Live From ...

Live at SXSW 2015

March 24, 2015          

Episode Summary

Every year, the SXSW festival attracts the top tech companies looking to debut new products and services. In this episode of The Digital Life, we discuss some of the latest and greatest wearables and health centered products that debuted at the conference, with Boston mobile entrepreneur, Giuseppe Taibi, who made the annual pilgrimage to Austin.

Jon:
Welcome to Episode 95 of the Digital Life, a show about our adventures in the world of design and technology. I’m your host Jon Follett and with me is Giuseppe Taibi, a good friend of mine and a Boston entrepreneur who has shipped products in mobile, health and big data. Fun fact about Giuseppe, he has his PhD in artificial intelligence. Giuseppe, welcome to the Digital Life.

Giuseppe:
Hi Jon, it’s great to be here. Thank you for having me.

Jon:
Giuseppe, this is our special live from South By Southwest episode. We are actually doing two episodes this week on South By Southwest. This is the one where we get to find out all the exciting things that are happening from someone who is there in person. We all know that last week Apple had their big debut of the Apple Watch and wearables are now on everybody’s mind. What’s happening at South By Southwest in relationship to the wearables and what are you seeing as you go through the conference?

Giuseppe:
Absolutely, wearables is one of the major areas of focus here. There’s among the many things, something called the Accelerator, which is sponsored by Oracle and is essentially a select number of companies that pitch to a panel of experts, either entrepreneurs or investors. One of them for example I noticed was Bob Metcalfe, who is a Bostonian and of course, is the one who credited with inventing the absolutely important Ethernet standard that we all use every day. This Accelerator had several companies in various fields, including which I mentioned just a couple, like enterprise and smart data, entertainment and content, social technologies and wearable technologies. I was there and I saw there was also a company from Canton, Massachusetts, which is called Kohana K-O-H-A-N-A. They are developing the new kind of breast pump, which is going to be more natural, discreet and efficient than the one that is currently on the market. That was quite interesting. I also saw three other companies. One is called Feetz, with a final Z and basically it has an app. You can take pictures of your feet and they will develop custom fit shoes for you, one-of-a-kind.

Jon:
Interesting.

Giuseppe:
You could take pictures of both feet because they are slightly different and in a matter of few weeks, they are trying to cut the time to even less than that, you will get your to custom shoes, which is a big deal because it turns out shoes are actually very complicated goods. Generates tremendous amount of waste and so you can imagine, you can have a store stocked with all sort of shoes and yet you go there and you don’t find the one model available for your size. The whole thing goes south. If this gets to mass-market, they can reduce waste a lot. At the same time, delivering a much more personalized product, which is always good.

Jon:
This is a seed-stage company or something they are looking for funding and do they have the product working right now? Could they snap some pictures of people’s feet …

Giuseppe:
Yes.

Jon:
Hook them up with, what kinds of shoes are these?

Giuseppe:
It’s a good question. I haven’t really looked at their full catalog, but they were showcasing, they were primarily sneakers or shoes that are like casual shoes. They’re not like fine, elegant, super expensive shoes. They are really trying to make a short supply chain models [inaudible 00:05:19] popular and at the end of the day costing probably, comparable, if not less than for the retail price.

Jon:
Wow.

Giuseppe:
They’re like very casual shoes.

Jon:
Okay, yeah, I think they’re in the running shoe market, then maybe I’ll have to check them out because I could always use another good pair of running sneakers. Spring is coming up, there’s still snow on the ground here, but I’m going to want to hit the trails fairly soon. Did you say Feetz it was, sounds like an interesting, intriguing product.

Giuseppe:
It’s like feet with a Z at the end.

Jon:
Okay Feetz, got it, got it.

Giuseppe:
Feetz, Feetz, from the same group of companies, there is another one that also is called SolePower and it’s actually because it harvests, there’s some kind of a way to harvest energy from your shoes’ insoles. That’s another one that has to do with feet and basically regenerating electricity based on your heat and your walking. But the one that really got my attention more than any other company presenting there is called Tinitell T-I-N-I-T-E-L-L. These guys have figured out a really really interesting, they call it the wrist phone and GPS tracker for kids. It’s something in the age range between let’s say maybe 5 and 10 years old. It’s a water resistant. This company is from Sweden, I should say.

They developed this water resistant phone, which actually has a speaker and the parents have an app and the app allows the parents to do a couple of things, which is extremely important. One is from the GPS to know where your kids are. B, they can decide who your kids can talk to. I think they have maximum like 10 contacts, maybe 12, but is a rugged kind of device, so the kids can just really play freely and not to be worried about damaging a potentially expensive smartphone for example.

Plus the smart phone is really getting in the way. This is kind of colorful and fun. It just seems like a really great idea, which is not going to be threatened by the Apple Watch.

Jon:
Yes, you know as a parent myself, I immediately I’m attracted to that idea, the way you described it, ruggedized way to keep track of your kids. That’s a phone watch that I could actually get behind. I don’t know, I’m still a little skeptical of the uber bling that is the Apple Watch. It’s a chunk of change, but I could really see a product like that for kids being exceptionally valuable because who doesn’t want to keep track of your kids. Well, I suppose maybe some parents would be glad not to know where they are, but in theory who doesn’t want to know where your kids are.

Giuseppe:
No, I agree. That’s only the one that got, I think it’s got a serious chance and again the website is Tinitell.com. That’s only cool product I’d say worth checking out.

Jon:
Yeah, I think that’s a nice way of, maybe not an unexpected way to have a “Wearable,” it’s adding a great benefit and using some fairly standard technology now, but creating this niche market for parents. I think that’s fantastic.

Giuseppe:
By the way, I should say, sorry, just left one more thing, we wouldn’t give full justice to this product if it was only for kids, but the same product actually can be used for seniors or for disabled people because I believe it may in fact even have like an accelerometer. From the kid’s perspective, this is like the modern reinterpretation of the walkie-talkie that was popular when we were kids because they can really very easily communicate with each other, so it’s fun. It’s not just like a safety, but it’s also actually fun to go around the playground or whatever area they’re playing and communicate like that. But also the same thing is really very convenient and valuable for other kind of use cases. Again, I’d say this is a really valuable company and a good idea.

Jon:
Yeah, if you are part of that sandwich generation, you’re taking care of your kids, you’re taking care of your parents. You can give them the same watch. They could go out and play together and then you’ll know where they are.

Giuseppe:
You standardize your gadgets, which is always simplifying your life.

Jon:
Yeah that’s good. That’s good. I know you also were fortunate enough to attend the Health Expo, which I guess is in its second year now over at South By and what were some of the sort of digital and mHealth trends that you’re seeing at the Health Expo there?

Giuseppe:
Well, it’s an excellent point there too. I’d say data is one of the biggest trends, so there’s so many startup’s and companies, who, really trying hard to get value out of data. Data in the medical environment is very messy. There’s incompatible standards. Everybody has done their own proprietary this and that. There’s definitely a need for this kind of analytics. On the other end, I’ve noticed another company called Pager, which I’m particularly excited about because it’s really bringing back the house call here to this country. I grew up in Italy and for me doctor’s house calls are like the most normal thing in the world. That’s like the default. Doctors want to do it and if somebody is sick, the last thing you should do is leave your home and your comfort and get in the car and go see some kind of doctor at some kind of office. From medical perspective, it doesn’t make any sense. I’m really thrilled, the Pager, which by the way was founded by a French doctor and they’ve told me one of the other founders is early CTO of Uber, so somebody who has a knack for distracting stale businesses. It’s got a very good chance.

There are currently offering this service only in New York, as they just launched a few months ago. Here at South By, they are offering a free first-time visit, just here in Austin. After that the second visit will be $49.

Jon:
Wow.

Giuseppe:
Then the third visit will be 199 and you can use your flexible spending account if you have it or they will send the bill to your health insurance and basically will be considered an out of network type of service. The insurance will refund you whatever it is that is part of your plan.

Jon:
Wow, yeah I think technology gives us that leverage to make that house call possible again. Wow that’s something I would definitely feel very good about. You mentioned the CTO or a former CTO of Uber, you can imagine your house call app, where you’re arranging medical appointments the same way, maybe similar way that you arrange for a ride. That would be crazy. That would make going to the doctor a little bit easier or a lot easier if it’s a little bit more on your own schedule.

Giuseppe:
Yeah, now that’s basically, service like that is actually, already available for what’s called concierge medicine. It’s very expensive and it’s only available to very affluent kind of individuals. To bring it down to this level of convenience and price point that’s a major breakthrough. I hope they succeed and they expand in more cities. I think they have a real shot.

Jon:
Yeah, well, who knows if maybe they have some plans for Boston, but I’ll put in a vote for that because I can tell you there’s some days when I could really use a house call. That would be exceptionally helpful. They’ll have at least one customer and I’m sure many many more, terrific. Listeners, remember that while you’re listening to the show, you can follow along with the things that we’re mentioning here in real time. Just head over to the digitalife.com. That’s just one L in the digitalife and go to the page for this episode. We’ve included links to pretty much everything mentioned by everybody, so it’s a rich information resource to take advantage of while you are listening or afterwards if you’re trying to remember something that you liked.

If you want to follow is outside of the show, you can follow me on Twitter at @jonfollett that’s J-O-N F-O-L-L-E-T-T. Of course, the whole show is brought to you by involution studios, which you can check out at GoInvo.com. That’s G-O-I-N-V-O.com. Giuseppe, how can people reach you?

Giuseppe:
One of the best ways to reach me is on Twitter and my Twitter handle is my first name and my last name, which is a little bit long, but I’ll spell it fast. It’s G as in George, I as in India, U as in universe, S as in sand, E as in Easter, P as in Peter, P as in Peter, E as in Easter, T as in Tom, A as in alpha, I as in India, B as in boy, I as in India, Giuseppe Taibi.

Jon:
Fantastic, so that’s it for Episode 95 of the Digital Life. I’m Jon Follett and we’ll see you next time.

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