Can’t vs Don’t 

 I seem to find good articles in my daily feed from Medium these days. This one about the psychology of habits, and how to build a stronger will when you – like me – come off a long diet. This written by the guy who wrote the book in my reading queue about building habit forming products.

It’s a good read. My friend Annika was right all along; the habit is the key thing to establish. Saying “I don’t” is a much stronger push back than “I can’t”. Further reading Here

Apple Watch: it’s Disneys MagicBand, for the world outside the theme park

  

A 500 word article that rings true to me. It’ll also be the central hub for all the health sensors that will spring to prominence in the coming months. I’ll put my order in next week. In the meantime, read some wise words here

Politicians and the NHS: the missing question

 

The inevitable electioneering has begun, with all the political soundbites simplified into headline spend on the NHS. That is probably the most gross injustice of all.

This is an industry lined up for the most fundamental seeds of change. Genomics, Microbiomes, ubiquitous connected sensors and quite a realisation that the human body is already the most sophisticated of survival machines. There is also the realisation that weight and overeating are a root cause of downstream problems, with a food industry getting a free ride to pump unsuitable chemicals into the food chain without suffering financial consequences for the damage caused. Especially at the “low cost” end of the dietary spectrum.

Politicians, pharma and food lobbyists are not our friends. In the final analysis, we’re all being handed a disservice because those leading us are not asking the fundamental question about health service delivery, and to work back from there.

That question is: “What business are we in?”.

As a starter for 10, I recommend this excellent post on Medium: here.

Apple Watch: what makes it special

Edit

Based on what I’ve seen discussed – and alleged – ahead of Monday’s announcement, the following are the differences people will see with this device.

  1. Notifications. Inbound message or piece of useful context? It will let you know by tapping gently on your arm. Early users are already reporting on how their phone – which until now gets reviews whenever a notification arrives – now stays in their pocket most of the time.
  2. Glances. Google Now on Android puts useful contextual information on “cards”. Hence when you pass a bus stop, up pops the associated next bus timetable. Walk close to an airport checkin desk, up pops your boarding pass. Apple guidelines say that a useful app should communicate its raison d’être within 10 seconds – a hence ‘glance’.
  3. Siri. The watch puts a Bluetooth microphone on your wrist, and Apple APIs can feed speech into text based forms straight away. And you may have noticed that iMessage already allows you to send a short burst of audio to a chosen person or group. Dick Tracey’s watch comes to life.
  4. Brevity. Just like Twitter, but even more focussed. There isn’t the screen real estate to hold superfluous information, so developers need to agonise on what is needed and useful, and to zone out unnecessary context. That should give back more time to the wearer.
  5. Car Keys. House Keys. Password Device. There’s one device and probably an app for each of those functions. And can probably start bleating if someone tries to walk off with your mobile handset.
  6. Stand up! There’s already quotes from Apple CEO Tim Cook saying that sitting down for excessively long periods of time is “the new cancer”. To that effect, you can set the device to nag you into moving if you appear to not be doing so regularly enough.
  7. Accuracy. It knows where you are (with your phone) and can set the time. The iPhone adjusts after a long flight based on the identification of the first cell tower it gets a mobile signal from on landing. And day to day, it’ll keep your clock always accurate.
  8. Payments. Watch to card reader, click, paid. We’ll need the roll out of Apple Pay this side of the Atlantic to realise this piece.

It is likely to evolve into a standalone Bluetooth hub of all the sensors around and on you – and that’s where its impact in time will one plus to death.

With the above in mind, I think the Apple Watch will be another big success story. The main question is how they’ll price the expen$ive one when its technology will evolve by leaps and bounds every couple of years. I just wonder if a subscription to possessing a Rolex price watch is a possible business model being considered.

We’ll know this time tomorrow. And my wife has already taken a shine to the expensive model, based purely on its looks with a red leather strap. Better start saving… And in the meantime, a few sample screenshots to pore over:

Panorama and HSBC: wasted airtime

(null)

Parking emotions to one side, companies percentage of total government tax income has been relentlessly trending down in every major economy for over 50 years. Given the size of savings needed to support the illusion of austerity to the bond markets (but don’t look too closely at booming public sector debt levels), the content of this weeks Panorama was sold heavily as a “look everyone, large amounts of money squirrelled away by the rich here”. Sounded like an interesting perspective, so I recorded it on iPlayer and watched it on the 40 minute train journey into London this morning.

Unfortunately, largely content free. You could summarise it as:

  • A Whistleblower in an HSBC facility in Switzerland leaked account details of many people holding large amounts of money in accounts there
  • Many people ended up coughing up extra tax money to HMRC as a result of the data leak
  • the bank gave advice to wealthy clients to lower their tax bills through schemes designed expressly for this purpose
  • Bank says they’ve reformed such practices
  • another Whistleblower says in her experience, they have not
  • Director at the centre of managing HSBC at the time was ennobled and hired as an advisor to David Cameron
  • more could be done (lots of see saws between the words “Avoidance” and “Evasion”)
  • err, I think that’s it

It then got surreal when the politician interviewed was one widely known as one whose £1.8m trust fund is fed from her fathers company that pays an effective tax rate of 3%.

So, the pursuit of a journalist who could do a thorough job and come out with some compelling (and actionable) story here remains unfulfilled. In the meantime, a few people are watching my question on Quora for which I can find no answer:

What benefits accrue to the UK by permitting large amounts of money to be held offshore in British Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories?

Any ideas? I sometimes wish I could get John Lanchester (one writer who is thorough and funny too) to have a crack at answering that.

Hooked, health markets but the mind is wandering… to pooh and data privacy

Hooked by Nir Eyal

One of the things I learnt many years ago was that there were four fundamental basics to increasing profits in any business. You sell:

  • More Products (or Services)
  • to More People
  • More Often
  • At higher unit profit (which is higher price, lower cost, or both)

and with that, four simple Tableau graphs against a timeline could expose the business fundamentals explaining good growth, or the core reason for declining revenue. It could also expose early warning signs, where a small number of large transactions hid an evolving surprise – like the volume of buying customers trending relentlessly down, while the revenue numbers appeared to be flying okay.

Another dimension is that a Brand equates to trust, and that consistency and predictability of the product or service plays a big part to retain that trust.

Later on,  a more controversial view was that there were two fundamental business models for any business; that of a healer or a dealer. One sells an effective one-shot fix to a customer need, while the other survives by engineering a customers dependency to keep on returning.

With that, I sometimes agonise on what the future of health services delivery is. One the one hand, politicians verbal jousts over funding and trying to punt services over to private enterprise. In several cases to providers of services following the economic rent (dealer) model found in the American market, which, at face value, has a business model needing per capita expense that no sane person would want to replicate compared to the efficiency we have already. On the other hand, a realisation that the market is subject to radical disruption, through a combination of:

  • An ever better informed, educated customer base
  • A realisation that just being overweight is a root cause of many adverse trends
  • Genomics
  • Microbiome Analysis
  • The upcoming ubiquity of sensors that can monitor all our vitals

With that, i’ve started to read “Hooked” by Nir Eyal, which is all about the psychology of engineering habit forming products (and services). The thing in the back of my mind is how to encourage the owner (like me) of a smart watch, fitness device or glucose monitor to fundamentally remove my need to enter my food intake every day – a habit i’ve maintained for 12.5 years so far.

The primary challenge is that, for most people, there is little newsworthy data that comes out of this exercise most of the time. The habit would be difficult to reinforce without useful news or actionable data. Some of the current gadget vendors are trying to encourage use by encouraging steps competition league tables you can have with family and friends (i’ve done this with relatives in West London, Southampton, Tucson Arizona and Melbourne Australia; that challenge finished after a week and has yet to be repeated).

My mind started to wander back to the challenge of disrupting the health market, and how a watch could form a part. Could its sensors measure my fat, protein and carb intake (which is the end result of my food diary data collection, along with weekly weight measures)? Could I build a service that would be a data asset to help disrupt health service delivery? How do I suss Microbiome changes – which normally requires analysis of a stool samples??

With that, I start to think i’m analysing this the wrong way around. I remember an analysis some time back when a researcher assessed the extent drug (mis)use in specific neighbourhoods by monitoring the make-up of chemical flows in networks of sewers. So, rather than put sensors on people’s wrists (and only see a subset of data), is there a place for technology in sewer pipes instead? If Microbiomes and the Genetic makeup of our output survives relatively intact, then sampling at strategic points of the distribution network would give us a pretty good dataset. Not least as DNA sequencing could allow the original owner (source) of output to connect back to any pearls of wisdom that could be analysed or inferred from their contributions, even if the drop-off points happened at home, work or elsewhere.

Hmmm. Water companies and Big Data.

Think i’ll park that and get on with the book.

New Mobile Phone or Tablet? Do this now:

Find My iPhone - Real MapIf you have an iPhone or iPad, install “Find My iPhone”. If you have an Android phone or tablet, install “Android Device Manager”. Both free of charge, and will prevent you looking like a dunce on social media if your device gets lost or stolen. Instead, you can get your phone (or tablets) current location like that above – from any Internet connection.

If you do, just login to iCloud or Android Device Manager on the web, and voila – it will draw its location on a map – and allow various options (like putting a message on the screen, or turn it into a remote speaker that the volume control can’t mute, or to wipe the device).

Phone lost in undergrowth and the battery about to die? Android phones will routinely bleat their location to the cloud before all power is lost, so ADM can still remember where you should look.

So, how does a modern smartphone know work out where you are? For the engineering marvel that is the Apple iPhone, it sort of works like this:

  1. If you’re in the middle of an open field with the horizon visible in all directions, your handset will be able to pick up signals from up to 14 Global Positioning System (GPS) Satellites. If it sees only 2 of them (with the remainder obscured by buildings, structures or your car roof, etc), it can work out your x and y co-ordinates to within 3 meters – worldwide. If it can see at least 3 of the 14 satellites, then it can work out your elevation above sea level too.
  2. Your phone will typically be communicating its presence to a local cell tower. Your handset knows the approximate location of these, albeit in distances measured in kilometers or miles. It’s primary use is to suss which worldwide time zone you are in; that’s why your iPhone sets itself to the correct local time when you switch on your handset at an airport after your flight lands.
  3. Your phone will sense the presence of WiFi routers and reference a database that associates the routers unique Ethernet address with the location where it is consistently found (by other handsets, or by previous data collection when building online street view maps). Such signals are normally within a 100-200 meters range. This range is constrained because WiFi usually uses the 2.4GHz band, which is the frequency at which a microwave oven agitates and heats water; the fact the signal suffers badly in rain is why it was primarily intended for internal use inside buildings.

A combination of the above are sensed and combined to drill down to your phones timezone, it’s location as being in a mobile phone cell area (can be a few hundred yards in dense populated areas, or miles in large rural areas or open countryside); to being close to a specific wifi router, or (all else being well, your exact GPS location to within 10 feet or so.

A couple of extra capabilities feature on latest iPhone and Android handsets to extend location coverage to areas in large internal buildings and shopping centres, where the ability for a handset to see any GPS satellites are severely constrained or absent altogether.

  • One is Low Energy Bluetooth Beacons. Your phone can sense the presence of nearby beacons (or, at your option, be one itself); these are normally associated with a particular retail organisation (one half of a numeric identifier) and another unique to each beacon unit (it is up to the organisation to map the location and associated attributes – like “this is the Perfume Department Retail Sale Counter on Floor 2 of the Reading Department Store”. An application can tell whether it can sense the signal at all, if you’re within 10′ of the beacon, or if the handset is immediately adjacent to the beacon (eg: handset being held against a till).

You’ll notice that there is no central database of bluetooth beacon locations and associated positions and attributes. The handset manufacturers are relatively paranoid that they don’t want a handset user being spammed incessantly as they walk past a street of retail outlets; hence, you must typically opt into the app of specific retailers to get notifications at all, and to be able to switch them off if they abuse your trust.

  • Another feature of most modern smartphone handsets is the presence of miniature gyroscopes, accelerometers and magnetic sensors in every device. Hence the ability to know how the phone is positioned in both magnetic compass direction and its orientation in 3D space at all times. It can also sense your speed by force and direction of your movements. Hence even if in an area or building with no GPS signal, your handset can fairly accurately suss your position from the last moment it had a quality location fix on you, augmented by the directions and speeds you’ve followed since. An example of history recorded around a typical shopping centre can look like this:

Typically, apps don’t lock onto your positioning full time; users will know how their phone batteries tend to drain much faster when their handsets are used with all sensors running full time in a typical app like Google Maps (in Navigation mode) or Waze. Instead, they tend to fill a location history, so a user can retrieve their own historical movement history or places they’ve recently visited. I don’t know of any app that uses this data, but know in Apples case, you’d have to give specific permission to an app to use such data with your blessing (or it would get no access to it at all). So, mainly for future potential use.

As for other location apps – Apple Passbook is already throwing my Starbucks card onto my iPhone’s lock screen when I’m close to a Starbucks location, and likewise my boarding card at a Virgin Atlantic Check-in Desk. I also have another app (Glympse) that messages my current map location, speed and eta (continuously updated) to any person I choose to share that journey with – normally my wife when on the train home, or my boss of affected by travel delays. But am sure there is more to come.

In the meantime, I hope people just install “Find my iPhone” or “Android Device Manager” on any phone handset you buy or use. They both make life less complicated if your phone or tablet ever goes missing. And you don’t get to look like a dunce for not taking the precautions up front that any rational thinking person should do.

Work Overload!

IMG_0528.JPG
I’m working on contract at a VC funded startup in Central London, and realise I haven’t posted here for some time. I’m still reading relentlessly on the train journeys in and out, but not found the time to pen comments about things that pique my interest for several weeks.

One comment I can relate to was on Sylvia Spruck Wrigleys’ “Fear of Landing” blog, which describes the events leading up to air accidents, or in the case of this week, to a close call. This related to a 757 diverted from Newcastle to Manchester – and landing with virtually no fuel left.

The piece I relate to is what happens when mixed signals were arriving at a rate where both pilots on the flight deck got insanely busy:

“He had too many tasks at the same time; the human response to this is to limit the amount of processing and over-focus (or fixate) on a single task. He lost all overview of the situation and of his role (as the captain) of pilot monitoring”.

I had that just over a week back, but one late night and working over the weekend got things back on course. Until then, I did find myself ignoring lots of signals while I obsessed over finding one root cause. Now I understand why.

Cited post at http://fearoflanding.com/accidents/overloaded-overspeed-and-out-of-fuel/

Grain Brain: modern science kills several fundamental diet myths

Having tracked my own daily food consumption (down to carbs, protein, fat levels, plus nett calories) and weekly weight since June 2002, I probably have an excessive fascination with trying to work out which diets work. All in an effort to spot the root causes of my weight ebbs and flows. I think i’ve sort of worked it out (for me here) and have started making significant progress recently simply by eating much fewer calories than my own Basal Metabolic Rate.

Alongside this has been my curiosity about Microbiomes that outnumber our own cells in our bodies by 10:1, and wondering what damage Antibiotics wreak on them (and their otherwise symbiotic benefits to our own health) – my previous blog post here. I have also been agonising over what my optimum maintenance regime should be when I hit my target weight levels. Above all, thinking a lot about the sort of sensors everyone could employ to improve their own health as mobile based data collection technology radically improves.

I don’t know how I zeroed in on the book “Grain Brain”, but it’s been quite a revelation to me, and largely boots both the claims and motivations of newspapers, the pharmaceutical industry and many vogue diets well into touch. This backed up by voluminous, cited research conducted over the last 30 years.

A full summary would be very too long, didn’t read territory. That said, the main points are:

  1. Little dietary fat and less than 20% of cholesterol consumed makes it into your own storage mechanisms; most cholesterol is manufactured by your liver
  2. There is no scientific basis to support the need for low cholesterol foods; allegations that there is an effect at blocking arteries is over 30 years old and statistically questionable. In fact, brain functions (and defence against Alzheimer’s and other related conditions) directly benefit from high cholesterol and high fat diets.
  3. The chief source of body fat is from consumption of Carbohydrates, not fat at all. So called low fat diets often substitute carbs and sugars, which further exacerbate the very weight problems that consumers try to correct.
  4. Gluten as found in cereals is a poison. Whereas some plants open encourage consumption of seeds by animals to facilitate distribution of their payload, wheat gluten is the other sort of material – designed specifically to discourage consumption. There is material effect on body functions that help distribute nutrition to the brain.
  5. Excessive consumption of carbs, and the resulting effect on weight, is a leading cause of type 2 diabetes. It also has an oxidising effect on cholesterol in the body, reducing it’s ability to carry nutrients to the brain (which is, for what it’s worth, 80% fat).
  6. Ketosis (the body being in a state where it is actively converted stored fats into energy) is a human norm. The human body is designed to be able to manage periods of binge then bust systematically. Hence many religions having occasional fasting regimes carry useful health benefits.
  7. The human genome takes 60-70,000 years to evolve to manage changes in diet, whereas human consumption has had a abrupt charge from heavy fat and protein diets to a diet majoring on cereal and carbs in only the last 10,000 years. Our relatively recent diet changes have put our bodies under siege.

The sum effect is guidance err on the side of much greater fat/protein content, and less carbs in the diet, even if it means avoiding the Cereals Aisle at the supermarket at all costs. And for optimum health, to try to derive energy from a diet that is circa 80% fat and protein, 20% carbs (my own historical norm is 50-55% carbs). Alcohol is generally a no-no, albeit a glass of red wine at night does apparently help.

Note that energy derived from each is different; 1g of protein is typically provides 4 kcals, 1g of fat is 9 kcals, and 1g of carbs is 3.75 kcals. Hence there is some arithmetic involved to calculate the “energy derived” mix from your eating (fortunately, the www.weightlossresources.co.uk web site does this automatically for you, converting your food intake detail into a nice pie chart as you go).

There is a lot more detail in the book relating to how various bodily functions work, and what measures are leading indicators of health or potential issues. That’s useful for my sensor thinking – and to see whether widespread regular collection of data would become a useful source for spotting health issues before they become troublesome.

One striking impression i’m left with is how much diet appears to have a direct effect on our health (or lack thereof), and to wonder aloud if changes to the overall carbs/protein/fat mix we consume would fix many of the problems addressed by the NHS and by Pharmaceutical Industries at source. Type 2 Diabetes and ever more common brain ailments in old age appear to be directly attributable to what we consume down the years, and our resulting weight. Overall, a much bigger subject, and expands into a philosophical discussion of whether financial considerations drive healer (fix the root cause) or dealer (encourage a dependency) behaviours.

For me personally, the only effect is what my diet will look like in 2015 after I get to my target weight and get onto maintenance. Most likely all Bread and Cereals out, Carb/Cake treats heavily restricted, Protein and Fat in.

I think this is a great book. Bon Appetite.

Footnote:  I’m also reminded that the only thing that cured my wifes psoriasis on her hands and feet for a considerable time were some fluids to consume prescribed by a Chinese Herbal doctor, and other material applied to the skin surface. He cited excess heat, need for yin/yan balance and prescribed material to attempt to correct things. Before you go off labelling me as a crackpot, this was the only thing that cured her after years of being prescribed steroid creams by her doctor; a nurse at her then doctors surgery suggested she try going to him under a condition of her anonymity, as she thought she’d lose her job if the doctors knew – but suggested he was able to arrest the condition in many people she knew had tried.

I suspect that the change in diet and/or setting conditions right for symbiotic microbiomes in her skin (or killing off the effect of temporarily parasitic ones) helped. Another collection of theories to add to the mix if technology progresses to monitor key statistics over millions of subjects with different genetic or physiological characteristics. Then we’ll have a better understanding, without relying on unfounded claims of those with vested interests.

 

iPhone 6 Plus – Initial Impressions

iPhone 6 Plus

Having measured my Nexus 5 (in it’s protective case), it was just over 3″ wide – nominally exactly the same width as the new iPhone 6 Plus. Hence I was happy, despite the 6 Plus being 1/2″ taller, that it would fit in my pocket. With that in mind and with its impressive looking specs, I pre-ordered a Space Grey 64GB iPhone 6 Plus the minute I could do a quick hop, skip and jump through their online store (unlike previous releases, the website was up before the iOS Apple Store app on my iPad). Promised to be delivered on launch day (September 19th), it was delivered that day at 8:50am. With that, the last weeks journey began.

Overall, delighted with the device. It is very snappy, the fingerprint reader works fast and reliably, and I duly installed my complete set of apps on it. Just a few issues with iOS 8.0.0 as shipped:

  1. When out and about, it will occasionally lose all WiFi connectivity. This only happened about once per day on the 6 Plus, and a reboot of the handset (which is now fast) fixed it.
  2. On my iPad Mini, I got the occasional keyboard freeze (normally mid typing when a notification popped up). Reboot fixed that.
  3. After upgrading my iPad Mini, icons representing Safari web pages (as saved with “Save to Home Screen”) got replaced with a blank target graphic: Missing Icon from Save to HomeScreen
  4. Finally, a few apps hadn’t been updated by the time I received the iPhone 6 Plus. One being Instagram Hyperlapse, where the screen progressively lightened as video footage was taken, and on saving, it claimed there wasn’t able to stabilise the footage. HealthKit apps also needed a fix before supporting apps were going to be put back on the App Store.

Having installed iOS 8.0.2 today (one week after the initial release of 8.0.0), (1),(2) and (4) of the above issues have been fixed, (3) is still outstanding and most of my apps have updated. Just waiting for things like the FitBit app to update HealthKit now.

The unfortunate thing is the usual carping in the media about bending iPhones (this happens even if you put all your weight on an iPhone 5S) – and only affected 9 (single digit!) out of the 10 million handsets shipped on the launch weekend. And all the usual worthless iOS vs Android verbal and written tennis.

Personally, i’m absolutely delighted with my iPhone 6 Plus. Everything is working well, and the speed and graphics quality are simply astounding. The battery lasts 2 days use, and the camera quality is wonderful. With that, i’ll leave with the apps I use:

  1. Home Screen (I have an Extras folder there containing apps I rarely or never expect to use: Compass, Tips, Voice Memos, Contacts, Find iPhone, Find Friends, Podcasts, Game Center, GarageBand and iTunesU).
  2. Work and Comms Apps
  3. Social Networks
  4. Money and Shopping
  5. Television and Video
  6. Travel
  7. Reading Material

Click to see larger images. Enjoy.

Ian Waring iPhone 6+ HomeScreen

Ian Waring iPhone 6+ Work & Comms Page

Ian Waring iPhone 6+ Social Page

Ian Waring iPhone 6+ Money & Shopping

Ian Waring iPhone 6+ TV and Video Page

Ian Waring iPhone 6+ Travel Page

Ian Waring iPhone 6+ Reading Page