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Tuesday 23 September 2014

The Punt: Apple and its health benefits

Published 13/08/2014 | 02:30

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Computer giant Apple is looking at tie-ups with some of the world's most eminent medical facilities
Computer giant Apple is looking at tie-ups with some of the world's most eminent medical facilities
Paddy Cosgrave, Organiser of the Dublin Web Summit

It used to be that an apple a day kept the doctor away. Not for long.

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Computer giant Apple is looking at tie-ups with some of the world's most eminent medical facilities.

Apple is hoping the combination of wearable diagnostic technology and know-how in the data industry will make its HealthKit products a compelling proposition for customers. The idea is that Apple devices are already in constant use by their owners and can be integrated into patients' health tracking, delivering the data in a way that is usable for physicians and healthcare providers. Ongoing monitoring of vital statistics is likely to be more effective than the fairly arbitrary testing of heart rates and blood pressure most of us get.

On the other hand, the technology would, in a sense, allow the company to sell users' own health data back to them, or at least to their doctors.

The advent of shareable health data won't be without its problems. The Financial Times has noted how Michael Dell enquired after the health of fellow tech boss Marc Benioff, the Salesforce.com chief, after noticing the latter hadn't been logging in to a fitness monitoring programme they both subscribed to. A hell of a way to be reminded you ought to be hitting the gym.

Are the black swans back?

DURING the recovery in global markets over the last 18 months or so, there has been one recurring question: what could bring the recovery to an end and send us back into a fresh downturn?

Tune in to the likes of CNBC and the response from most of those interviewed has been the same. Analysts have dismissed suggestions that securities may be over-priced at present. Instead, they say, the threat is something that nobody has thought of yet - a "black swan event".

Black swans have been around for years but in financial terms we have only talked about them since 2007 when Nassim Taleb published a book by the same name. A black swan is basically an event that nobody considers until it happens. In 2008, it was US house prices falling. Today, it may be a a war.

Looking at events in Ukraine, Gaza and Iraq, investors are getting increasingly nervous. The Middle East issues may lead to rising oil prices, while a new Cold War with Russia carries its own very real problems. None of these were on the radar a year ago.

One fund manager, Todd Ahlsten of Parnassus Investments, reads Taleb's book every summer as a guard against irrational exuberance. That doesn't sound like a bad idea.

Can you make up a Secret?

Knowledge is power. The Punt has always understood this immutable law of business. But those expecting to find the inside story on the next big IPO plan or corporate acquisition by consulting the new 'Secret' app might be wasting their time.

For those unaware of it, Secret is the hottest app for tech industry types to unburden their insider knowledge completely anonymously. Or that's the theory anyway. And it has managed to attract significant financial backing too, raising $36m so far from venture capitalists, including $25m from A-list investors such as Kleiner Perkins and Google Ventures.

There's just one problem: the app also contains made-up rubbish. A case in point is its recent 'disclosure' that The Summit, the conferencing company owned by Paddy Cosgrave, Daire Hickey and David Kelly, was due to be bought by rival conferencing outfit South By Southwest for $48m (€36m).

Several news outlets carried the 'story', despite flat denials by all principals involved. (In its current growth pattern, $48m would be a modest price to pay for The Summit.)

The bottom line is that anonymous services do attract cranks and fantasists.

Irish Independent

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