the physical web

The New Physical Web

October of 2014 was a big month for Technology Announcements. At the pace our industry is moving, every month is a big month for these sorts of announcements. With all the innovation that is going on, it’s easy to miss the minor technologies that could fundamentally change the ways we interact with technology. One of these technologies that is worth a second look is the Physical Web.

Started as a side project out of Google, but run independently from the broader organization, the Physical Web is a set of ideas and standards about how human beings and technology should interact.

The Way It Should Be

Story 1 – Retail
You walk into a Starbucks and on your phone’s lock screen you see a notification: “New Physical Devices Available”. You click on this notification and get a list of interactions available and offered by this store:

  • Jukebox Control – Pick a song from our approved library and add it to the queue
  • Digital Order – Place your order digitally and pay for it using your Starbucks card
  • App of the Day – Download the Starbucks app or song of the day

Each of these interactions are currently available in Starbucks stores around the country (Except Jukebox Control). The way you discover them is through signage and little cards next to the cash register, and through word of mouth. When you discover one of these capabilities, you most often have to search for them via your phone, type in a difficult URL, or scan a QR code.

Each of these interactions create friction for customers today. These experiences aren’t packaged and seamless, and often involve a fair amount of work on the hand of the customers in the form of typing, signing in, download applications, etc.

With the Physical Web, Starbucks would create one or many bluetooth beacons that broadcast the available physical services in a standardized way that phones can recognize and interact with.

This simple ability for my phone to connect me to these services without downloading a location or business specific application, while still protecting my privacy and security would create magical experiences.

Story 2 – Home Control
More and more devices are being connected to the internet every day. From toaster ovens to thermostats, and everything inbetween. Today for each device you add to your home, you need a custom application that speaks a custom protocol.

Tomorrow, after you plug your devices in, they may just show up on your phone automatically. Security will still be a problem that isn’t going away. You will likely need to type in an ID or press a button on your device. Devices would have the flexibility to lock a device to only you, or to share with others in your home, or even visitors. The overall interaction would still be much simpler than what we have today.

How it Works

The idea behind the Physical Web is that instead of all of the custom programming and protocols that have been built up around the Internet of Things, we can return to the same technology that made the web interoperable and standardized, the URL.

By using Beacon technology, homes and stores and offices can setup any number of web-based services that users already know how to interact with. This, combined with the latest and greatest in HTML5-based application development means that we have another solution to the problem of discovery and relevancy.

If a device manufacturer such as Nest wanted to, they could still build and ship a native application. Android has built-in capabilities for native applications to interpret and act on URLs. This would allow them to offer a superior user experience for frequent use cases where discoverability isn’t a problem. The nice thing about the combination of the Physical Web and native applications would be that the Physical Web could help users download and install the right applications.

Google I/O Leak

While this has been a slow sleepy project without a huge pace of innovation, there have been minor leaks that Google I/O this year will be taking advantage of the Physical Web to offer interaction throughout the conference. If this happens, it will likely happen in conjunction with standardized support throughout Android for the Physical Web, so we may be seeing Physical Web devices and services still this year.


Using Mobile Technology to Root Out Lying & Cut Healthcare Costs (Part 2 of 6)

The Introduction to this series submitted:

Survey Vs. Reality: When building mobile surveys for health care companies we are convinced that there is a huge opportunity for any organization that understands the delta between Survey Response (traditional survey) and Device Gathered Response (Reality, gathered from the mobile device via GPS, Fitbit, spending habits, etc.). Both pieces of information are valuable, but if we craft our surveys appropriately we can begin to understand not just the lies we tell our insurers, but also the lies we tell ourselves.

People have been lying about behavior and health outcomes since the onset of humanity:

  • Krog to Groka: “You won’t get pregnant if you hold this frog during …”
  • John Candy to Physician: “I work out at least 35 minutes every single day.
  • Lindsey: “Of course I’ve been compliant with your recommendations Dr. Feelings …”

When we lie, we almost always lie to benefit our own condition through reward or the avoidance of pain. Krog receives pleasure. John Candy avoids what he perceives to be nagging, possibly shame. Lindsey avoids another stint in rehab. But the cost of our lies is immeasurable when it comes to healthcare, because it is literally difficult to measure, and the consequences are expensive.

Wearable technology can already solve the problem of John Candy and his physician. The wearable initiative (Fitbit, Nike Fuelband, etc) launched by wellness firms is a great example of how to use reality as a survey method. How it works: wellness firms offer discounts on products and services in exchange for a more active lifestyle, tracked and proven by a wearable device. They do this because, people with an active lifestyle cost less in healthcare. Everybody wins when true information is gathered. Let’s look at drug abuse and excessive alcohol consumption as another example on the value of truth:

  • Untreated alcohol problems waste an estimated $184.6 billion dollars per year in health care, business and criminal justice costs, and cause more than 100,000 deaths*
  • Health care costs related to alcohol abuse are not limited to the user. Children of alcoholics who are admitted to the hospital average 62 percent more hospital days and 29 percent longer stays**
  • Untreated drug problems waste an estimated $179.3 billion dollars per year in health care, business and criminal justice costs***

When asked to report excessive drinking or alcoholism on a health form people very often lie because they know these behaviors will either get them excluded, punished, or increase their premiums. It is imperative that our caregivers know the truth. Insurers cannot determine accurate rates without correct information. Doctors cannot make correct diagnoses and dole out proper treatment without the correct data, and when they suspect we are lying, they are likely to prescribe a battery of expensive tests to rule out our lies. Merely knowing that an alcoholic is an alcoholic shrinks the universe of potential diagnoses.

In other words, if a patient lies about being an alcoholic and is being seen for problems related to diabetes, the decision tree on diagnosis is shrunk and the treatment options are also limited and can be tailored accordingly. But we’re not about to start telling the truth. Or are we?

In 2011 researchers were able to root out lying behavior in farmers who are suspected of poaching leopards using a randomized response technique with dice. In the study, surveyors had responders toss a die (dice) before answering, if they rolled a one they had to respond “yes” to the surveyor’s question. A six required a “no” response. The rest of the time the responders were directed to answer honestly. The die was hidden from the person conducting the survey so they never knew the number the farmer was responding to. The results of the survey suggest that 19% of the respondents had killed a leopard in the past year, a criminal offense many farmers admitted to.

This randomized response technique is very repeatable using a two-screen methodology. A survey could be constructed, in which responders use a mobile device which operates in parallel with the survey questions being issued on another device. When shown a questions responders are promoted to activate a die-roll, or other random event, which sometimes dictates how they should answer. Other times they are told to answer truthfully. The responders could be guaranteed that the vendor will not “match” the roll of the die to the response. The confidence of confidentiality and plausible deniability regarding any single response will result in more truthful responses.

mobile random response healthcare survey1

Health care vendors could also look at using technologies similar to SnapChat to create a randomized response where the surveyor could offer a series of ephemeral questions where survey takers cannot be connected to any single response, but are “invited” to tell the truth under the confidence of confidentiality provided by randomized response. The costs of drug and alcohol abuse are well documented but it’s been almost impossible to get patients to enter into dialogue with physicians and insurers because of the perceived consequences.

Mobile provides vendors the opportunity to engage anywhere and with new combinations (multi-screen, interactive, wearable) that will facilitate more accurate and cost effective insurance and provider models. The randomized response survey is just one example of a method to root out lying, and it’s the most effective method that I’m familiar with to get honest answers to sensitive questions while maintaining confidentiality.

*Harwood, H. Updating Estimates of the Economic Costs of Alcohol Abuse in the United States: Estimates, Update Methods, and Data. Report prepared by The Lewin Group for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2000.
**Children of Alcoholics Foundation, Children of Alcoholics in the Medicaid System: Hidden Problems, Hidden Costs, 1990
***U.S. Department of Justice National Drug Intelligence Center: The Economic Impact of Illicit Drug Use on American Society, 2011

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best blogs 2013

Best of the Blog: The Top Posts of 2013

As we usher in 2014, it’s time to take a look back at our most successful posts of the previous year in our second annual Best of the Blog. The following five posts from 2013 are those that stood out from all the rest. Read on and discover what you might have missed.

#5Why We Do What We Do

why we do

In one of our more popular posts of the year, Ryan Fortune waxes poetic about how your state of mind can influence your success. Take a look, and learn how to inspire from the inside out.

What if I told you the secret to inspiration is, in fact, one of the easiest concepts to grasp? All it takes is a simple shift in the way you approach things.

#4Top Content Management Systems of 2013

cms breakdown

Andy Forsberg breaks down the most popular content management systems and how their usage is trending. If you want to know what CMS to choose for your next web project, this is the article for you.

  • If you’re starting a new web site today it would be wise to avoid Joomla.
  • WordPress is meeting the needs of websites with any traffic volume and is by far the most popular CMS.
  • Only very recently, Drupal has been growing in usage the fastest for extremely popular websites.

#3Transformation Through Mobile Business Models

More and more organizations are using mobile apps to take their business in exciting new directions. MentorMate’s CEO Bjorn Stansvik lays out the argument for transforming your business via mobile using XRS’s recent success as a case study.

Mobile strategy is about business transformation. It’s about uncovering opportunity. The opportunity to improve a business while overcoming challenges, to learn as you go, push the envelope in a developing mobile landscape.

#2Is Your Website Awesome

“Is Your Website Awesome” was the first eBook released by the MentorMate Marketing Department. Being released at the beginning of last year means that some of the recommendations have aged (SpyderMate is unfortunately in the process of closing), but it remains the most in-depth guide we’ve created. Take a look to see our biggest content release from last year.

We gathered all of our internal web development and SEO gurus with a simple goal in mind: to share some of the best web tools in our arsenal. We sorted through the vast amount of web tools available, picked out the best, and organized them all in one convenient document.

#1What Miley Cyrus can teach us about Google and Bing search results

The differences between Bing and Google when it comes to young pop idols resulted in the single most popular post of the year, both in traffic and shares. Read Alex Krasny’s analysis of why a Bing image search has such a different experience than the same search on Google.

Bing’s image search is completely devoid of Miley’s entire 2013 MTV VMA performance. The twerking, the tongue, the short haircut make no appearances. That performance is arguably the biggest splash Miley has ever made and Bing is pretending it didn’t happen?

We have big plans for blogging in 2014. Expect to see new authors and many more posts about technology, culture, trends, marketing, security, and of course mobile development and design. Subscribe to the MentorMate blog through RSS or email and never miss a post! Also make sure to follow us on your favorite social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ to get even more great content.

healthcare system

Adding Value in the Healthcare Ecosystem (Part 1 of 6)

We spend about half of our time working with companies in the health care industry. Most of them are looking for ways to engage their customers via a mobile interface. Many of them are proposing a mobile strategy based on the assumptions of the current risk models put in place by health insurance providers. All of them need to build an app that will stand out among nearly 100,000 currently available healthcare apps. If a company truly wants to stand out they will need to challenge the assumptions of current risk models.

We try to ask every healthcare company we meet with, regarding their mobile strategy, the following question: “Is there unique information that we could gather from a mobile device that would help your insurance partners with their differentiation in the market?”. That is the opportunity. Let’s take a look at the current healthcare system.

healthcare flowchart

Actuarial data is often based on a small and outdated set of variables.

  • Do you smoke?
  • Are you married?
  • Is there a history of diabetes in your family?

These are important questions, but today we have the ability to go so much further. We have the data and the devices necessary to answer questions that are as complicated as:

  • What reinforcement models are most successful at increasing insulin compliance for a 28 year old college graduate that passes a Dunkin Donuts and an LA Fitness 10 times a week?

Why is now the time to act? Partially because the technology is here, and it isn’t being utilized, but the major compelling event is The Affordable Care Act. A huge influx of new insured people is an opportunity for insurers to retool their current risk models with more detailed data. It’s also an opportunity for the companies that partner with the health insurance agencies to bring some unexpected value and become more strategic as partners.

As more data is accumulated, more relevant services can be provided and healthcare costs can be reduced.

The following five constructs can assist with bringing change to the current risk models and provide value for the insurers and partners that implement them properly. We will address each one of them in greater detail in five forthcoming entries:

  1. Survey Vs. Reality: When building mobile surveys for health care companies we are convinced that there is a huge opportunity for any organization that understands the delta between Survey Response (traditional survey) and Device Gathered Response (Reality, gathered from the mobile device via GPS, Fitbit, spending habits, etc.). Both pieces of information are valuable, but if we craft our surveys appropriately we can begin to understand not just the lies we tell our insurers, but also the lies we tell ourselves.
  2. Does the outcome based measure you are trying to achieve via mobile (med compliance, exercise) align with the current Risk Adjustment Programs offered by the insurance provider and are there new data points we can collect to improve those Risk Adjustment Programs? Is there anything unique about the data you are gathering?
  3. Can your mobile app or initiative reduce upcoding for risk adjustment payments? (Is there information we can gather that will reduce the practice of upcoding a case in the most severe category the treatment will allow?) Policing the providers requires a carefully thought-out reinforcement schedule for the providers.
  4. Is the reinforcement model aligned to the outcome? This is an obvious but it often overlooked element in the development of a mobile strategy. As a community, most of us understand the need to develop a UI that is suited to our users, and gamification, but the lifestyle changes that many healthcare apps demand are difficult without well-aligned reinforcement.
  5. Is your measurement valid? This is a systemic problem in the healthcare ecosystem and the insurance companies are the most guilty of confusing a reliable tautology with validity. As a strategic partner it’s critical that your targeted area of impact in the Risk Model be valid.

We look forward to expanding each of these ideas in the coming weeks and would love some feedback or additional ideas.