Articles from Inventor Spot this week: Wearables, Magnets, and Apps

I’ve finally found the time to start writing for InventorSpot again.

If you happen to be blind, deaf, suffering from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, take medication, or likely to get a blood infection, or simply like tracking your health, there’s something for you in this week’s articles:

I discovered a watch that tracks the movement of a patient so that they can assess the efficacy of various Parkinson’s medication on that particular patient. It reminded me of the Durr! watch, in it’s final production phase if anyone wants to pick up one.


I learned about a magnetic device that can clean the blood to cure sepsis. So far it’s only been successful in rats, but results are promising. This invention sparked memories of the shocking abortion case in Ireland that led to death by sepsis. Hopefully in 10 years time those kinds of errors will no longer be a possibility.


I was inspired by the 15 year old who invented an anti wandering device for Alzheimer’s sufferers, based on his personal experience with his grandfather. His device is called SafeWander.


I covered the iOS8 release of HealthKit, something that makes me feel all at one uncomfortable and excited. As a user, I’m excited to keep all my health tracking info in one place, but as an ex-developer, I feel like they are stealing the thunder, or should I say, data, from the hundreds of medical device app developers already on the app market. I guess it will be a while before it’s obvious what the outcome is.


I learned that your eyesight can be assessed using your smartphone, and that with just a simple, cheap, hardware attachment, most eye diseases can be diagnosed. Amazing stuff by a young ophthalmologist, Andrew Bastawrous. His app is called PEEK Vision.


I relived my painful youth wearing a headbrace when I found out about this chin strap for harvesting energy from chewing. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the format, but then maybe those people who wear hearing devices will have a different opinion.

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 18.32.41

And to finish off the week, I found a cool app, Mango Health, that rewards people for taking the medication on time.

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 21.21.49

So that’s all from me. If you have an inventions you’d like me to cover, write it in the comments! Thanks!


Why I don’t have any health and fitness wearables


I think fitness wearables are cool. For sure. But I don’t actually have any. As a writer about such devices, this concerns me.

I want to say it’s because I’m poor, but I actually, it’s more accurate to say I don’t perceive them as valuable enough to spend money on. Because even though I have a limited budget to spend on things apart from rent and food, I still find money for the occasion purchase of cosmetics, moisturizers, clothing and shoes. I also find ways to buy books, apps, and software for my macbook and my iPhone. And I spend money on classes and events to further my career or just for fun.

Yet I can’t put find the money to spend on a wearable device.

So I have to assume that on my list of priorities, looking good, feeling good, and stimulating my brain are more important than knowing how many steps I have taken today, or what my blood pressure is.

Perhaps the priority would change if I was trying to lose weight, or suddenly worried about my health again, but even still, I’m pretty stingy when it comes to forking out money for the unnecessary, and I guess I see the idea of a fitbit unnecessary. At least with it’s current functionality.

In actual fact, I even believe it would diminish my quality of life because it’s another valuable item to keep away from thieves, and it’s another data point to waste my time browsing. This is why I won’t get one, when I don’t even know what it’s like to own one… Perhaps it’s fantastic and I’m missing out.

But in my opinion, there are only 2 tracking devices that really serve needs for me.

Hello Clue App Cycle Fertility Tracking

The first is an app for my menstrual cycle. I need technology to monitor when my period comes because I find it very difficult to remember – months are not 28 days long, so it’s always on a different date each month.

I’ve tried to do it manually but my method is writing notes in random locations with the date of when my period started – that’s if I remember to write it down.

Jewelry Cuff Safety Tracking

The second is location tracking hardware, which is more attractive to a female audience now it’s embedded in jewellery. Although I still haven’t bought one…

The interesting thing about more women working in technology is seeing more apps and devices that truly speak to our needs, and solving our unique set of problems in a female focused way.

I can’t wait to see what other unmet needs we will be building wearables for next.

Getting STD tests in Chile sucks and here’s why

There came a time in one of my relationships where it became important to check my STD status.

So I went like any responsible adult for a checkup, just in case I had picked up something along the way. I was in my usual state of semi-poverty/stinginess, so of course I didn’t want to fork out money to see a doctor.

I found a website advertising free STD tests at a local hospital. Impressed with the forward thinking Chileans, I made my way one Wednesday morning to check it out. Not finding any sign of the place, I asked a receptionist for where I could get tested for STDs. Luckily when I’m speaking in Spanish I don’t seem to get embarrassed – something about being a foreigner allows me to be “promiscuous”.

STD Blood tests

She sent me to the Dermatology area, where I repeated my question to a passing nurse. She was stumped, but found me a doctor who shaked her head at me and mumbled something about the clinic not existing anymore. She told me I had to go to a doctor and pay. Of course I had to ask her to repeat herself a few times before I understood her. I ❤ Chilean Spanish.

But I didn’t want to pay a doctor just to get a list of lab tests. By chance, on my walk back to the metro, I saw a laboratory and went in and asked the *three* receptionists sitting behind the counter if they could test me for any possible STDs. 

They did some brainstorming, called someone, and finally presented me with a list.

I didn’t hear them mention Chlamydia, or Gonorrhea.

Oh, I wanted those too?

Ummm, yeah… Did you not hear me? I want to test for *any possible* STDs.

They added them to the list, and tallied up the bill.

Once I had paid, they brought me into a nurse who took my blood. I was then handed off to another nurse who spread my legs, pierced me with metal and poked me with cotton swabs.

I tried to stay calm throughout, especially when the nurse peering into my vagina had a frown on her face, and rushed off to talk to someone as soon as she was finished. Lovely.

A few days later, when I came in to get my results, I started to feel panic. I knew it was illogical. There was 0.01% chance I had HIV but at that moment, my imagination wasn’t feelin’ the logic. They called a nurse to give me the results.

While I was waiting, I had plenty of time to imagine the awkward humiliation of telling my parents, my ex-sexual partners and my friends that I was diseased. I had accepted the fact that I had probably infected people, and that I was a murderer.

When the nurse finally appeared on the scene, she started to rummage through my file, searching and searching. What could she be looking for?

By this stage, I was in a hate spiral for not being more careful, for ever having sex, ever. I was responsible for my own early painful death. I would have to quit my startup and leave Chile early. It was a disaster of epic proportions.

Finally she found it. Jesus. And made me follow her into a private room. I decided I was going to just sew up my vagina and throw myself off the nearest tall building. Anything but have to go through this again.

She put the results on the table and asked me to fill out a form.

A form? What now? Why didn’t she just SAY IT? Why was she postponing the inevitable?

I glanced down, and caught a glimpse of the word “negativo”. Phew. All was well in the world.

I filled out the form while she stuffed the papers in an envelope.

I asked her if everything was ok, and she assured me it was, and handed me the envelope.

I walked to a nearby park bench and opened it. It was incoherent. Was was V.D.R.L? What was Flujo Vaginal? What was Ureaplasma Urealyticum because I seemed to have it. But I didn’t have Mycoplasma. Did that mean that Ureaplasma Urealyticum wasn’t serious?

I went back to the three receptionists and confessed to my infection right there in the waiting room. What could they do for me? I wanted a cure. They told me to go to a gynaecologist down the road.

I went to Google instead. I don’t see why, on top of $200 of lab tests, I have to pay money for someone to interpret my lab results? Isn’t this pretty straightforward? 

All I want is:

a. a standard list of STD lab tests in any language that I can print off and bring with me to a lab so I don’t have to rely on uninformed receptionists.

b. an email with the results as soon as they are ready, along with explanations of each test and what the result means so I know what I need to do next.

c. and free tests would be awesome. Most people can’t afford to pay $200 to get checked.

Fear causes people to avoid getting tested, and spread more diseases. Forcing people to wait and denying them information causes panic. In general, in all my interactions with nurses and receptionists, it was obvious that being proactive about sexual health is not the norm in Chile. Instead of being rewarded for taking care of my sexual health, I felt shame for being so open about the fact that I was having unprotected sex, like I was a criminal or something.

I thought sex was supposed to be a joyous act? All I see is risk of STDs even if you use condoms, fear of pregnancy even if you use contraception, and guilt if you ever ask for a pregnancy test or an STD test. God forbid you might be having sex with someone without the intention of getting pregnant.


Even if I do have an STD, there are treatments. No one should be given reason to panic, ever. I never want to have to go through that again.

Is it any better where you are from?

Update on the Invention Experiment

I’ve been writing over at InventorSpot for the last month, a financially viable way to fuel my invention experiment. They’ve been patient enough to bear with me as I try to find my voice. As a result, I’ve been able to keep learning about at least one invention each day, and in the process, learn more about what types of inventions interest me the most.

W/me mood tracking bracelet

It’s true that you learn by doing, so although it should have been obvious to me, I’ve been able to narrow down the genre of inventions that naturally spark my interest. Don’t get me wrong, I like thinking about plastic bottles, and I appreciate all types of inventions, but what really fascinates me is the internet of things when you apply it to health, self and happiness.

Mimo Baby Monitor

I’m so excited about tracking. (Seamless) tracking and data capturing of the seemingly banal. There are so many gadgets now that interact and sync data about our temperature, sleep patternsheart ratepatterns and triggers. They give us insight into our bodies, and the bodies of our loved ones, empowering us to make more informed decisions as individuals, invent better solutions as companies and even improve cities so we can live healthier and happier.

I’m also super excited about female reproductive health, and sick of just accepting the current solutions on offer.


I’ve still been thinking of a new invention per week, or more like a new complaint each week! But many ideas are stuck in my drafts – writing for InventorSpot has sucked away some of the creative writing time from my days.

I will find the time to edit and post them soon. Thanks for keeping in the invention experiment loop!

Why can’t I refill my plastic water bottle in my local supermarket?

Musing more on what else we can use plastic bottles for, I found myself wanting to refill my water bottle, not just while “communing” in a hostel, but while living in an apartment in Santiago. The tap water here is potable, but it tastes just awful. I spend money every day on plastic water bottles, and am starting to feel more than just a little guilty about it, especially since I’m pretty sure the generic garbage facility is not recycling them [update: I will soon be able to recycle them at a local Lider supermarket].

Why can’t I refill my bottle in my apartment building? Or better yet, at a local Lider supermarket? You can do almost everything else there – including pay your bills and use their lockers.


It seems like coin operated water dispensing machines like this one do actually clean the water, so they could be used in Mexico or Bolivia where they don’t just crave nicer tasting water #firstWorldProblems.

It also seems like they would be more environmentally friendly since they don’t waste any resources otherwise used to get plastic water bottles onto shelves, but I still need to investigate further.

coin operated soviet era automatic water dispenser-15
Here’s a coin operated water dispensers from Soviet Russia. Super cool.

If you are in the US, Whole Foods have a reverse osmosis water machine at $.35/gallon (about 3.7 litres). The only downside if you already have clean water in your apartment, is having to lug the reusable jugs home. In Canada there are cool 24 hour water refilling stations, like Rocky Ridge.

coin op web rock ridge
Rocky Ridge 24 Hour Water Refilling station

In Mexico, we had no choice. It was either that, or pay more to get it delivered.

Familiar sight in Mexico – collecting your water jug

But I don’t really need a 10-20 litre jug. At the moment I find myself buying 1.5 litre bottles as I need them, so if there were a coin operated water dispenser in my local Lider, I would just refill my bottle there instead.

I wonder does anyone have this in mind for Chile? It’s probably never going to happen – it costs so much to import equipment here that it would take forever to earn back the cost of the machine. It’s probably too niche a use case. But Mexico might be different.

Anyone know if this already happening there? If not, anyone want to start this as a side project with me? 😉  Importing coin operated water machines into Mexico? Lets do it!

If you like my solution-vention this week, sign up for my newsletter, here

How to get FDA approval for mobile medical apps

If your parents house is anything like mine, there are random health machines all over the place, mobile monitors of all sizes and shapes for monitoring blood pressure, ECG electrocardiograms, and god knows what. But smartphone apps are a-coming.

AliveCor mobile ECG monitor

Today I covered the FDA approval of the first smartphone operated, continuous ECG mobile monitor, eMotion ECG Mobile, for inventorSpot. While I was researching the multitude of competitors, I saw a few smartphone operated ECG’s, mainly for use by clinicians in their clinics. It made me wonder how the FDA is dealing with this influx of smartphone medical device apps.

Having trained and worked as a Biomedical Engineer, I can tell you from personal experience that the FDA approval process is no fun – when people’s lives are at stake, things tend to get serious. But as an iPhone app developer, the Apple approval process has at times been too much to take. I can’t imagine having to do both!

So it turns out the FDA released guidelines just a few months ago about how they are going to regulate what they call mobile medical apps.

And they have been dealing with an influx:

The agency has cleared about 100 mobile medical applications over the past decade; about 40 of those were cleared in the past two years.”

They’ve decided to focus their oversight on mobile medical apps that:

  • are intended to be used as an accessory to a regulated medical device – for example, an application that allows a health care professional to make a specific diagnosis by viewing a medical image from a picture archiving and communication system (PACS) on a smartphone or a mobile tablet; or
  • transform a mobile platform into a regulated medical device – for example, an application that turns a smartphone into an electrocardiography (ECG) machine to detect abnormal heart rhythms or determine if a patient is experiencing a heart attack.

Mobile medical apps that undergo FDA review will be assessed using the same regulatory standards and risk-based approach that the agency applies to other medical devices.”

I guess that means it takes a long time to get mobile medical apps through the FDA, and will keep the barriers to entry high for the majority of aspiring mobile medical app inventors. Looks like my parents will be waiting a while before they can download mobile medical apps for everything they need right on their smartphone.

What medical devices are lying around your home? Do you have any cool ideas for medical device apps that you think should be built?

If you want to hear more about the latest in health and fitness technology inventions, you can find me writing over at inventorSpot

How to remove the doormat/nagging conflict from a relationship

woman doing housekeeping

Today I realized that I was a doormat in my relationship. He hated washing the dishes, so I washed them. He said he would clean the bathroom tomorrow, so I cleaned it. He left his dirty clothes on the ground, so I washed them while I was washing mine. I did it all thinking that it was what a cool woman did, keeping the peace. 

Cool women don’t nag their Significant Others. Cool women understand that men hate certain activities, and so it’s about finding what they do like to do, like cook the occasional pizza and make a huge mess, or code code code. Cool women see that it’s not worth fighting about the small stuff because they hate having arguments over so-called “stupid shit”. Cool women know that mundane activities are actually an opportunity to practice mindfulness.

My sister was definitely not a cool women. She was training her man so that he would follow orders. He was washing dishes, ironing clothes and mowing the lawn, instead of writing songs and practicing piano. She is so mean, I thought. He needs time to create. She is going to lose her man if she isn’t careful.

Where did I get these ideas from? Who was I? Why was I so fucking NICE? And where’s the balance between being a nagging bitch, and being a doormat? I cared about having a clean house and wished I didn’t. My SO just didn’t care and didn’t care that he didn’t. If he could use that cleaning time to code, why couldn’t I use the cleaning time to write?

My solution-vention? [Apart from breaking up and resolving never to get into a serious relationship with a man ever again…]

– Live separately a.k.a Simone de Beauvoir

– If that’s not possible, hire someone to clean the dishes, wash the laundry and mow the lawn. Because it’s not worth trying to find a balance. 

What do you think? Am I just falling in love with the wrong men? You can tell me. I can take it.