An  a Day Keeps the Doctor…Near

AutismIt might be time to rethink the phrase “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” In early March of 2015 during Apple’s Keynote event, Apple announced ResearchKit, an open source big data initiative that allows scientists and doctors to collect large amounts of data from participants with iPhones. With ResearchKit, Apple hopes to deliver a new groundwork for studies on breast cancer, seizure detection, cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease, asthma, autism and many more.Parkinsons

ResearchKit has been out for roughly a year now and Apple has already made tremendous leaps towards new discoveries. Jeff Williams, Apple’s Chief Operating Officer, stated in Apple’s 2016 event, that the Parkinson’s study became the largest in history in less than 24 hours, with over 25,000 people involved. Here are a few other studies that stuck out to me due to their incredible success in the past year.

  • The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City created an asthma app received data from patients in all 50 states.
  • The Massachusetts General Hospital received so much data that they could determine that sub-types of Type 2 Diabetes existed.
  • Duke University created an at-home application to help in diagnosing autism by using the front facing camera on the iPhone. Videos will play on the phone screen and algorithms within the application will analyze the emotional responses of the children watching.
  • John Hopkins University created EpiWatch. EpiWatch is an application for the Apple Watch that gathers data during seizures. That data is gathered and used to develop a seizure detection application that will warn you before you have a seizure, allowing the victim to get to a safe area.

SeizureThis year in Apple’s Keynote event, Apple revealed another application that will go hand in hand with ResearchKit. It’s called CareKit. This application will allow the iPhone user to keep their doctor in close, constant contact with the patient’s vitals, all in real time. Allowing the patients’ doctor this information permits him to push new recommendations and treatments without ever having to visit a hospital. CareKit is an open source application, similar to ResearchKit. This means that CareKit provides a platform for medical companies to create applications to improve healthcare services. During Apple’s 2016 Keynote event, Williams was found stating, “We wanted to make it easier for people to participate in research studies. And we wanted to make it easier to gather accurate and frequent data from the devices we’re already carrying in our hands.”

As I watched Apple’s Keynote event, one single thought kept reoccurring in my mind: how secure will the user’s health data be? Physical medical records that are kept in doctors’ offices on paper aren’t vulnerable to hackers. With Apple fighting against the government for backdoor access for the San Bernardino shooter’s cellphone­­– as well as the iCloud hack that happened in 2014– some people might be reluctant to add personal vitals and health information. Williams concluded his presentation by reassuring users that nothing is more important than their health data and “you decide which apps you use, and who you share this information with.” If Apple is as successful with CareKit as they were with ResearchKit, we could be looking at a huge shift in the way we treat medical conditions. The CareKit application will be available April 1st, 2016.

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Look Ma, No Hands

In October 2014, Tesla began production of the Model S with self driving technology implemented into the car. This technology consists of a forward looking radar and camera, twelve long range ultrasonic sensors, positioned to sense 16 feet around the car in every direction, at any speed, and lastly a high precision digitally controlled electric braking system. Though in its infinite stages, this was the beginning of autonomous driving.

A year later in October 2015, Tesla released software update 7.0 which delivered a variety of new safety and driving feedback modules. These modules work hand in hand with automated driving hardware features previously available in the Model S.  With new software features, Tesla represented the only automotive company that offers its customers a fully integrated autonomous driving system.

What makes the 7.0 update such a game changer though? Well let me tell you! The feedback modules installed now allow Tesla to use Big Data to further increase the safety and performance of autonomous driving.

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Tesla Model S Dashboard

The feedback modules consist of the camera, radar, ultrasonic, and GPS. When these systems are turned on, or in other words, when using autopilot, it sends real time data feedback from the Tesla fleet. This means that these systems are continuously learning and improving upon itself. Look at yourself not as the owner of a Tesla, but a master trainer. Autopilot’s current features include: “ability to steer within a lane, change lanes with the simple tap of a turn signal, manage speeds using traffic aware cruise control, internal digital control over brakes, steering, and electric motors. This helps prevent collisions from the front and sides as well as stopping your car from driving off the road.” Additionally, if you are looking to parallel park, simply pull along side the available spot, and the Tesla will park on command.

Even a month after the release of update 7.0, Tesla owners already started reporting noticeable growth in the autopilot capabilities. On the Tesla Motors Club forum, a P85D owner noticed that the Tesla had began following the highway more accurately and learning what exit ramps were.

“So far I have a little over 300 miles on autopilot, mostly 20 miles at a time on my commute to and from work. The first day when I was in the right lane, as I approached exit ramps, it would dive for the exit ramp. I quickly learned to apply torque to the wheel to hold the car on the interstate until I had passed the exit. Each day the system seems to have less tendency to follow the exit ramps as I pass. The last two days it only gave a momentary wiggle and moved over maybe six inches towards the exit ramp then it recovered and moved on down the road. This morning it gave only a very slight hesitation, so little that I did not have to correct it at all. I find it remarkable that it is improving this rapidly. I wonder if it is getting more information on this section of road or if it is changing how it reacts to any exit ramp?” – username: Mobe

Present day, Tesla is gathering about one million miles of data per day. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, stated, “The capability will [keep improving over time] both from a standpoint of all the extra drivers but also in terms of the software functionality” Tesla has taken leaps of faith in the past trying to persuade the public that electric transportation is the future. Now, I can only expect Tesla to take similar measures with autonomous driving is next.