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#SXSW17 countdown

This time next week I will be in Austin Texas enjoying day 2 of SXSW.   If previous years are anything to go by I will be having an amazing time, but may be sporting a mild hangover. My first year at SXSW was a real life changing experience but sadly my second year, last year, was far less outstanding.  I still enjoyed last year but it lacked the “wow” of my first time.  I suppose though this is to be expected as with all things in life!

This year I am hoping to land somewhere in between.  Of course I am not expecting that same “wow” that I experienced the first time – the element of the unknown and surprise is gone – but I am hoping that this year I will be a bit more prepared than last year.  I have also been looking at the programme and I am already more inspired than I was last year.  I had struggled at SXSW16 to find things that really got me excited, with a few exceptions, but this year’s programme looks like there will be plenty to get me stimulated (besides all the parties and free booze of course!).

I am also really chuffed as this year I have an old friend my MBA attending along with a couple of my London friends so I have high hopes on the social side if nothing else.

This year I also have a clear objective – to gather as many freebies as possible!  In April I will be heading back out to Africa to join my boyfriend for the Namibia leg of his trip and I plan on restocking him with pens and other stuff that he can give away to kids as he travels through the continent.  It really struck me in Morocco that all the children just wanted pens – that was the first thing they asked for – followed by “bon bons” (sweets) and interestingly enough then following by “cahiers” (notebook).  SXSW will provide me with the opportunity to gather up freebies and put them to good use.  Rather than those free pens just lying around at the bottom of my handbag they will hopefully be used by some child in Africa in school.  Of course I will be on the look out for more than just pens – I will gladly swipe sunglasses, toys, etc.  Perhaps not the most digitally orientated objective but I a good objective nonetheless in my mind.

So if you are going to be at SXSW17 and want to ply me with free goodies just get in touch!

 

 

 

To SXSW or not that is the question

The time is rapidly approaching when tickets for SXSW 2017 go on sale.  This means the time is rapidly approaching that I need to make the decision – do I go again next year, for my third time, or not.

I went to SXSW for the first time in 2015 (you can read my posts about this trip here) and it was one of the most amazing experiences.  In fact it had such a great impact on me that I quit my job to go back to focusing on digital and social media strategy.  It was therefore natural that the minute tickets for SXSW 2016 went on sale I bought one and booked my hotel. I had to go back for more!

As is often the case though that first, amazing, experience was not replicated the second time round.  I think this was in part as it did not have that first-time “wow” – this time I knew what to expect and that first year I saw some truly inspirational things.   That is not to say I did not enjoy SXSW this year but I am not sure it was worth what I ended up paying for it (I left buying flights until the last minute which was a costly mistake and I opted to stay in a very nice expensive hotel).  Then again I did come back with my Galaxy Gear VR headset which is totally cool!

So let’s see.  I still have a few days to ponder on this.

 

 

#SXSW- Wearables: saving lives and improving outcomes

WearablesI recently submitted my proposal to speak at SXSW next year on “Wearables: saving lives and improving outcomes” and the public voting on proposals starts today.  It would be a dream to speak there but I know the competition is stiff so I have all my fingers and toes crossed and will be asking everyone to vote for me!

Picture2If you follow my blog you may have read my posts from earlier this year.  That was my first time at SXSW and I have to admit it was a life changing event resulting in me leaving my job to go back to focus on my true love – digital strategy and innovation in healthcare.  The event was incredibly inspiring,  not only seeing such amazing innovation but also seeing how it could be applied to improve the lives of patients with chronic diseases like myself. As I listened to some of these amazing talks I thought how great it would be if I could also share some of my knowledge, passion and inspiration in this area, and so when my friend Jackie Cuyvers suggested I submit a proposal I went for it!  I was actually interviewed for national TV about the impact of wearables so I thought why not speak about this topic!

I wanted to share want inspires me the most – how technology is having such a huge impact on patient’s lives and the revolutionary changes that are happening in healthcare as result, not just in terms of technology but also in the culture and mindset change.  As an autoimmune patient myself I have a huge amount to thank for the internet, thanks to the information I found that led to my diagnosis, and the improved quality of life, but also in the inspiration from other patients that drove me to be an empowered patient and demand better health from my physicians.  Back then I had got to the point were I could hardly get out of bed any more and had such extreme brainfog I was struggling to complete sentences; I now lead a normal, active life – thanks to the information and support I received online.

wearables3It is this that drives my passion at looking how innovation and new technology can do more for patients and help turn other people’s lives around, or indeed save them.  In January I spoke about how social media is saving lives and now I want to speak about how wearables also have this capability.  Wearables is of course the big thing this year, with a huge swathe of new devices of all shapes, sizes and uses being launched.  The big ones are off course in the “health & fitness” arena like fitbit or new smartwatches such as the Apple watch.  Everyone is talking about them and I have quite a few friends who have purchased new smartwatches to track their sports activities (I myself have invested in the new Swimmo watch).  These devices are fantastic to help the reasonably healthy get even more healthy.  But what about those that are not well or fit enough to run marathons or swim kilometres?

wearables4The real impact of wearables will come in how they are developed and adapted for those people who face real health challenges, whether it be Alzheimer’s or severe Asthma.  Being able to wear a device which provides live support and information or that conatcts HCPs or family in the case of a medical emergency can have a huge impact in improving a patient’s life.  Some options in this area already exist but few wearables on the market have been specifically designed for this purpose.  Right now much wearable tech is focusing on the lucrative “fitness” and consumer markets but once we start to see more wearables being specifically designed for certain diseases then we still start to see some incredibly inspirational outcomes thanks to this technology.

It is on this topic that I hope to head to and speak at SXSW in March next year, with my friend Jackie (who will be speaking about social media listening and the implications of culture and language – think about the British and American understanding of the word “pants”).  I would ask that you please help me achieve this goal by voting for me here by searching for “Fulford”, and don’t let me go alone – please also vote for Jackie too!

For full details of how to vote have a look at this document with instructions that I put together.  The final thing I would like to say is that for every vote I get I will make a donation to my charity Hope for Romanian Strays which works tirelessly to rescue stray and injured dogs in Romania – so vote for me and help stray dogs!

SXSW – an awesome journey – grand finale

Needless to say after Day 2 Sunday was a bit of a wash out!  I did have some interesting conversation with some German entrepreneurs at the German house but that was about it.  Both Monday and Tuesday were however more eventful.  For starters there was a lovely lunch with the #hcsmeu gang, by now also including Gary Monk, which really highlighted for me one of the great things about SXSW – the opportunity to hang out with some really awesome people.

I also went to a couple of very cool sessions including one on Augmented Reality, a technology that once had a very “shiny” factor but never seemed to have really taken off.  I have always been a bit disappointed by this as beyond the shiny factor I always saw AR as a format with high potential.  Well it turns out AR is apparently finally coming into its own.  The session demonstrated some fun examples but also a very pragmatic and useful example from Argos, who are using AR to enhance and keep their paper copy catalogs up to date with the latest offers.  This was a great example of mixing “cool” (you can “try” on watches via AR and the catalogue) and functional (hovering over items you can see if there are any current latest offers).  I loved it!  I also found the statement that AR is going to become the new search intriguing.  Whether it will or not remains to be seen.  Nearly as cool as the session though was the pedicab ride back to the main convention area with Wonder Woman!  I loved this other part of SXSW – all the interesting and crazy things going on in the streets, like the dressed up pedicab drivers or the squirrels promoting a book app.  Those squirrels were cool.

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11065897_802435603180830_5111920318454682618_nAnother session I just had to go to was another cat-related one called “CATastrophe: Good, Bad and Ugly of internet cats” with Jackson Galaxy and PetSmart, and which was all about what we as cat owners and lovers can do to help increase the number of cats getting adopted from shelters.   It was actually a fantastic session as unlike all the others I had been to this one was more interactive and involved more of a dialogue around some of the key topics.  Petsmart shared some fascinating research into pet ownership and cat owners, and the perception people have of them, and people in the room shared their perspectives and stories.  I did not come away with the ideas for fundraising for my own charity that I had hoped for but I still found the session well worth going to.

Picture2The other thing I ended up doing on Monday and Tuesday was to have a look at the exhibition rooms.  I went round the Med Tech one but was left uninspired.  While the likes of Withings were there they were not showcasing what I considered to be some of their more interesting products.  A panel on women leaders in digital was also hard to follow as it took place in the very noisy main room.  Jackie and I did however get asked to do an interview by a reporter for NBC around wearables and I am delighted to say that both of us made it onto US national TV!  Cool!


176Sadly no other national news channels wanted to interview me from the main exhibition hall but there I saw yet more very cool stuff.  There were the virtual reality glasses that respond to blinks that offer an amazing option for patients with Locked-in Syndrome and the robotic arms that move based on remote motions.  I was naturally also blown away by the company that lets you design your own shoes – this is potentially some very dangerous technology!  I also ended up doing some shopping here, starting with a WonderWoof bow which I will try to use on one of the Romanian shelter dogs to raise awareness of their plight.  I also bought a mega cool phone charger that looks like a Channel compact and a Fuji Instax printer that lets you print mini polaroid photos from your phone – which was very useful at the SXSW closing party!

And talking of parties this was undoubtedly another great part to SXSW.  Each evening there were events on and it was a great way to meet new people and talk to people doing all sort of interesting things, like the German entrepreneur or my new Austin friend.  I also got to attend a very entertaining comedy session with some famous US comedian (whose name currently escapes me) – not something I would normally have attended but it was hilarious.  I also met people during the day over lunch and drinks, including a group of Swiss guys from Zurich, one of whom had an even worse return flight back that mine – he was flying Delta and having to change 3 times to get back to Zurich.  And then of course there were more squirrels and other characters – like Hello Kitty!

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The grand finale was of course the closing party.  I stood in queue for over 2 hours to get into the event – by this time alone as most of the #hcsmeu gang had gone home.  Naturally I met some great, fun people in the queue, including a South African chap who had recognised me from the Jackson Galaxy session and had joined me in the queue (calling me “cat lady” as he did so).  Having queued so long meant we were amongst the first to get into the venue and got front row positions by the stage which was awesome – one of the main acts was Ludacris and I am sure I would never have got so close in a normal concert.  The atmosphere did not disappoint and was electric.

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183In fact the whole time at SXSW the atmosphere had had something electric and inspirational.  There was so much innovation and creativity being displayed it was almost palpable in the air.  The conversations I had and the things I saw were all incredibly energising and I felt more alive than I had for ages.  There was no sign of my Hashimoto’s fatigue and there was no thought or worry – just pure enjoyment, inspirations and buzz.  I did not want this trip to end.  I did not want this experience to end.  I dreaded going back to work where I knew there was little hope of getting to work much on anything as cutting edge and digitally creative as the things I had seen.  I missed working everyday in this field.  I missed spending everyday working in social media and technological innovation.

SXSW turned out to be the most amazing trip I have made in a long time.  I had gotten my ROI back by day two but more importantly I had also reached an important decision.  I had realised that my career at ZS has been taking me away from what I love and that my time there was over.  I needed to get back to doing what I truly love and what I have spent years specialising in.  It was time I returned to working in digital and social media in healthcare.  This is where I have shown thought leadership and where I can make a real impact, both for myself but also on the lives of patients.  This is my passion and this is where I get my energy from.  And so when I returned home ZS and I agreed to split amicably, like a couple that realises that we have grown apart and want different things in life.  I learnt so much at my time there but I longed to learn even more and in an area I love.  Thanks to SXSW I have now opened another, exciting chapter in my book – I do not know what it holds (I am open to offers and suggestions!) but I am very happy and very excited and I know that in this next chapter I will accomplish something great.

Final photo – hungover, tired but happy – at the airport on the way home with a new friend and many amazing memories

SXSW – an awesome journey – Day 2

After Day 1, Day 2 of SXSW started as planned.  I got my shuttle in extra early and wondered around Austin for a little before heading to my first session #brainhack.  This was a session led by two professors from DARPA.  Immediately we were all engaged.  Our first speaker was not only a highly interesting professor he was also hilarious.  My favourite quote from him was “I am owned by the government.  The only difference between me and a mailbox is that dogs don’t pee on me”.  This was going to be a great session.  Indeed it was as he proceeded to introduce the first FDA approved prosthetic limb, which the wearer moved using movement.  This was amazing stuff.   But then he took it one step further.  He then introduced the brain chip and showed us test done with a couple of paraplegics.  In the first one a young man, with no movement below the neck was able to move a robotic arm using his thoughts alone.  The arm was not attached to him but through thinking he was able to move the arm up and down, left and right.  Off script his girlfriend then said she would love to shake his arm, even though it was not his she still felt like this was the first time they could physicially really interact.  He shook her hand.  Stunned silence.  In  a room packed with standing-room only where there is always background noise you could have heard a pin drop.  This was truly the most amazing, emotional technological thing I have seen.  This made coming to SXSW worth it.  I left the room full of awe and inspiration.  There is so much more out there.

Impact of gaming on elderly cognitive skillsMy next session also left me walking away in awe.  Here were more professors showcaseing their work – this time around the impact of gaming on the brain.  Whereas I had always poo-pooed war and action games as pointless it turns out they actually have a far more positive impact on the brain than other games.  In fact they demonstrated the positive cognitive improvements that could result from gaming, to the extent that some of these games are now in clinical trials with large pharma companies like Pfizer and Shire.  This was the new frontier of clinical trials – no pharmaceutical products but technology making the changes required for positive outcomes.  Again I was blown away and totally inspired.

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Full of inspiration I headed to the Fast Company Grill to meet up with Jackie and Veronica and another #hcsmeu member @ideagoras who was also in town. I last saw Angel in Madrid end of last year so it was fantastic to see him again so soon.  During the very delicious, and free, BarBQ lunch we listened to two inspirational female entrepreneurs, before we each headed off out to our next sessions.

Tuna the dog

Next up I went to a couple of sessions I just had to attend – meeting Tuna the dog and Lil Bub the cat.  In case you don’t know them they are both internet sensations and mega cool.  As my cat has his own facebook page and I myself volunteer in animal rescue I had to see these two rescues that have managed to carve a name for themselves online.  Both were real superstars and I felt honoured to meet them and their parents. Lil Bub was also gracious enough to support an online campaign going on at the moment to let Romania know that the world is watching – a new slaughter of strays (via bleach injection and bludgeoning to death) is due to start this Saturday and I hope that this little photo will in its own way help make a difference.055

accAfter Lil Bub I then dashed back to the hotel where I had to present at ACC via skype on the power of social media for patients.  Here technology failed me – rather distressing giving that I was at a technology event!  I ended up having to sit in a corner holding my tablet in order to get enough reception to skpe – which totally blew me and I apologise for those at ACC who watched.  It was not the smooth presentation I had wanted but it was a very passionate one and I hope that made up for it.

After all this awesomeness I had to meet the ladies for a drink so we all headed to the Fast Company Food & Grill for some free food and vodka.  I was on a total high so when the light-weight ladies decided to call it a night and go home at 8pm I stayed on and met new people, having some intellectual conversations, and some less so.  As the evening carried on I then got talking to two local ladies who I totally clicked with.  When the Grill closed I then moved off with them to the Kettle One party, and when this finished onto some local bars where we met some lovely local guys.  At this point everything was closed so we proceeded to go to one of the guys apartment and drink some famous moonshine.  Awesome stuff!  Finally at 8am I made it to sleep.  I am nearly 40 years old and I would never ever have even remotely guessed I would have had the energy to stay awake that long but the sessions I saw inspired me to much I was on a total high.  I had definitely got my SXSW ROI.  I had seen mindblowing, life-changing technology, met internet sensations, been out on the town with locals and partied like a 22 year old.  My money was well spent.

My new Texan friend Sabrina

SXSW – an awesome journey – Day 1

A few years back I heard about South by SouthWest for the time. I did not really have any desire to go – it did not seem relevant to a health digierati like myself. Rather I thought it was more for film and music buffs and total techy geeks. I did not think there would be anything noteworthy for a marketer or a strategist, certainly not one specialised in healthcare.

Then last year my colleague Jackie Cuyvers told me what it was really like. She told me that this is where ground breaking technology gets showcased and where you can see the hottest tech innovation, including in healthcare. She told me also that it was one huge party and a massive networking opportunity. She also convinced me that this was THE event for someone like me to go – this would be one of the few events were I would really learn something, unlike the standard pharma digital conferences which tend to be a showcase of case studies rather than truly innovative thinking. I was convinced. I had to go – it made total business sense. I could bring those learnings and innovative ideas back to the company and back to our clients. It seemed so obvious that I asked the company if I could go.
No. That was the point-blank, no-discussion response I got. No. Well that would just not do! Now that I was all excited and convinced that this was indeed the event for me to attend I had to go. And I was going to go – even if it meant paying my own way and taking holiday. And this is what I did. Had I acted rashly, would this expensive excursion pay off? I was even having to fly with the dreadful American Airlines to get there and it wasn’t even a direct flight. Was the pain of flying AA really going to be worth it?

The answer is a loud, resounding YES! OMG YES! SXSW2015 turned out to be the most mind-blowingly amazing event. It was worth every penny. It was worth the AA flight with no personal video player (yes – can you believe that in this day and age there are still transatlantic flights where you have to watch the main screen in the cabin and where they do not show the latest films?!). SXSW2015 blew all my expectations.

006Day one started with a longer than expected queue to sign up, followed by the first selfie of the event with Jackie and Google’s @happydezzie. I then went to a couple of interesting sessions including one on the ROI of Word Of Mouth (WOM) which presented some interesting findings on the impact WOM and social media on marketing, confirming the role social media plays but I had hoped it would go a little deeper than it did. Interesting but not yet mindblowing.

wom

The next session however provided more of a “wow” factor as I heard about how technology and innovation are helping in the fight against Ebola.  Besides some great new digital technology such as wearable, bluetooth enabled patch to track patients, there was also an amazing showcase of partnership and open innovation in the form of the new safety suits for healthcare workers fighting infectious diseases like Ebola.  It was humbling to see the new prototype and hear just how unpleasant the current suits are for healthcare workers and it was fantastic to be present at the unveiling of the new suit.

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The highlight of the day however was finally getting to meet @veronicabotet who I had met over Twitter via #hcsmeu years ago. It was fantastic to finally get to meet her in person and I was so happy when she was able to join Jackie and I (yes Jackie had also paid to come herself having faced the same solid NO from ZS) for dinner. We had a lovely evening, during which I learnt some new American terminology and ate some amazing Brazilian steak. I headed back to the hotel happy wondering what Day 2 would bring.

Fast Company Grill fun

When a restaurant ignores your gluten allergy

I am very open about the fact that I have an autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s, and I try to do my bit to help educate others about this disease, and other autoimmune diseases.  I feel as an educated patient, who works in digital health, I am well placed to do so and to a degree feel like I have a duty to do so.

Sadly one of the common problems for Hashimoto’s patients is a sensitivity to gluten, and I am no exception.   Prior to becoming ill I used to poo-poo people who said they were allergic to gluten, putting it down to a health fad.  Then, a few years ago, I became very ill, despite taking medication for my diagnosed hypothyroidism.   I had put on over 15kg in a very short period of time, had very bad depression, fatigue, brain fog etc. I had been diligent in taking my daily medication but despite this these symptoms worsened.  It was only after a visit to an endocrinologist in the UK, who diagnosed my Hashimoto’s, and some online research that I started making some lifestyle changes.

One of those changes was removing gluten from my diet.  I love gluten and removing it from my diet has been one of the hardest things, and to do this day I wish I could eat gluten.  Howeve
r I have learnt that if I do eat gluten the above symptoms return and I feel terrible.  It can make eating out in restaurants hard but increasingly I find restaurants are understanding and accommodating of my food allergy.  Even in Sri Lanka they were aware of what a gluten allergy is and went out of their way to make sure no gluten made its way into my food.  In the US I had f
ound there was traditionally a higher awareness than in countries like Sri Lanka, and so I always had confidence in the waiting staff in restaurants there.

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This was clearly an mistake.  The other week I was over in Austin at SXSW (and yes I must blog about that too!) and had dinner at what used to be my favourite sushi restaurant there, Ra’s Sushi.  I had a long discussion with the waitress about my allergy and she was great in trying to suggest options for me off the menu.  I opted for a crazy monkey roll minus the tempura and she brought it with the eel sauce on the side flagging that the sauce may have gluten in it (so I did not eat that).  The roll did come however with a lovely mango sauce which I did eat (it part of the dish and not served in a separate bowl).

 

What then followed was what I initially put down to be an extra severe hangover (this was SXSW afterall!) but by day 2 I still felt pretty out of it and not well.  Must have been something I drank I mulled.  I then went back to Ra’s for lunch and ordered the same thing but this time it came without the mango sauce.  When I asked about this the waitress informed me that the mango sauce had gluten in it!  As you can imagine I was royally p***** off by this and all of sudden realised why I was feeling so rough!  How could they have been so callous with my health despite my very clear and careful flagging of my food allergy?!  This is not some random, obscure allergy either, but one that many autoimmune patients suffer from.

Now a week and a half later I am still ill as a result and I feel it my duty to write about this to try to make people aware that a gluten allergy is not some “fad”.  It is not something I choose not to eat.  Nor is it all in my head. Gluten has a very real impact on my physical health and well being – and believe me I really wish it did not.  I would love to eat bread or pasta or random sauces like a “normal” person.  But I can’t.  And a restaurant should take my, and other’s, food allergies very seriously.  I am “lucky” in that I can still function – to the degree that today at work someone commented on how well I was looking.  Great.

Let me describe to you what it feels like when I eat gluten – and why even if I look great I am actually feeling incredibly rough.  Firstly there is the fatigue.  Autoimmune fatigue is hard to explain unless you have actually experienced it.  It is more than tired.  I ache.  I feel like I have not slept properly in days, and that I have a huge hangover and the flu all rolled into one.  I feel like I have been doing extreme physical exercise or been on some extreme sporting event for days.  Trust me I haven’t!  Despite my over 10 hours of sleep I am exhausted – and I have had a fairly easy day with next to no mental or physical exertion.  In fact I have had some awesome, fun meetings today – I should feel energized and reinvigorated.  But no – I just feel like I have a really bad flu – I am shattered, I ache and my neck area (where my thyroid is) feels particularly sore and sensitive.  Despite this I also know that I may have trouble sleeping properly – one of the great paradoxes of Hashimoto’s fatigue + sleep disturbance. Awesome combination.

That unfortunately is not the end of it.  The other major symptom is brain fog.  Just as autoimmune fatigue is hard to understand and describe so too is brain fog.  Again I will liken it to a hangover – when you just cannot think straight – but far worse.  I have next to no memory right now and have to write everything down on post-its.  I struggle to clearly remember the bulk of some of my meetings – only the gist.  I am struggling with people’s names (although I have never been good with names).

Brain fog however is more than just memory – it is also means I cannot think as clearly.  For a split second today for example I could not remember how to look at the next week on my calendar.  Basic and yet for a split second I drew a blank.  I am extremely fortunate that I am highly intelligent and can compensate for my brain fog – as one of my colleagues generously mentioned today I was just a “normal” person and not my normal bright, on the ball, intelligent self.  She said that she would never have guessed the difficulty I was having intellectually.   I still got all my work done – but it was hard work and I was painfully aware of the gaps in my cerebral capabilities. Again I am fortunate but my years of experience also means I can cope and still deliver great work despite my brain fog but what about those with less experience?  How would they cope?

This then brings me to my final point.  Many of us autoimmune patients look fine, normal, healthy.  You may never guess the battle we are going through or just how incredibly ill we feel.  We have a chronic condition that we have to live with and deal with and we plod on, we persevere because we have to.   Whilst on the one hand I am happy that I look great (and clearly my Karen Millen dress is hiding my gluten-related bloating well) on the other hand I do sometimes wish people could see just how ill I feel.  I think if you could see how ill we patients sometimes really feel you would be in utter awe of us.

We do not want your pity though – but we do want you to try to understand.  And we also want you to respect our health and our allergies and not be cavalier about it.  If you are a restaurant and a customer states they have an allergy then you need to do your utmost to make sure that that is respected and if you cannot do that then be honest and open.  I would rather have gone hungry than eat gluten that day and suffer the consequences for days and weeks later.  Needless to say neither I or my friends will ever frequent a Ra restaurant again, and if you have a food allergy I would suggest extreme caution eating there – which is a shame as the sushi is awesome.

I might add as a final piece though that they clearly do not care as my complaint remains unanswered and ignored.  Perhaps by reading this they will get a better grasp of what it means to ignore someone’s allergy and realise that as a result of their disregard for my allergy I now have to suffer and struggle through these horrible symptoms.  Maybe this one post will mean that they will start to take food allergies seriously and that no other autoimmune, or other, patient will have to needless suffer as a result of one dinner out.  Let’s hope!

 

PS. For full disclosure the sushi in the photo is one I made not one made by Ra’s sushi.  And it was 100% gluten free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wearables – worth the hype?

Today I went for my regular swim with my Poolmate watch and found myself very frustrated when yet again I found that it was not counting my laps correctly.  I presume I am probably like quite a few wearable owners in that I do not really use all the functions of my wearable device but I do expect it to get the basics right.  In this case the basic function is counting my laps.   Learning how efficient my strokes are is great but not much help if the device is not counting the laps correctly.  I have written previously about my frustration with wearables when they don’t work and again I find myself in the same position.   Not that long ago life existed without wearables and we seemed to do fine.  Given my personal “fail” rate with my devices I wonder if they really are worth all the hype … or where things better before they came along?

The answer IMHO is yes and no.  I think wearable technology is getting over-hyped but at the same time I think the opportunities that these devices offer are worth some hype nonetheless.  Whilst my fails where frustrating they did not have a huge negative impact on my life (bar having to go back to counting laps in my head).  In fact for many people a wearable is just a helpful addition to their fitness routine, which may indeed have a positive outcome on their health, for example the average fitbit user actually takes 43% more steps per day.  If the device fails the worst case scenario is that for a while we may do less exercise – or just go back to how we always did it in the past.

However in other situations wearables could have a significant impact on people’s lives and in these cases the last thing you want is a device that does not work (especially if the fail is not spotted quickly).  There are devices for example which patients could be using as a real support, for example in diseases like Alzheimer’s, or which have a large impact on their healthcare.  Budgets could also be impacted, for example a recent study found that hospital costs dropped 6% for those who were inactive and became active.  Failing devices which patients have become dependent on could lead to higher re-admissions and subsequent costs, or worse.

Linking the potentially very important impact from these wearable devices for some patients to a questionable device reliability does quite rightly result in a red warning flag.  Currently many of the devices are being built for consumer fitness and a fail rate just results in disgruntled, perhaps slightly less fit, consumers.  Moving these devices then into a more critical health environment without taking into account the greater impact could be a serious concern.  Are these wearable technology companies doing enough to test their devices for duration and reliability in a more critical environment?  Or are they just adapting consumer devices to seize a growing opportunity in the healthcare market? Are regulations adequate for these wearables – or indeed are regulations hindering innovation?

These are just some of the questions that accompany the hype of wearable devices.  Despite my frustration today with my device I am still a big advocate for wearable technology simply because I do believe with time we will see some very positive impact coming from them for patients.  In the meantime though perhaps we had best be careful of the over-hype and set our expectations around wearables more realistically.  I for one am looking forward to getting my new Swimmo watch but I am also taking into account that it may not be all it is cracked up to be – or all that I hope – but if it can count my laps correctly for the next few years I will be happy.

And if I get to talk about all of this at #SXSW next year I will be doubly happy!  If you have not done so already please vote for me: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/48954

swimmo3

Media

As an expert in digital and social media in the pharmaceutical industry I regularly speak at conferences and get asked for my insights.  Below is a selection of these thoughts pieces.

Picture2Interviews

Conferences

I also chaired the following conferences:

  • SMI Social Media in the Pharmaceutical Industry 2015
  • SMI Social Media in the Pharmaceutical Industry 2014

Publications