The lure of events in Silicon Valley
One of the reasons I love coming to Silicon Valley for events is just how progressive and laid back people are. They are very much focused on business like other parts of the world but Health 2.0 conferences are always informal and friendly. It's one of the few events where I can walk around wearing a Hawaii shirt and potential clients are not expecting you to be wearing a shirt and tie! I remember meeting a CEO of a tech company in a coffee shop in Silicon Valley last year so he could demo his software. Despite being very successful, he attended the meeting wearing a t-shirt, shorts and sandals. It's a small point, but again, it's very different from the traditional attitudes found on the East Coast of the USA and in Europe where where your parent's occupations and where you went to college can often dictate what opportunities come your way.
Xprize Nokia Sensing Challenge
I'm passionate about the potential of sensors, and meeting the teams from Xprize's Nokia sensing challenge alone was worth flying 6,000 miles for. Many observers are critical that Health Technology is largely developed by the 'worried well' for the 'worried well'. There is an element of truth in that. However, meeting the teams from around the world, it became clear very quickly that each team had designed their solution with the mindset of wanting to impact the health of 7 billion people. For those that haven't heard of the challenge, this infographic does a good job of explaining why the competition was set up.
Let's meet the teams
First of all I met Silicon BioDevices, who have developed handheld, disposable device that takes measurements from a drop of blod and instantly transfers the results to a mobile phone. And it costs $1 to make!
Wandered over to i-calQ, who have developed technology that turns your smartphone into a portable laboratory and medical specialist. In addition, they developed a decision support system that interprets the results and then suggests how much medicine should be given to treat the patient.
ABUS-urodynamics have developed a wearable device that measures urinary flow, anywhere, anytime in an easy and natural manner. Currently patients have to use toilet-borne equipment in hospitals to do this test. Fascinating stuff!
Onto Quasar, who have developed a chair pad with embedded sensors that work through clothes to monitor the heart's activity, known as an ECG. Think of the applications for older people. Now, that's the unobtrusive monitoring that I want to see more of in the future.
The programmable-Bio-Nano-Chip technology offers the ability to determine if a patient has had a heart attack, whilst they are waiting in the Emergecy Room of the hospital!
Unfortunately, the battery on my phone died before I managed to meet all of the teams. The other teams are:
Elfi-Tech - a sensor that can detect blood flow waveform. The sensor could even be incorporated into a watch!
Holomic - Handheld, Quantitative, Point-of-Care, Rapid Diagnostic Test Reader
Mobosens - a smartphone based sensor, provides accurate nitrate concentration measurements. Allows citizens to collect and share environmental data.
Nanobiosym Health RADAR - One drop of blood or saliva can be used to detect presence (or absence) of a disease's pathogen in real-time with gold standard accuracy.
Owlstone - microchip spectrometer can be applied to smelling breath of bodily fluids for chemical markers of disease long before actual symptoms appear
Winners to be announced today
I'm so inspired by the genuine innovation from each of the 12 teams. When we registered at the conference on Monday, we were each given a plastic tag to vote for our favourite team. At 9.45am Pacific Time on Wed Oct 2nd, at Health 2.0 Silicon Valley, one Grand Prize Winner and five Distinguished Award Winners will be honored by XPRIZE with cash prizes of more than $1 million. I wonder which team will win the Grand Prize!
The future of sensors
My week is turning into a sensor fest, as after Health 2.0 Silicon Valley finishes, I'm off to Los Angeles to attend Body Computing 2013. Quoting from their website, "We pride ourselves on straight-forward and thought-provoking discussions (not marketing hype)", I attended last year, and the absence of hype was noticeable, which is refreshing. Another event worth flying 6,000 miles to attend.
Innovation in sensor technology i something I deeply admire, but when I think of life back in England and around the world, one question springs to mind. Who is going to pay for all of this innovation in sensor technology? After all, many countries, especially the USA and those with aging populations very much want (and need) to reduce spend on healthcare. After all, money doesn't grow on trees.
[Disclosure: I have no commercial ties with any of the companies mentioned in this post]