The watch we’ve been watching for?

We admit we’ve gotten more than a little bit weary of endless variations on Personal Emergency Response Systems (aka “I’ve fallen and…”) as well as “Big Brother” sensors to track the movements of seniors in their homes. So much so, that we nearly overlooked the press materials from Lively. Yes, it’s yet another start-up with yet another variation, but it seems they might have actually gotten it right. We caution you we haven’t tested their products, but they at least appear to be simple, well-thought out, and reasonably priced.

Lively currently has two offerings:

The Lively PERS watch. Courtesy:

The Lively PERS watch.

Miniature activity sensors (they remind us of dollhouse-sized toilet seat covers), that can be placed anywhere in a home, including on pill boxes. They chart normal patterns of activity and can alert when there’s a deviation.

Their own version of a PERS device. Hurrah, it’s not a pendant, it’s a waterproof watch–and it actually tells the time! Most importantly, they’ve figured out that senior eyes need BIG type and senior fingers need a BIG emergency button. Kudos to them for that alone; however, the promotional video on their website suggests the watch may be uncomfortably big for many women.

The watch itself costs $49.95. The response service is free for the first month, $34.95 a month thereafter. Nevertheless, there’s only a limited supply currently available, and since this is a new company, no guarantee on how long their service will be available. Caveat emptor, but it does look promising.



Better tech for detecting breast cancer

As most women know, all the current methods for detecting breast cancer have drawbacks. Mammography can be painful, and may not detect cancers in dense breast tissue.* Ultrasound and MRI may be more accurate, but they are also far more expensive. Detecting lumps by hand can work, but often they are already larger than one would wish. Now, a team at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln have created a prototype for more sensitive and accurate early detection.

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 9.31.22 PM

“Schematic of touch experiment. A touch pressure applied on the top through a glass slide compressed the palpable structure on the tactile device.”

As described by an American Chemical Society (ACS) press release, the scientists made “a kind of electronic skin out of nanoparticles and polymers that can detect, ‘feel’ and image small objects. To test how it might work on a human patient, they embedded lump-like objects in a piece of silicone mimicking a breast and pressed the device against this model with the same pressure a clinician would use in a manual exam. They were able to image the lump stand-ins, which were as little as 5 mm and as deep as 20 mm…the device could also be used to screen patients for early signs of melanoma and other cancers.” The full article, published in Applied Materials and Interfaces, can be found here.

We admit this is a long way off from clinical use, since it will have to go through the FDA approval process, not to mention the challenges of mass production. Nevertheless, it’s a device worth rooting for because, as the ACS reminds us, “Clinical breast exams performed by medical professionals as an initial screening step are inexpensive, but typically don’t find lumps until they’re 21 millimeters in length, which is about four-fifths of an inch. Detecting lumps and determining their shape when they’re less than half that size improves a patient’s survival rate by more than 94 percent.”

*Digital mammography should be better at this because the images can be enhance for better detail, according to the Mayo Clinic.


How to avoid tech-induced insomnia

The American Chemical Society (ACS) puts out a series of videos on a range of chemistry topics, including important advice on how to (hopefully) lessen insomnia. Turns out all that tech is only making it worse. ACS shows that the blue light from all those screens is telling your body, “It’s daytime!”

Some of you may find the advice useful for yourselves. Others, we suspect, are going to love this video as the perfect “I told you so!” retort to tech-obsessed kids and grandkids.




A warning on bladder cancer biopsies

According to the medical literature, bladder cancer “occurs most commonly in the elderly: the median age at diagnosis is 69 years for men and 71 years for women.” Why are we bringing up such a grim topic? Because UCLA just published a study in the journal Cancer on a sometimes fatal issue with bladder cancer biopsies and it’s important to get the word out.



The study found that about half of bladder cancer biopsies didn’t take enough tissue to accurately stage the cancer. Tragically, less-than-optimal biopsies and incorrect tumor staging were associated with a significant increase in deaths from bladder cancer.

The study’s first author, Dr. Karim Chamie, an assistant professor of urology and surgical director of the bladder cancer program at UCLA, explains that that many times, biopsies only take tissue from the inner lining of the bladder itself, ignoring the underlying muscle wall. If the cancer has started to invade, tissue from the muscle wall needs to be examined to determine the next course of treatment.

Chamie offers this advice to patients and their families: “We hope these findings will help empower patients to ask about the quality of their biopsy and, if it is suboptimal, then urge their doctors to repeat the biopsy prior to deciding on what type of treatment to prescribe.” By “suboptimal,” he means no tissue was taken from the muscle wall. Don’t be afraid to ask, it could save your or a loved one’s life.

Simple–and complex tech–for not forgetting pills

We’ve all forgotten to take pills at one time or another, but who knew it was such a thing that there’s actually a website called, which features every kind of day-of-the-week/time-of-day pill container you could imagine. Or at least thought you could imagine, until a tech start-up came up with a sensor-based gizmo that wraps around pill bottles and inhalers.

Amiko--Doesn't yet exist

Amiko–Doesn’t yet exist. This example is opened to show the circuitry.

Existing pill organizer--this and many others at

Existing pill organizer–this and many others at

Amiko, as the gizmo is called, “is an affordable, lightweight sensor-packed in a leaf-shaped sleeve that is specially designed to fit perfectly on five common types of medicine packaging. Easy to use, Amiko is placed on medicine packaging and detects both motion and the angle of motion…[and] tracks the medicine taken and sends information to a connected app available to patients and caregivers.” That’s according to the press release, we haven’t tried it for ourselves, because–as seems to be all too often the case with new gizmos these days–it doesn’t yet exist.

It’s you know, close to existing, if you’ll just pony up for their fundraising campaign, which starts today on IndieGoGo.

The advantages it should have over basic pill reminders is that it can link to electronic health records as well as send compliance information to caregivers. It may be reassuring to adult children worried that their parents aren’t taking medication. However, as forgettingthepill amply demonstrates, the existing, simpler products should suffice for anyone not suffering from extreme memory impairment. Granted, they don’t look as cool.

UPDATE: Link to Amiko IndieGoGo should now work. Here’s the video they’ve put up; the description of the product starts at 1:09: