Here’s a cancer-detecting bra that’s better than a mammogram

Early detection is vital to helping halt the spread of breast cancer and permit a full recovery. That’s why many women endure the discomfort of having their breasts smooshed once a year or every few years as part of a routine mammogram. But what if instead of making an appointment at an imaging center and having a machine flatten your breasts, all you had to do was put on a bra?

The prototype iTbra

The prototype iTbra

Cyrcadia Health, a startup, has pioneered a system that includes a series of temperature sensors embedded in a bra, along with an algorithm and an app that purports to detect breast cancer earlier than a mammogram and better than a mammogram when it comes to dense breast tissue. Rob Royea, CEO of Cyrcadia Health, says that by 2016 he aims to have FDA approval for the iTbra in the U.S. so doctors can offer it to patients in place of a mammogram. Eventually, consumers would be able to buy the product over the counter and use it in place of monthly self-exams.

The product looks like a sports bra and will eventually hold a grid-like mesh of sensors, manufactured by Flextronics, inside the fabric. The sensors would track temperature changes to monitor increased blood flow that correlates with the growth in cancerous tumors. Early trials at Ohio State University have shown that temperature-sensing tech does detect cancerous tissue. Further trials are ongoing, as well as the continuing FDA approval process for the new digital product (the original FDA approval process was for an analog version that contained a wearable data pack).

As with any connected device, the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts. The wireless connectivity linking the bra to the doctor’s or the patient’s phone makes it far more comfortable to wear than the older analog data pack. The cheaper and smaller sensors make it possible to get a large enough cluster of them inside a bra in the first place. Pulling data off the sensors and analyzing it against other patients and what we know about cancer formation, then tying that back to individual patients immediately, lets detection happen quickly.

Broken down like this, it’s easy to see how the internet of things isn’t some amorphous concept but a series of technological advances that are now being applied together in new ways. For example, The iTbra is getting a boost via a documentary film backed by Cisco, which will be shown at SXSW Film in Austin, Texas next month. [company]Cisco[/company] is getting involved because it hopes to build a big business helping old-line companies understand how to bring technology into their day-to-day operations. Really, what the internet of things will do is let the internet invade pretty much everything from our buildings to our bras.

At CES, let’s just concede defeat for an open standard for IoT

Let’s just get this out of the way, y’all. We are not going to see some kind of open standard or HTML-like universal language for the internet of things or the smart home at International CES in Las Vegas next week. Instead we’re going to get a bunch of different platforms that will strive to create walled gardens. Walled gardens that will be bridged — sometimes clumsily — in the clouds via services or hubs. So consumers will have to go all in on HomeKit, or Nest or iControl’s Open Home or Wink or whatever, or work a bit harder with services like If This Then That or SmartThings or others to make their devices work together.

With that in mind, here are the internet of things-related trends we’ll see at CES next week:

  • Apple will have HomeKit, and we’ll have a bit more, but still not all, the information we’ll want from vendors participating in the program.
  • The Works with Nest developer program will have several partners and devices that people should be excited about, although I’m not sure how many of those will be announcements versus actual implementations.
  • I think the iControl’s OpenHome and the Wink certifications will stay in the game and likely come out of this CES with some strong partnerships.
  • We’ll see announcements from one-off device makers that will see them supporting the major platforms through software integrations or even hardware or offer their own programs to help others support those platforms without having to invest development time and effort. This will be a tough area as only a few middlemen will make it.

The consolidation of many of home automation devices under a few platforms will be the major theme of the show, but there will be other internet of things-related trends worth exploring as well. Medical devices for the lay consumer as well as FDA-approved devices for diagnosing fevers and even various illnesses will also be demonstrated. I’ve also seen a variety of connected devices pitched to me related to conditions as varied as chronic pain, anaphylaxis (when you can’t breathe because of an allergic reaction) and diabetes.

As I’ve said, some of these are FDA-approved, while others are purporting to show connections between certain data points the consumer tracks in their blood pressure or heart rate or urine and their health. As more and more of these devices come on the market I’m growing increasingly leery of the claims being made, in part because the mix of statistics that the FDA looks at when evaluating and discussing the efficacy of a medical device and the marketing that the consumer looks at when deciding whether to purchase such as device are very different.

For an example of the disconnect between statistical relevance in the medical field and a consumer’s understanding of what that means, the Boston Globe’s reporting on fetal genetic tests offers a heartbreaking look at what happens when the dry world of math meets marketing. Marketing wins and it’s not always beneficial to the consumer.

The internet of things will also creep further into cars, beacons will provide more presence in our homes, we’ll see more Bluetooth devices and everything will get an algorithm. We’ll even have algorithms to manage our things’ algorithms and possibly a few services to manage our myriad things. Clearly the trends are still telling us that the internet of things and the smart home are still too complicated for most consumers.

But since this is the next big thing, both in terms of selling new gadgets and in terms of gathering ever more data from consumers, the industry is ready to put all of its muscle to figure out how to solve that complexity. Maybe it’s a bigger platform or a better algorithm. Perhaps a service or an app will do the trick. But one thing is for sure: It’s not going to be an open standard.

Bits meet bite: Check out the connected toothbrush

Want to really embrace the quantitative self? Forget tracking your sleep and start tracking your dental hygiene. Beam Technologies, a year-old startup is set to introduce a Bluetooth-enabled toothbrush and app that will launch next month and retail for around $50 for the base.

Happtique aims to build a standard for mobile health apps

Many of us are using our smartphones to track our health, but much like the web, it’s hard to say what’s a worthwhile app or not. Happtique, a startup wants to change that by creating a certification program for medical apps.