If there is one bright spot in health care in the United States it is new information technology including social media. Consider the medical app industry, currently valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars with some 40,000 apps available for download in the iTunes store.
This boom is thanks to entrepreneurs from various backgrounds who are combining medical research with the latest developments from the digital world to create new and promising applications of medical information technology. “It’s a fascinating time to be in health care in Silicon Valley and elsewhere,” as one person I spoke with put it.
The first generation of medical apps was novel but relatively trivial. They monitored caffeine intake, tracked calories and gave helpful exercise tips. Today a more sophisticated generation of apps is emerging.
University of Washington atmospheric scientists are paddling in to the citizen science crowdsourcing wave.
They’ve released a free Android app called pressureNET for tablets and smartphones to collect and map barometric pressure data around the world. They hope to improve short-term, local weather forecasting with the flood of new readings.
PressureNET, now installed on more than 10,000 devices, makes use of pressure sensors built into a growing number of smartphones and tablets. The newest version of the app provides a lives stream of data to scientists and forecasters.
"With this approach we could potentially have tens or hundreds of thousands of additional surface pressure observations, which could significantly improve short-term weather forecasts," says Cliff Mass, a UW atmospheric sciences professor.
LAS VEGAS— Automakers traditionally guard their competitive advantage and trade secrets as if it were a Cold War border crossing, but there are signs that they’re loosening up—with apps, at least. Is it likely that carmakers will soon follow the lead of audacious startup Local Motors and crowdsource their entire designs? No, but they’re becoming more open-minded about infotainment systems.
At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Detroit, Ford and Amazon announced a version of the Cloud Player that will work with the automaker’s AppLink voice commands. And Ford added that it’s turning to the legions of app developers honed on the Apple platform to act as valued outside consultants. General Motors’ plan, also announced at CES, is similar in that it’s creating an “app catalogue” for GM’s cars in 2014.
Neither automaker is planning to pay developers, hoping that recognition would be enough of an incentive.