JRuby. Google offers ease-of-use and a large degree of automatic configuration, although they do want you to use Google's database vs MySQL or PostgreSQL. If you are a Python and Django junkie and do not like C extensions, go with Google.

Rackspace’s Mosso bills itself as a Web app hosting service. Coders choose what technology stack they want their apps to run on and upload their code. Mosso supports both Windows and Linux, PHP, Ruby on Rails, .Net, Perl, Python, MySQL, and SQL Server. Mosso does not yet support Java applications. SpringSource, on the other hand, offers a comprehensive suite of products for powering the entire build, run, manage enterprise Java application lifecycle.

The Globus Toolkit is a collection of software solutions to many science and engineering applications. Univa UD is utilized in some science and high-throughput engineering environments too.

Microsoft Azure platform is aimed at C#, .NET, Visual Studio, Windows and other Microsoft-tool-loving developers.

Likewise, IBM platform provides access to IBM middleware such as DB2. Informix and WebSphere.

IBM cloud presentation:

I attended this talk earlier last year, it was presented for the Silicon Valley CTO group. Went through it again today.

Check also these videos on Google App Engine

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Counting Health Care Costs

Is control of health care costs possible?

A piechart from this article shows that constantly rising health care costs are mostly due to hospital care (31%). Physician services are the next largest item, comprising one-fifth of the national health spending. Prescription drugs, while accounting for only 10% of total expenditures, have been the fastest-growing segment along with new medical technologies that are often not cost-effective, and provide incremental improvement or just an illusion for consumers that they are better taken care of. Second major contributor to the increase in spending is chronic disease. It actually accounts for 75% of national health expenditures. One of the main reasons for increased disease prevalence is an increase in unhealthy lifestyles. Obesity-related illnesses accounted for 27 percent of the real health care expenditure increase between 1987 and 2001, of which increased obesity prevalence accounted for 12 percent. Non-obesity food-related illnesses are at fault too. Aging of the population also contributes (although rather minimally) to the high growth rate of health care spending. Administrative costs comprise 7% of health care expenditures (~2% Medicare program).

So the primary cost is unnecessary complexity. We need to change the culture of medicine, it's business model to improve the efficiency in delivering care and reduce the cost resulting from the wrong model.

An excellent blog in New York Times yet again explains the reasons on why health care costs so much. Great comments from the readers provide even more insight.

Here are a few excerpts we can't agree more:

"Health care is expensive because of the pervasive entitlement attitude" Joseph R. Antos, the William H. Taylor scholar in heath care and retirement policy at American Enterprise Institute.

"Insurers, pharmaceutical companies, device manufacturers, doctors and hospitals are all able to drive up prices with limited pushback" Jacob S. Hacker, the Stanley B. Resor professor of political science at Yale University.

"People often do not have control over medical expenses, the way they can control expenses when buying a car"
"Another reason normal market forces fail in the health care system is a lack of clear information. Purchasing health care is not like buying a car.", "the price tag is rarely even discussed", "people often do not have control over medical expenses",
David M. Herzenhorn

"The costs of medical care are a hodgepodge of different prices for different patients", "There is no rational process for selecting a cost-effective treatment", M Mackiernan

"How do I "negotiate" my fees when they are pre-set by my insurance company?", "I keep reading that doctors recommend unnecessary tests but how am I to know what's necessary? I'm not a doctor. I just want to feel better and that's why I go to the expert", E. Nowak

"Doctors and patients rarely know the costs and administrators do not want them to know.",
"Health insurance is not really insurance at all. It is more like a membership fee to a YMCA.", Marci Twain

"The most powerful way we can reduce medical costs is for people to stop getting medical care when non-medical health care will suffice.", Anonymous Commenter

"One element of the increasing cost is the vast overtesting that is performed in teaching hospitals.", "A large fraction of blood tests, procedures, and imaging are simply a waste, but there is no effort to put any brakes on the system.", David Freeman

"Please do not ever think a doctor writes a prescription because it is his best choice, it usually is written because he likes the pharmaceutical rep and she or he has treated the like a king.",
Mark Shryock

"New and fancy machines which offer marginal improvement in actual care but cost more.", PH

"What a mess. It makes me sick--a luxury I apparently cannot afford.", Elliot

"In essence the solution to cost control is in great part in the realm of industrial engineering. Lets get the industrial engineers on board and perhaps in charge.", Rafael Venegas

"The vast majority of xrays scans and tests performed are done to avoid malpractice. .. Americans are radiated so doctors can avoid the awful pressure of lawsuits and you pay for it..", Boly

"In some areas, like implantable medical devices, an increasing number of manufacturers contractually require hospitals to keep prices that hospitals pay secret from the surgeons who tell hospitals which products to buy.", Jeffrey Lerner

"The reason health care in the U.S. is so expensive is because all the players (doctors, lawyers, insurance companies, drug companies, medical equipment companies, patients, et al.) are abusing the system.", G. Stern

"I can't believe a five minute altrasound cost over 1,000 dollars", Linda

"Capitalist theory says that price is set at that point at which providers (suppliers) receive enough money to be induced to make the products and consumers (demanders) are willing to pay for that product. The problem is that the demand for health care is “relatively inelastic.”.. there is no limit on the will of the consumer to pay.", AF

Let me disagree with the last commenter, though. "Thank God", says AF, "I do not have to know the science behind to know the relative effectiveness rates of each type of treatment". A century ago nobody would imagine been able to make a phone call or operate a computer. May be people like to live too much. But better tools will be created to allow them make informed decisions to better their health and their lives at reasonable costs.

Aurametrix is developing decision support systems to help you evaluate personal health risks, decide on preventative measures, estimate cost/benefits of performing diagnostic tests. Better solutions for a healthier world.
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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Semantic Web

An updated SVG of the FOAF logo. I created the...Image via Wikipedia

The semantic web promises to define the meaning of its content (semantics) making computer programs able to perform all the tedious work of searching, comparing and combining bits and pieces of information - all the tasks we have to do by ourselves in order to find answers to complex questions.

Attempts to make this possible includes languages: Resource Description Framework (RDF), Web Ontology Language (OWL), and Extensible Markup Language (XML); data interchange formats (e.g. RDF/XML, N3, Turtle, N-Triples), and notations such as RDF Schema (RDFS). Some believe that even simpler unambiguous formats will be part of the semantic web.

An early example of a semantic web application, FOAF (an acronym of Friend of a friend) expressed using RDF and OWL is a descriptive vocabulary, an ontology describing people, their activities, and relations to each other. Check, for example, that allows to turn Twitter accounts into FOAF profiles.

Simpler components of semantic web include meta-tags - an extension of metadata in the form of tags used to describe Web pages' content in the early days of web design. This could be labels with keywords, name of the page author, description or metadata representing sets of facts. Ontologies are often used to generate metadata and mapping between vocabularies.
Zemanta system semantically filters content of the page to automatically tag it or suggest other relevant content. Semantic standards like Common Tag - developed jointly by Zemanta, Metaweb, and Yahoo! - add semantic meaning to tags expressed using RDFa, making Web content more discoverable and decentralized. With Common Tag, content is tagged with unique, well-defined concepts - everything jaguar the animal is tagged with one concept for jaguar the animal vs. the car.

Ontologies defined as "an explicit specification of a conceptualization" are about the kind of things existing in the domain and their relations to each other. There could be no perfect scheme, however. In working classification systems, success is not "Did we get the ideal arrangement?" but rather "How close did we come, and on what measures?" There are no fixed shelves and perfect arrangements. It would not hurt to rearrange things from time to time, add a few secondary links and subdirectories. "This book is mainly about the Balkans, but it's also about art, or it's mainly about art, but it's also about the Balkans." The classification can not be perfect - except very small and specialized domains, stable entities, clear edges, authoritative sources and a lot of money to support the authoritarian system. This will never work for the Web - with many uncoordinated users that don't think alike and are naive classifiers.

Web users have very different tagging strategies too - but all together they are creating value for one another, by connecting similar tags.

Some of most often mentioned examples of semantic web application include Freebase - an open database where anyone can perform complicated queries. It is like a structured version of Wikipedia, combining the advantages of free text and relational databases. It's qualified users can not only add the content but also change the structure itself modifying the definitions of existing types. With many qualified users both the content and structure will evolve over time.

Even though some sources claim that Freebase is built around an exhaustive ontology, it's more like a collection of ontologies or rather tags. Unlike the W3C approach to the semantic web, which starts with controlled ontologies, Metaweb adopts a folksonomy approach, in which people can add new categories (much like tags), in a messy sprawl of potentially overlapping assertions.

See more on the State of Linked Data in 2010:
From the Semantic Web to the Web of Data: ten years of linking up

An example of a semantic data storage tool able to analyze networks and events in large volumes of structured and unstructured data is AllegroGraph. this RDF graph database can be, for example, used for GeoSpatial and Temporal Reasoning performing complicated queries against news articles scraped from Google

NYCSW GeoSpatial, Temporal Reasoning with AllegroGraph from Morton Swimmer on Vimeo.

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

On M-Health, Wireless Health and Smart Plasters

M-health or mobile health is a recent term for mobile devices supporting medical practice. This term is closely related to Telemedicine (coined in the 1970s) and to another recently introduced term wireless health.
Mobile phone subscribers per 100 inhabitants 1...
Aurametrix wrote about exciting health gadgets and devices in several last year's blogs (such as Telemedicine: part 1, Telemedicine: part 2, Devices to keep you healthy, Going for the piece of a healthcare pie)

Many companies - large and small -make use of wireless sensors to collect clinically-actionable data for point-of-care. Companies including GE, Cinterion, Cardionet, Heatlhsmart, Digi, RIM, Proteus, E-Device, MedApps, are now working in mobile health area offering products and developing prototypes. Check, for example T+ Medical, Turkcell's Saglik365, Orange's Diabeo, Telstra's My-Glucose, Cardionet's MCOT™, and numerous cell phone applications (as some people say, the Phone will become your doctor) such as Allscripts remote. And there will be many more exciting developments - portable wearable devices scanning brain for signs of depression & stress disorders,

Everyday choices determine your health better than genomics. In addition to exciting gizmos and wearable monitors measuring activity, heart rate, sleep patterns, some companies are working on tiny implantable sensors helping to monitor health and health-related behaviors.
Proteus Biomedical is implanting tiny sensors into pills that send signals translatable into messages - such as "just took lipitor at 6:20pm" - sent in a very safe and private way to a wearable plaster, or a smart-band aide. This smart plaster is also picking up information on health-related measurements such as your heart rate, breathing patterns, activity level, stress, respiration
get sends you reminders. Last September Novartis worked with Proteus on a small 20 patient study to track patients’ compliance with their blood pressure drug regimen. This year the companies will work on sensor technology in organ transplantation.

American tech companies, taking notice of the unmistakable demographic trends, have launched a surge in gudgets for aging population - dubbed the silvertech. Emergency alert services have become a proliferating category in silvertech, along with sensor systems for the home, various kinds of long-distance health monitoring and smart medication dispensers that provide reminders and control dosage. Some dispensers signal a caregiver when a dose isn’t taken or a pharmacy when it’s time for a refill.

GE scientists are developing wearable RFID sensors to detect airborne chemical agents - to alert people to the presence of environmental chemical agents in the air. A novel technology based on resonant antenna structures of RFID sensors coated with various sensing films will recognize specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and chemical agents with part-per-billion detection limits. The sensor could also be used to analyze a person’s breath. Simply breathing on the sensor could potentially pick up biomarkers that serve as an early signal to the presence of certain diseases such as diabetes or cancer and metabolic disorders.

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Friday, January 1, 2010

Environmental Mapping: from personal choices to global impact

Eyes on EarthImage by manybits via Flickr

In the not-so-far-away-future, we will be surrounded by “smart dust” — tiny digital sensors, strewn around the globe, gathering all sorts of information and communicating with powerful computer networks to monitor, measure and understand the physical world in new ways.

These tiny sensors could be embedded in identification badges or cloth, perhaps using resonant antenna structures of RFID sensors or other systems coated with various sensing films that will recognize specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs), biological and chemical agents with part-per-billion detection limits.
Wearable RFID sensors could detect not only airborne chemical agents alerting to the presence of environmental chemical agents, but also breath biomarkers serving as early signals to the presence of certain diseases such as diabetes or cancer and metabolic disorders.

Wondering where it's safe to swim in Europe? An initiative called Eye on Earth - Water Watch created by Microsoft and the European Environment Agency and powered by Bing will help you find out what water you can swim in without wondering if you're going to go home with more than just memories.

Want to keep an Eye on Earth?
From plankton blooming off the coast of Ireland, diminishing and increasing populations of plants and animals, satellite images of the planet could give a more vivid understanding of the world that surrounds us. Launched during the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference, the interactive online Environmental Atlas of Europe initially focuses on visuals and stories from European countries.

Microsoft and EEA have previously collaborated on the Eye on Earth platform, which combines scientific information with on-the-ground local observations contributed by millions of users on topics such as water quality at more than 22,000 swimming sites in Europe. The AirWatch application provides real-time data on specific air pollutants from air-quality monitoring stations, as well as user-submitted descriptions of air quality in different areas. Much of the information is available through text messages as well as online. Future plans for Eye on Earth include tracking ground-level ozone, oil spills, biodiversity, and coastal erosion to create what the partnership calls "a global observatory for environmental change." Other available online tools include Danish MapMyClimate that allows people to understand the impact of their consumer habits on the environment; Project2Degrees, emissions-tracking software developed in partnership with the Clinton Foundation that allows city authorities to measure and reduce their emissions; Fiat eco:Drive, a dashboard tool that helps drivers improve their fuel efficiency; and Bend the Trend, a website where users around the world can pledge to make lifestyle changes that will have a positive impact on emissions reduction.

In addition to smart sensors, smart phones can provide more powerful capabilities combining human intelligence and the ability of phones to automatically record pictures and sounds, tagged with keywords, where and when information automatically uploaded to web sites

PEIR, the Personal Environmental Impact Report, is one of many online tools that allows to explore and share how you impact the environment and how the environment impacts you.
This project involves collecting travel, time and location data from mobile phones feed into Web databases to calculate an individual’s personal environmental impact and exposure to pollutants. Another tool -, in cooperation with the National Park Service, uses a smartphone application to identify, photograph and track the advance of invasive plants, like Harding grass and poison hemlock, which can crowd out local species and undermine biodiversity.

Deborah Estrin, a computer scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles and her colleagues at the university’s Center for Embedded Networked Sensing have designed several projects that use cellphones and people in data-gathering and analysis. Cellphones, they say, are versatile data collectors and are becoming more powerful all the time — with cameras, GPS, accelerometers and Internet connectivity. Their work is at the forefront of an emerging field called participatory sensing.

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