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Emerging companies clock pace of innovation

BY Mark Hamstra

For a real-world look at the speed at which innovation occurs and what it means to truly have an innovation mindset, a panel of start-up companies — each at various stages of development and maturity — talked about the white spaces their organizations targeted and the solutions they created to fill those voids at a special Health Innovation Summit, hosted by CVS Health in partnership with Drug Store News and Mack Elevation in June.

Following is a brief recap of the companies that participated in the June 13 discussion.

BraceUnder
Teddy Hodges, the founder and CEO of Chicago-based BraceUnder, is deeply familiar with the medical issues that his product seeks to treat and prevent. A veteran of several knee surgeries who struggled with knee braces, Hodges saw the need for such a product as BraceUnder, which is a customizable compression garment system designed for injury recovery and prevention.

The system is made from a compression tight and reusable, orthopedic tape, which work together to facilitate movement control and assist in reducing injury risk. The tights are designed for fashion and comfort, as well as versatility — users or such medical professionals as trainers can apply the orthopedic tape to achieve optimum results.

The system leverages what the company calls “smart thermogenesis” — the body’s own heat-generating mechanism — to reduce swelling from the hip joint to below the knee. The product, currently available for pre-order, has been tested by more than 150 wearers, including more than 20 professional athletes.

Chrono Therapeutics
Chrono Therapeutics, based in Hayward, Calif., is developing a wearable, transdermal drug delivery system designed to help people quit smoking.

The Chrono system delivers nicotine doses of various levels based on the predicted timing of a user’s peak cravings. The system offers support tools and coaching via an app to assist the user in giving up cigarettes. The technology also supports compliance measurement and data analytics. Early clinical trials have shown that the system has been successful in reducing cravings, the company said.

Last fall, Chrono Therapeutics, a recipient of the World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer Award, received $47.6 million in series B financing. “This financing will bring us closer to commercializing our system for smoking cessation, and also enable us to dive more deeply into other applications where we can make a major impact and save lives,” said Alan Levy, chairman and CEO of Chrono Therapeutics.

Sleep.ai
Sleep.ai combines a mobile app with a wearable device to alert users to certain sleep disorders, including tooth grinding, snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.

The system leverages the fact that about 70% of people only snore when they are sleeping on their back. The “Do I Snore or Grind” app detects snoring sounds and sends a signal to the Anti-Snore Wearable, a strap worn around the arm, which then vibrates as a reminder for the wearer to turn onto their side.

The app also records the sounds of snoring and tooth grinding during sleep, which can then be presented to a doctor and can help users identify whether or not such factors as alcohol or medication are having an impact on their snoring and grinding. The company, based in the Netherlands, was co-founded by CEO Michiel Allessie, a dentist who conducted research on bruxism (tooth grinding) before launching the start-up venture.

23andMe
The sequencing of the human genome holds promise for a range of medical functions, from disease prevention to custom drug delivery.

Mountain View, Calif.-based personal genetics company 23andMe was founded in 2006, shortly after the Human Genome Project completed its 13-year effort to sequence the human genome. Its Personal Genome Service, which tests saliva samples, allows users to access, understand and benefit from that research.

In April, the company said the Food and Drug Administration granted the company the first authorization to market genetic reports on personal risk for certain diseases. The authorization includes reports on genetic risk for 10 conditions, including late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, celiac disease, hereditary thrombophilia (blood clots) and others. “This is an important moment for people who want to know their genetic health risks and be more proactive about their health,” said Anne Wojcicki, 23andMe’s CEO and cofounder.

UnaliWear
Austin, Texas-based UnaliWear has developed a speech-driven smartwatch that provides a range of medical alert services for the user.

The Kanega watch — named after the Cherokee word for “speak” — is designed to detect falls, provide medication reminders and guard against wandering. The technology includes machine-learning capabilities so that the watch can detect deviations from the wearer’s normal lifestyle. It combines continuous speech recognition, cellular service, GPS, Wi-Fi and BLE, or bluetooth low energy, technologies, and an accelerometer for fall detection. The watch is currently available for pre-order.

The company was founded by CEO Jean Anne Booth, who previously founded two technology start-ups that were acquired by Texas Instruments and Apple. Marc DeVinney, co-founder and chief technology officer, previously developed a location-based device to protect autistic children and a cloud-based system to help protect seniors in long-term care facilities. The third co-founder, Brian Kircher, senior member of the technical staff, also has a background in technology.

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Leverage new opportunities or risk ‘death blow’

BY Julie Ritzer Ross

Steve Laughlin, IBM VP/GM of global consumer distribution

“The last best experience anyone has anywhere becomes their expectation everywhere,” and the retail experience is no exception. That was the message conveyed by Steve Laughlin, VP and general manager of global consumer industry at IBM, in his CVS Health Innovation Summit presentation.

Laughlin noted that heightened consumer expectations, coupled with increased efforts by manufacturers and distributors to adopt a “direct-to-consumer” sales model, should be compelling drug chains and other retailers to leverage new opportunities in their businesses — or prepare for a “death blow.” He outlined several building blocks for capitalizing on these opportunities.

Leveraging cognitive systems
The retail industry as a whole is doing a poor job of harnessing data for such competitive purposes as enhancing customer engagement, in part because so much of that data is unstructured and, consequently, difficult to analyze, according to Laughlin. Cognitive systems comprise a good solution here because they understand imagery, language and other unstructured data (e.g., comments on social media), as well as have the ability to reason, grasp underlying concepts, form hypotheses and extract and infer ideas. Additionally, such systems can learn; their expertise sharpens with each action, data point and outcome; and they can interact with humans in a natural way.

Applying artificial intelligence
Laughlin pointed to the example of “shopping bots,” such as the Macy’s on Call shopping bot piloted last year by the Macy’s department store chain and developed using IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence platform. To use these shopping bots, customers type questions pertaining to the general or specific product they seek (e.g., women’s dresses or a woman’s dress by a certain designer) and are directed to its exact location.

Re-imagining the store
This involves reducing the volume of inventory available in store (although not necessarily from an alternate location, such as a distribution center) and decreasing the amount of space devoted to merchandise. The objective, Laughlin explained, is to give retailers sufficient space to undertake initiatives associated with their mission. For drug stores, these initiatives might be centered on wellness, fitness and helping consumers live a healthier lifestyle.

In re-imagining their stores, Laughlin said retailers must bear in mind how consumers think. He cited a pilot program introduced by Target and Home Depot. Both retailers featured a display of teakwood patio furniture in their stores, but the products were unavailable there — only via two-day delivery.

The results were different, Laughlin said, because Target customers don’t typically think about buying patio furniture there, so the products were purchased on impulse and the wait for shipping was not a problem. Conversely, Home Depot customers might indeed consider the retailer’s stores a destination for patio furniture.

Individualizing the shopping experience
In an individualized shopping experience scenario, personality profiles derived from consumers’ shopping history and customer analytics are used to deliver unique product recommendations online and in store — for instance, through mobile offers delivered while a consumer is standing in a store aisle. Each click of a consumer’s mouse or action taken in a store sparks further personalization and recommendations.

Adopting hyperlocalization practices
These practices include using not only historical and other internal data, but also external data, to plan store locations, merchandise assortments and finalize merchandise allocations. Laughlin said one chain utilizes Watson to curate information on the behavior of individual stores’ competitors and adjusts its own activities, such as price adjustments, accordingly.

Engaging in ongoing experimentation
Keeping pace with disruptive forces in retail  necessitates a willingness to experiment with technology and data to interact with shoppers, building stronger relationships with them. Retailers need to deviate from their scripts and test different ways to engage customers. "Retailers need to act like the disruptors with which they’re competing,” Laughlin said. “It means moving quickly and, more important,” being willing to fail.

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Video messages help drive mobile commerce

BY Mark Hamstra

Facebook senior client partner Aaron Calloway

Video-based marketing messages designed for mobile viewing represent a significant opportunity for retailers, according to a speaker at the recent Health Innovation Summit, hosted by CVS Health in partnership with Drug Store News and Mack Elevation.

“Mobile is only going to get bigger for the rest of your careers,” Aaron Calloway, a senior client partner at Facebook, told the audience during a presentation at the summit, which took place at the Omni Hotel in Providence, R.I. Consumers now spend three hours per day on their mobile devices, he said, and mobile penetration continues to grow, with 2 billion new mobile phones activated last year alone.

Woonsocket, R.I.-based CVS has an opportunity to work more closely with its CPG partners to deliver personalized messages to its customers via such mobile platforms as Facebook and Instagram, said Calloway, who works with CVS to shape the company’s Facebook strategies. Such efforts could help drive mobile-based e-commerce sales. “Mobile needs to be at the center of everything,” Calloway said.

Just as mobile has become the focal point of digital activity, video also has emerged as a leading format of digital content. More than 50% of U.S. consumers watch video on mobile devices, Calloway said, citing research from eMarketer.

“This is a game-changer for businesses [that] want to engage with people and showcase their brands and products in more immersive and compelling ways,” he said. In fact, although new-product discovery often has been cited as a reason for consumers to visit physical store locations, 30% of mobile shoppers prefer to discover new products via video, Calloway said, citing research from Kantar’s “Path to Purchase 2016” report.

Short, impactful video presentations often can be crafted easily using existing photography, he said. In addition, marketers should keep in mind that practical, how-to videos are the second most-popular type of video consumed online, after entertainment.

When creating video communications, marketers also should take into consideration the fact that most Facebook video is consumed with the sound off, he added. “Build for that,” Calloway said. “People need to be able to follow the story wherever they want.”

Based on data from its users, Facebook’s extensive consumer insights can help marketers create more effective communications, he said. For example, a CVS beauty advisor event could be live-streamed online, then edited into shorter videos and repurposed as targeted marketing messages for specific customers, such as those who have purchased cosmetics in a store in the last six months.

Location-based marketing presents yet another opportunity, Calloway said, noting that 98% of CVS stores have been geo-fenced so that Facebook can detect when a customer has entered a specific location. “We can measure campaigns and see if they were effective at driving people into your stores,” Calloway said. “We can change the copy by store, we can change the image and we can show you where you are in relation to the store on a map.”

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