MWC 2015 Part II – a few companies, some of potential interest

The Mobile World Congress in Barcelona does, as the name suggests, cover the whole mobile world. It can come as a disappointment then to find quite how insignificant Health is when compared to items like hardware, payment or even ‘4G backhaul’ (whatever that is). There certainly now seems to be a case for a sparate health stream, as finding the pearls proved very challenging for this reviewer. Relying on the search engine on the site too often revealed a company where too many boxes had been ticked. There was also an alarming number of healthtech ‘no shows’ on the when I reached the country stands of eg Finland, Greece & Italy.

However, there were a few exciting finds. These included:

Coros which are offering incredibly low-priced wearables: washable vests that do HR, respiration, temperature & ECG. If the prices I was quoted by Ethan Wu, Sales Director of a few $10s are good, and the kit works, they’ll be struggling to meet demand.

Dr Security offers an app that enables you to track all the people in your party, call for help, find your mobile device and more. Impressive and I’d have thought most welcome particularly for teachers with school parties or those with really any large outings.

Essence is an Israeli company that has been around for 20 years that offers an activities of daily living (ADL) monitoring service similar to Just Checking, however with an analytic, self-learning algorithm at the back end to ensure that many people can be monitored, without the need for regular human review. It can therefore be used by organisations that monitor many people, for a wide range of supported living and intruder alert tasks. (Note that it is not currently in use in the UK and does not yet have any appropriate UK burglar alarm certification.) They claim to be able to deal with the “grandchildren” effect by effectively turning off alerts if there is evidence of people in more than one room at a time.

Fluxtream is “an open-source non-profit personal data visualization framework to help you make sense of your life and compare hypotheses about what affects your well-being”. Works with Jawbone & Misfit, among other health trackers. This reviewer is always a little worried about ‘free’ health track websites, although he has been using TicTrac for a couple of years now without any evident selling of personal data.

Hocoma, is a Swiss company that sells a range of therapies with apps to deal with back pain. It has a pair of devices you stick to your body and then play a game on your tablet where you are flying and need to contort your spine to avoid crashing into obstacles and collect points. There are some great personal stories about how effective it is, and a good few physiotherapists with less to do. Very impressive.

Healthapp is a local (Barcelona) based company that uses CBT to improve people’s mental health. Looks extremely impressive.

Medtep looks to be an extremely impressive remote consulation app with a very slick website.

Similar to Essence, though without (I think) the predictive analytics, is Salus – they reckon they can do remote health diagnostics too, which is impressive.

Talislife uses the light source on the mobile phone to measure heart rate & respiration, and from that, variability of both. From this the app estimates mental state and deploys appropriate responses to nudge users back into a good mental state. Most impressive website and dynamic husband-and-wife team running it.

Vita also offers a cut-down version of the same type of service, with a particular focus on behaviour change.

The number of apps and devices claiming to enable brain contact were impressive. The one I liked best was Brainno which seemed to fit loosely on your head and appeared to help you relax and get into a good frame of mind. Sadly there’s very little English on the website so it’s not helpful. Another much more professional-looking and sophisticated device was that provided by starstim which offers “multi-channel tCS with EEG”. It claims to help with chronic pain, post stroke rehab, depression, addictive disorders, learning & cognitive enhancement, and basic neuroscience research. Starlab is also active in this area.

Finally, a list of those I visited that may be great – for various reasons, including doubtless the 14 miles I walked in business shoes in the two days I was there, this reviewer was not quite so overwhelmed:

Amicomed was one of the no-show when I went to their stand, however they did leave a few leaflets that explained that the service helps manage blood pressure down without use of drugs or surgery.

Beddit was another of the no-shows when I was around. Their sleep monitor looked interesting though. Shame they couldn’t explain its benefits.

Boyd Sense is a start-up in partnership with Alpha MOS that claims it will be able to detect many different diseases just by a user breathing into a pair of cheap sensors Bluetoothed to a smartphone. It must be said that the ‘demo’, which identified orange smell from a sample of one was not especially convincing. This is also an area where many have tried, and failed, before. However Bruno Thuiller, CEO, was very confident – it will certainly be brilliant if he succeeds.

Though huge supporter of the company, this reviewer was underwhelmed by the Doro stand – both the demonstrators and the phones looked tired when I got there. Many are still of the clamshell variety that look so incredibly uncool, though perhaps when I am given a Doro mobile by my daughters, I’ll lust after a design of long ago, like my current Galaxy S4.

Unlike many other wearables, Fitbit had a big stand though struggled when this reviewer presented them with his basic Jawbone UP (which has been going now well for over six months – hooray, though my elder daughter’s Christmas purchase conked out a week ago) and asked what more he could get from a Fitbit – in summary, a display, then heart rate, then GPS, as price goes up. Like the UP, according to the EMEA Marketing Director, it is unable to detect energy expenditure for rowing although with GPS it does do cycling – I struggled to understand the difference in terms of linear movement and heart rate rise although doubtless there is a difference.

Definitely the most unusual conversation I had was with those on the MD stand, the “world’s smallest 5 in 1 health monitor”. It looks just like some of the contenders for the Tricorder X-Prize (though it can be attached to a blood pressure cuff) and seems to have the similar functionality, although no-one on the stand knew about the X-Prize, or, I suspect even believed me when I mentioned it!

S-Connect was showing a telehealth system that, if I understood correctly, only monitored a range of chemicals in urine. Sadly their website seems currently to be mainly Korean so little opportunity to explore further.

I have contact details for most of the above companies, if anyone wants to explore further – just drop me an email.

There will be one more of these posts, on the mHealth competition that I was a judge on at Barcelona, so keep watching this space.

Read Part 1 here

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