Apple’s health tech takes early lead among top hospitals


Apple Inc's healthcare technology is spreading quickly among major U.S. hospitals, showing early promise as a way for doctors to monitor patients remotely and lower costs.

Fifteen of 23 top hospitals contacted by Reuters said they have rolled out a pilot program of Apple's HealthKit service – which acts as a repository for patient-generated health information like blood pressure, weight or heart rate – or are in talks to do so.

The pilots aim to help physicians monitor patients with such chronic conditions as diabetes and hypertension. Apple rivals Google Inc and Samsung Electronics, which have released similar services, are only just starting to reach out to hospitals and other medical partners.

Such systems hold the promise of allowing doctors to watch for early signs of trouble and intervene before a medical problem becomes acute. That could help hospitals avoid repeat admissions, for which they are penalized under new U.S. government guidelines, all at a relatively low cost.

The U.S. healthcare market is $3 trillion, and researcher IDC Health Insights predicts that 70 percent of healthcare organizations worldwide will invest by 2018 in technology including apps, wearables, remote monitoring and virtual care.

Those trying out Apple's service included at least eight of the 17 hospitals on one list ranking the best hospitals, the U.S. News & World Report's Honor Roll. Google and Samsung had started discussions with just a few of these hospitals.

Apple's HealthKit works by gathering data from sources such as glucose measurement tools, food and exercise-tracking apps and Wi-fi connected scales. The company's Apple Watch, due for release in April, promises to add to the range of possible data, which with patients' consent can be sent to an electronic medical record for doctors to view.

'TIMING RIGHT'

Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans has been working with Apple and Epic Systems, Ochsner's medical records vendor, to roll out a pilot program for high-risk patients. The team is already tracking several hundred patients who are struggling to control their blood pressure. The devices measure blood pressure and other statistics and send it to Apple phones and tablets.

“If we had more data, like daily weights, we could give the patient a call before they need to be hospitalized,” said Chief Clinical Transformation Officer Dr. Richard Milani.

Sumit Rana, chief technology officer at Epic Systems, said the timing was right for mobile health tech to take off.

“We didn't have smartphones ten years ago; or an explosion of new sensors and devices,” Rana said.

Apple has said that over 600 developers are integrating HealthKit into their health and fitness apps.

Many of the hospitals told Reuters they were eager to try pilots of the Google Fit service, since Google's Android software powers most smartphones. Google said it has several developer partners on board for Fit, which connects to apps and devices, but did not comment on its outreach to hospitals.

Samsung said it is working with Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital to develop mobile health technology. The firm also has a relationship with the University of California's San Francisco Medical Center.

Apple's move into mobile health tech comes as the Affordable Care Act and other healthcare reform efforts aim to provide incentives for doctors to keep patients healthy. The aim is to move away from the “fee for service” model, which has tended to reward doctors for pricey procedures rather than for outcomes.

Still, hospitals must decide whether the difficulty of sorting through a deluge of patient-generated data of varying quality is worth the investment.

“This is a whole new data source that we don't understand the integrity of yet,” said William Hanson, chief medical information officer at the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

FIRST STEPS

Apple has recruited informal industry advisors, including Rana and John Halamka, chief information officer of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, to discuss health data privacy and for introductions to the industry.

The company said it had an “incredible team” of experts in health and fitness and was talking to medical institutions, healthcare and industry experts on ways to deliver its services.

A few hospitals are also exploring how to manage the data that is flowing in from health and fitness-concerned patients, whom many in Silicon Valley refer to as the “worried well.”

Beth Israel's Halamka said that many of the 250,000 patients in his system had data from sources such as Jawbone's Up activity tracker and wirelessly connected scales.

“Can I interface to every possible device that every patient uses? No. But Apple can,” he said.

Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles is developing visual dashboards to present patient-generated data to doctors in an easy-to-digest manner.

Experts say that there will eventually be a need for common standards to ensure that data can be gathered from both Apple's system and its competitors.

“How do we get Apple to work with Samsung? I think it will be a problem eventually,” said Brian Carter, a director focused on personal and population health at Cerner, an electronic medical record vendor that is integrated with HealthKit.

Reporting anti-Semitism: There’s an app for that


Campus hate has a new enemy that fits in the pocket of your pants. 

CombatHateU, a new smartphone app for Apple iOS and Android developed by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, is intended to allow Jewish college students to immediately report and confront anti-Semitism. 

The app aims to make the reporting process as simple as possible, Los Angeles-based Wiesenthal Center researcher Rick Eaton told the Journal via email.

“To use the app to report you only need click the center shield from the home screen and it will give you the report form,” Eaton said. “We ask each user to give us a one-time profile with their name and email address and school, if they chose. All reports to us are confidential, but we need to be able to reach someone reporting in case we need to clarify information.”

CombatHateU also includes a news feature that aggregates reports of anti-Semitic incidents all over the world. 

The app is available for download through the iTunes store for Apple users and through Google Play for Android devices.

The Wiesenthal Center describes the app as the third in a series of special anti-hate apps. A previously released app, CombatHate, is available for junior high and high school students.

The Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) became involved with the promotion of the app following an anti-Israel incident at Ohio University last month. 

“Anti-Semitic rhetoric on campuses has to stop. [We are] thrilled to be partners with the [Wiesenthal Center],” AEPi executive director Andy Borans said in a press release. “Now … [AEPi] members have a place to report anti-Semitic hate speech, which has no place on campus.” 

The app’s release, announced during an Oct. 7 launch party in New York, came on the heels of a major anti-Semitic incident at Emory University in Atlanta, where swastikas were spray-painted on the AEPi fraternity house hours after the end of Yom Kippur. 

An L.A.-based launch party for the new app is expected to take place in the coming weeks.

The Wiesenthal Center is a Los Angeles-based human rights organization. It oversees the Museum of Tolerance as part of its mission of confronting anti-Semitism, standing with Israel and educating about the Holocaust. 

Meet the Jewish founders of Tinder


Finding dates used to require approaches such as hiring matchmakers, signing up for dancing and cooking classes, attending synagogue, asking friends for help, or, for the least energetic, merely creating a cursory profile on sites such as JDate.

But now, thanks to apps such as the uber-popular Tinder, it takes just one finger and a smartphone to maybe, just maybe, find your one-and-only. 

Launched in 2012, Tinder may now be millennials’ most popular source for matchmaking — possibly even more than friends introducing friends.

Two of the app’s three creators are Sean Rad and Justin Mateen, two Jewish 27-year-olds from Los Angeles who set up shop in West Hollywood with their other co-founder, Jonathan Badeen. (Despite their full work and social schedules, both Rad and Mateen said they make sure to be at their parents’ Shabbat dinner tables every Friday.) They declined to reveal how many millions of people have downloaded Tinder, but they are competing with the most successful matchmaking apps (see: Hinge) in “creating introductions,” Tinder’s raison d’etre.

Available for free on Apple and Android operating systems, Tinder works like this: If Ted, 22, wants to meet someone new, the app starts by pulling information from his Facebook account — first name, age, interests, friends and photos. Then Ted can write a brief description of himself, choose which photos to post and — voila! — time to Tinder.

One after another, pictures of young women — if that’s who he’s looking to meet — will appear on Ted’s screen, along with their first names and ages. Ted can also see whether they have friends or interests in common. 

Clicking on the profile photo of one — say, Victoria, 23 — Ted scrolls through a few more pictures, reads her bio (she describes herself as “compassionate and adventurous” and has an Instagram account) and sees that their mutual Facebook friend is someone he has never met in person. Not sufficiently intrigued, Ted swipes his finger to the left, sending Victoria into the Tinder netherworld. He will never see her again.

Next up is Beth, 21. Bad photo. Easy choice. Swipe left.

Then Jamie, 22. Cute face but strange smile. Swipe left.

It has been only seven seconds since Ted swiped left on Victoria, and he’s coming up on his fourth potential match: Sara, 21. She’s very pretty, has four mutual friends, loves Dave Matthews Band, and she last used the app five minutes ago (Tinder shows that), so she’s definitely actively looking. Swipe right.

Suddenly, a new screen pops up with a picture of Ted and Sara and the words “It’s a Match!” This means Sara must have seen Ted’s profile and swiped right, too. This allows them to send direct messages to each other, share some jokes, exchange phone numbers and then, who knows what?

Israel’s Scailex reports problems with Samsung Galaxy S4 batteries


Scailex Corp, which imports Samsung products in Israel, said on Monday it had been experiencing problems with batteries of the popular Galaxy S4 cellular phone.

Scailex said it was making the announcement after local media reported about malfunctioning batteries, and upon request of the Israel Securities Authority.

Israel's top-selling Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported that thousands of the batteries in Israel had a problem with swelling, and that at least 20 batteries had burst into flames.

“Starting in the third quarter of 2013, we began to receive indications of problems,” Scailex said in a statement to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. “The company was in constant and intensive contact with Samsung on the issue of these problems, and in February 2014 started an independent examination.”

The examination, it said, was ongoing. Samsung said in response that it maintained strict quality controls.

“The swollen batteries have never been determined as the cause of burning cases,” the company said in a statement to Reuters.

“However, to ensure a seamless experience for our customers, Samsung has been providing replacements for the swollen batteries free of charge, regardless of the warranty period since October 2013.”

Scailex did not list specific problems it had encountered, but said it passed on to Samsung the details it had collected and in return requested clarifications.

Scailex said it was not aware of similar problems in Galaxy S4 devices produced after January 2014.

Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Mark Potter and David Evans

New Israeli cooking app takes off


This story originally appeared on themedialine.org.

When Cindy Flash wanted to make eggs benedict a few days ago, she turned to a new cooking app developed in Israel, called Look & Cook.

“It’s a great idea – you set up your tablet in the kitchen and you can see all the ingredients laid out and get step by step instructions,” Flash, who lives in a kibbutz just a few miles from Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip told The Media Line. “I read about the app, downloaded it, and the eggs benedict turned out wonderfully.”

Flash says she appreciates the short instructional videos that accompany the recipes. For example, she watched the video on how to poach eggs before tackling the eggs benedict.

Look & Cook is the latest project of Kinetic Art, an Israeli company founded by Oran Huberman, a former journalist, and Dudu Nimran. The cooking app, which is free to download, offers detailed explanations for preparing dozens of dishes, most of them from well-known Israeli chef Meir Adoni.

For a casual cook, some of the dishes seem somewhat complicated. Chicken satay with peanut butter and curry marinade, for example, starts off with “using a mortar and pestle, crush one teaspoon coriander seeds and two cardamon pods and set aside.” The recipe also calls for date syrup, sherry vinegar, and fresh pineapple and cilantro – not everyday ingredients on hand.

The site also has a tab called “Shop” where a user can buy many of the gadgets or utensils used in the recipe. The satay offers a mortar and pestle ($65), a pineapple slicer and de-corer ($19.99), a nonstick oval grill pan ($39.99), a cookbook of Thai Street Food by David Thompson ($41.12), a cookbook called Pok Pok ($22.14), a rainbow knife set ($36.89), a rice cooker ($14.38) and an auto measure jars carousel ($24.52).

Co-founder Huberman says the app has been downloaded more than 500,000 times, mostly by users in the United States. His 12-person-company has already raised “hundreds of thousands of dollars” and is in the midst of a second round of financing. They have just signed a deal with the James Beard Foundation, a national professional organization that aims to promote the culinary arts. It will enable them to include recipes from some of the most famous chefs in America, such as Mario Battali and Thomas Keller. As the site is only in English, most users so far are in the US.

“Most people see a recipe on TV as a passive viewer and it ends there,” Huberman told The Media Line. “We want all recipes to be multi-platform, meaning you can see it on TV, and get it on your iPad or Tablet in a step-by-step format that allows you to clearly follow it.”

Amazon Fire TV, a new streaming media player, has included Look & Cook as one of its built-in apps, along with Netflix, Bloomberg, and other content providers.

“We will be built-in on 12 million sets and it will dramatically increase our customer base,” Huberman said.

The app was already featured in a billboard campaign by Apple. Downloads went from several dozen a day to 33,000 daily. While the recipes are free for now, they are introducing premium content as well. Another new feature will be a link to Amazon Fresh, a food delivery service, in which a user will be able to push a button at the end of a recipe and have all of the ingredients needed for the recipe delivered overnight.

Huberman says that as a former journalist he is interested in using different platforms to present content.

“Food touches all of us,” he said. “I think Look & Cook is like a digital Food Network.”

For user Cindy Flash, she’s thinking about what to make this weekend and said the recipe for pancakes “looks quite tempting.”

Am I an e-slave?: The pressure of human interaction


I am not the right person to preach on electronic servitude, given my tons of incoming mail and messages and a touch of OCD. As I’m writing this, in between tweets and Facebook updates, I have stopped to answer e-mails. More than once. They pile up, you see, and I like a clean inbox even more than a clean desk. 

The essence of slavery is to be unable to make a choice, and so we use the word loosely when we say that we are “slaves” to our appetites or drives. But the expanse of our will is narrowed by powerful pushes in a given direction. People are not quite slaves to alcohol because they can quit, but it is much closer to slavery when you’re an alcoholic than it is when you have no impulse to overindulge. Addiction is not full-on slavery, but it can feel uncomfortably close.

I sit in meetings and, knowing it is not entirely graceful, sneak peeks at my e-mail and texts. Discreetly, I tap responses. All the while I succumb to the great Internet illusion that what exists on the screen is more compelling than what exists in the world. Yes, someone is talking, but that little red circle is showing on my iPhone, with all its faux urgency, pleading with me to check. (Hold for one second, if you will — I have a text …)

Where was I? Oh yes, texts. They ding, or ring, or honk, you see, or click, or thunk, and one can only imagine the urgency of the communication. Here is where the insidiousness creeps in: I know from experience that almost all e-mails and texts can wait. “Did you see GOT last night? OMG!!!!” is not a piercing observation requiring instant response. But add a ding to that message, and I’m full-on Pavlovian. “Dopamine” rightly begins with “dope.”

I recently completed a book, a biography of King David. While writing, I had to turn off my phone. So long as it was making insistent noises (or in silent mode making those disturbing “I might be making noises, but you don’t even know” noises) I could not possibly summon the sustained concentration necessary to write a book. 

In the olden days, that is, a decade ago, when you were having lunch with someone, it was unlikely that everyone you knew would walk into the restaurant to talk to you. But now, everyone you know is in your pocket. They are with you at all times. Your entire social circle, (along with a huge chunk of the totality of human knowledge) is waiting for a “hi” or “lol.” The pressure of human contact is unrelenting, and the result is avdut (slavery) of the Internet = e-slavery.

Shabbat is a break, but use of electronic devices is common among even the observant. I am blessedly free at shul, but I come home and find myself thinking that my phone might be trying to reach me to tell me of some crisis, or catastrophe, or family communication from the East Coast. The possibilities are endless of what that black, blank screen might be hiding, available at the seductive push of a button. The justifications fly thick and fast, all in service of impulse. 

Passover teaches the only genuine escape from slavery. It is not an act of will alone, but a change of place and circumstance. To hold your phone in your pocket and resist looking at it is a good start. Leaving your phone at home is even better. Liberation often means being able to renounce, and, by renouncing, to unshackle oneself. “No” is the word that gives you freedom. The Torah depicts the Israelites yearning for Egypt, but they could not turn back. You may sit at lunch, or in a meeting, and imagine the delights your phone would bring, but if you don’t carry it along with you, there is a momentary liberation.

Let us, therefore, declare phone-free sedarim. Observant or not, the people at the table should be the people you are there with, alongside our ancestors, who escaped slavery to liberate us to the very different slavery of abundance.  

We have too much — information, access, food, entertainment — everything. Don’t let Elijah catch you on your iPhone. He might not come back.


David Wolpe is the rabbi of Sinai Temple. You can follow his teachings at facebook.com/RabbiWolpe.

Billion-dollar Waze


UPDATE [7/29/13]: Google bought Waze for $966 million.

Just a couple of years ago, the Israeli entrepreneurs behind the traffic-fighting smartphone app Waze were knocking down the door of every news outlet in Los Angeles. They were seeking publicity to help forge their way into the iPhones and Androids of L.A. drivers by promising some reprieve from “Carmageddon” weekend on the 405 freeway. Waze argued that its brave new method of crowdsourcing map and traffic data — via social media, with input from an active user base — would be the perfect tool to navigate drivers around the monster 405 freeway project and resulting traffic jams. The company needed press, and bad — because if enough people didn’t use the app, it wouldn’t work for anyone.

Well, they don’t need the press anymore. On June 11, Google Inc., the American tech giant at the forefront of online mapping, bought Waze Mobile for between $1.1 billion and $1.3 billion, according to various media reports (neither company has disclosed the final sum). Google’s acquisition is one of the largest in the history of the Israeli tech industry and stands as a major vote of confidence for both Waze and Israel’s startup scene at large.

These days, the Waze guys, who once reached out to Los Angeles eager for attention from any reporter, are mum. They are happily cloaked under Google’s strict no-press policy. “We are Google employees” now, says one of the app’s three founders over Facebook chat, “and we cannot speak to the press.”

Even without Google, Waze picked up a fast and loyal following in its first five to six years on the market: The app already boasts almost 50 million users in 190 countries and counting.

But no one will ever love Waze quite as fiercely as Israel.

[Related: What is it with Israelis and high tech?]

The buzz of the billion-dollar sale could be felt last week through the summer heat in Tel Aviv and environs, where Waze has long been regarded a national treasure — the top of the class in a nation of 1,000 startups. “Congratulations, you have reached your destination,” cheered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a reported phone call to Waze’s founders on the night of the sale.

“The Israeli people feel that they have some part in this huge success story,” said Izhar Shay, head of Israel operations at venture capital firm Canaan Partners. “We were the test group. We were the first users of an international breakthrough project, and we were part of the reason why Waze was so successful.”

The local market may only be about 7 million strong — a shortcoming that some say has slowed the overall progress of consumer-oriented invention in Israel — but it’s famously hands-on.

“By nature, people here are happy to try out new technologies, new concepts, new ideas — especially if they’re introduced by Israelis,” said Shay. “When Waze started, everybody knew somebody at Waze. So if people had bugs or issues with something that didn’t work properly, they would pick up the phone and call to yell at somebody at Waze.”

There have been local concerns, over the years, that large foreign companies are harvesting many of the best Israeli business ideas at an unripe age. But industry analysts who spoke with the Jewish Journal argued that the Waze buyout, which reportedly includes an agreement to keep Waze’s headquarters in Israel for at least the next three years, is the best possible scenario for a local company looking to go global.

Gil Ben-Artzy, co-founder of UpWest Labs — a training program in Silicon Valley for Israeli startups — called the sale a natural and smart evolution for Waze, and a “beacon” for other Israeli entrepreneurs.

“I find it hard to accuse somebody who sold their company for over $1 billion of selling too early,” said Jonathan Medved, head of Israeli crowd-funding venture OurCrowd.

Waze “fought like a lion to keep its development in the country,” Medved said. “The fact that these guys showed that you can fight that battle and win, and still sell your company for a good price, means that everybody’s going to try to do it.”

Up until now, Google Maps has been a dirty word in Israel; everyone wants to support the home team, plus Waze appeals to the Israeli nature to jump into the conversation, so the app has become extremely accurate due to all the input. But the two companies’ new all-star collaboration has now set the tech blogs on fire with speculation on the future possibilities of online mapping.

One thing they all can agree on: Waze’s secret weapon in a world clamoring with startups — and undoubtedly one of Google’s top reasons for scooping it up — has always been its devoted army of Wazers, who together helped the app reach the critical “viral” stage by telling all their friends and helping chart new territory within Waze’s virtual map system.

In combining their strengths — manual and social-media mapping, respectively — Google and Waze have hit such a sweet spot in the online map market that Southern California-based interest group Consumer Watchdog has even expressed concern that the duo might become a monopoly.

Facebook and Apple, who were also rumored bidders in the race for Waze, can’t be too happy about the new superpower.

“When you are driving in your car and you’re using Waze … you’re stuck in traffic, and all you have is this small screen in front of you that delivers the most important news to you,” Israeli investor Shay explained. “Now Google has access to our hearts while we are at a very significant part of our day, and we have nowhere to go.”

Israeli techies and investors are also touting the Waze acquisition as a ribbon-cutting of sorts for the new and exciting “consumer-oriented” frontier of Israeli innovation.

In the past, the country has been known more for its security software, semiconductors and other business-to-business (read: boring) technology. 

Waze is the polar opposite — a people’s product to the core. With its cutesy icons and game-like elements — including swords and badges for those drivers who submit warnings about “objects in the road,” police stakeouts, etc. — the app has proven as addicting as any Farmville or Angry Birds, only loads more useful. For the Waze addict, a commute is no longer complete without the soothing voice of Waze’s token she-bot, coaxing her customer through each lurch and turn.

To be sure, the app has had its detractors. Some traffic-safety advocates have worried that Waze’s highly interactive, video-game-like experience can prevent drivers from paying attention to the real-life road in front of them. The company has responded by installing voice-command and motion-sensor functions, as well as a keyboard lock for when the vehicle is moving — although drivers can easily override the latter by telling Waze that they are in the passenger’s seat. Last week, New York Magazine blogger Kevin Roose wrote in a concerned post on the acquisition: “As Google considers adding revenue-generating features like local advertising to Waze’s already-packed interface, it may raise the question: How much information is too much for drivers to handle safely?”

Yet, for Waze’s defenders, the proof is in its adaptability — and with Google’s latest infusion of cash, the app will no doubt keep adapting to meet user demands. 

Consumer-oriented innovation “requires a certain aesthetic understanding, and a certain design excellence” that Israel hasn’t necessarily been known for in the past, said Mick Weinstein, a longtime tech writer based in Jerusalem. “And that’s part of what’s so wonderful about Waze, is the user experience.”

In the wake of Google’s winning bid, Oren Hod, co-founder of video creation marketplace VeedMe, which connects videographers with prospective clients, said startups like his are catching Waze fever.

“I think [the sale] gave hope to some entrepreneurs and Israeli startups that are not super technology-oriented … to make it big in the U.S. market,” said Hod.

Local and international investors, too, are apt to be inspired by Google’s big move, said Shay — and “we should expect to see additional votes of confidence in Israeli startups as a result.”

Medved added that he has “never seen a time when there have been more good-quality Israeli startups that are really attracting worldwide attention — I think it’s a golden age.”

Waze, for one, doesn’t need the press anymore, nor the hasbara. As Google’s gorgeous Tel Aviv campus buzzes with new life and Waze enjoys its hard-earned spot on top of the world in Ra’anana, it begins to sound superfluous — even old-fashioned — to rave about Israel’s “Silicon Wadi” as if it were a niche or an underdog.

The Jewish Journal announces iPhone/Android apps


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New app teaches about Zionism


A new mobile app provides a database of information about Zionism and Israel.

The free “Zionation” app for iPhone and Android devices, developed by the World Zionist Organization’s Department for Diaspora Activities, includes a Zionist calendar that marks and provides background information on significant dates in the history of Zionism and the State of Israel.

The app, which supports Hebrew, English and Spanish, also notifies users about conferences and events occurring in their communities or around the world.

Gusti Yehoshua-Braverman, the co-chair of the Department for Diaspora Activities, said the app is designed to resonate with a younger Jewish generation.

“We believe that now more than ever, given the alienation among large segments of the Jewish community from the State of Israel, that it is our duty to encourage the younger generation to create their own Zionist Jewish identity based on knowledge and familiarity with major figures and historical events, values and achievements,” he said in a statement.

Google removes Nazi-themed Android apps


Google removed Nazi-related applications from its Android downloads following protests from Jewish users.

Google removed the apps from search results last Friday, according to PC Magazine. Google said in a statement that the apps were “upsetting” and violated the terms of service.

The apps came up in a search for the word “Jewish” in the Android App Marketplace.

Anyone can post an application in the Google marketplace for download. Google receives a 30 percent cut of any application bought on the marketplace, according to Rachel Liebold writing in JWeekly. The Adolph Hitler theme app was selling for $2.99 a download.

Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, praised Google for its quick action.

“The intent here was clearly malicious and vile,” Steinberg said in a statement, adding that “We must be ever vigilant against those who would promote hate and even seek to profit from it.”