Wiser! #36: Apple looking at detecting mental health via iPhone; more attention on Amazon's treatment of workers; Lemonade CEO Daniel Schreiber talks to me; plus much much more.
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In this issue of the Wiser! Newsletter;
- Apple is working on iPhone features to help detect depression & cognitive decline
- Amazon's productivity algorithms are more than just old fashioned "time and motion"
- Lemonade: Interview with CEO Daniel Schreiber
- How many shares did the BigTech CEOs sell in their own firms in 2021?
- What is Audius and could it be the next Spotify?
- Coinbase has cancelled its crypto lending product following an SEC warning
- Robinhood to roll out its own crypto wallet
- And more...
Apple is working on iPhone features to help detect depression & cognitive decline
The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that Apple is working on technology to help diagnose a range of mental health and well-being conditions.
In the same week that Apple launched the latest iPhone (13) and released an updated iOS (15), the story that caught my eye was about Apple expanding further into the healthtech space. (Here's the Wiser! article about BigTech's push into the $9 trillion global healthcare sector).
Up until now, most of Apple's focus for health features has been on the Apple Watch, which is the number 1 selling watch of all watches. In fact, in 2020, Apple's sales of its smartwatch were over $30 billion, which was twice the total sales of the entire Swiss watch industry. (Here's the Wiser! on Apple's leadership in the wearables sector.)
Working with the University of California and with pharmaceutical company Biogen, Apple's researchers hope they can tease out digital signals associated with the target conditions so that artificial intelligence can be created to detect them reliably.
By collecting data from the iPhone's video and audio sensors, and keyboard and combining it with signals from the Apple Watch related to movement, vital signs and sleep patterns, researchers hope to build patterns that indicate early signs of a condition.
This includes analysis of participants’ facial expressions, how they speak, the pace and frequency of their walks, sleep patterns, and heart and respiration rates. They may also measure the speed of their typing, frequency of their typos and content of what they type, among other data points.
Here's the point. Individually, each piece of data is meaningless, but when they are combined and compared they create a profile of behaviour. Matching these profiles against individuals who suffer from a particular condition will lead to Apple developing features for earlier detection.
For example, a 2019 study showed that 31 adults with cognitive impairment exhibited different behaviour on their Apple devices than healthy older adults.
Apple's research falls into 2 broad categories; mental-health and cognitive-decline. And the company wants to leverage the data from an iPhone because it is more sensitive and has a broader range than is available from the Apple Watch.
Earlier this year, a research project with Duke University reported a study that showed a smartphone app could detect autism symptoms in toddlers. The researchers created the app to assess the eye gaze patterns of children while they watched short, strategically designed movies on an iPhone or iPad, then applied computer vision and machine learning to determine whether the child was looking more often at the human in the video, or objects.
By using the iPhone’s camera to observe how the young children focused, the artificial intelligence was able to detect the differences between those with and without the condition.
To be clear, nobody is suggesting that Apple can diagnose, cure or treat these conditions. Instead, the research is focused on developing detection tools for people with neurological or mood disorders that would lead to earlier intervention and potentially prevent worse outcomes. It remains to be seen if reliable algorithms can be created to detect the conditions.
Source: Wall Street Journal
SideNote: Data privacy
If Apple were to develop these features, it would mean that users would have to trust their iPhone with sensitive data. This would trigger another privacy debate just as we saw recently with Apple's CSAM (Child Sex Abuse Material) features. (Here's the Wiser! on the Apple privacy debate).
However, Apple and their CEO Tim Cook, has put privacy at the centre of its strategy. Apple has placed a big bet on their ability to persuade users that they can trust Apple (more than they can trust anyone else).
Amazon's productivity algorithms are more than just old fashioned "time and motion"
In the 21st century search for improved productivity, tech-enabled surveillance of workers is being used to analyse their performance. The credit for this "innovation" has largely been directed to Amazon, and specifically its founder, Jeff Bezos.
The term "Bezosism" entered the vernacular last week after a Wall Street Journalist argued that Amazon is transforming the nature of work and production in the industrialised world.
From monitoring employees for how long they take on toilet breaks, to installing cameras to constantly watch delivery drivers, Amazon is using tech to track and monitor the performance of its workforce across the board.
For workers that miss targets, they are being sent automatic warning notices, and even dismissed, without any human intervention. Earlier this year, Vox reported a long list of examples of gender and racial discrimination in Amazon's AI-driven HR systems.
I wrote about Amazon's employee nightmare a few weeks back.
It's no surprise that the practices at Amazon are raising concerns. Amazon has a rate of injury that is 80% higher than that of non-Amazon warehouses, according to a study by a coalition of labour unions.
Fuelled by the pandemic, Amazon has met the unprecedented rise in home-delivery orders by hiring more people in the shortest time frame than any American corporation in history. Amazon made the equivalent of three years worth of profits in 2020, and not just because toilet paper sales were up 186% between March and April last year.
This week the Guardian reported on a new law being considered in California. Under the bill, warehouses will be required to disclose quotas and metrics used to track workers, aka time and motion.
The law would ban all firms giving workers penalties for "time" they are "off-task”. Although the bill does not specifically mention Amazon and applies to all warehouse jobs in California, there is little doubt that this is aimed at Amazon.
Lemonade: Interview with CEO Daniel Schreiber
Earlier this week it was the 5th-anniversary of Lemonade selling its first insurance policy. Their first 5 years have been exceptional by any standard;
- Lemonade got to one million paying customers faster than Netflix, Spotify, or Amazon. And over 5 times faster than Allstate, GEICO, State Farm, or USAA, some of the largest insurers in the USA,
- At a 150% compound annual growth rate, Lemonade's top line accelerated faster in their first 5 years than Facebook, Amazon, or Apple managed to achieve.
To commemorate the occasion, co-founder and CEO Daniel Schreiber wrote this article for Lemonade Stories (a good read);
In the article, he wrote this... (guess who?)
There are 2 pieces of content for you to find out more about Lemonade;
- A long-form article I posted on Tuesday including the 5 reasons why I'm bullish on Lemonade. You can find it here.
- A video of the conversation I had with Daniel Schreiber. We had a lot of fun making it and you should watch it, it's really good.
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***Snippets of Insight and Information***
You may be surprised to see how many shares the BigTech CEOs sold in their own firms in 2021
Tech stocks have done exceptionally well throughout the pandemic, adding significant value to the shareholdings of their CEOs. So, if I told you that they'd be taking advantage of this bumper harvest, would you be surprised?
For example, did you know that Mark Zuckerberg sold an average of $15m of Facebook shares every 1.3 days in the first half of 2021, raking in over $300 million?
Or that Jeff Bezos unloaded $6.6bn of Amazon stock in the first 6 months!
Source: Visual Capitalist
What is Audius and could it be the next Spotify?
Audius brands itself as a "music protocol of the future". Essentially, it is a new type of tech platform that seeks to eliminate the middlemen. It can do this because it is run on blockchain technology (this is the tech that Bitcoin runs on).
Why? Because the record companies and distribution platforms like Apple Music all take a big cut of music sales. Traditionally, record labels and other music industry middlemen have taken a majority cut of every song or album sale. According to some estimates, only about 12% of music industry revenues were paid to artists. Audius aims to stand apart from its competitors by directing 90% of music revenue to artists.
Coinbase has cancelled its crypto lending product following an SEC warning
The product was to be called Lend and it was designed for users to earn interest by lending out their crypto assets. However, the plans had come under fire from the Securities and Exchange Commission. I must hold my hands up, I called this one wrong. I expected Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong to put up a bigger fight and win out. Partly because we are just at the very beginning of the battle between a regulated market approach and a decentralised one (DeFi).
Robinhood to roll out its own crypto wallet
Cryptocurrency is important to Robinhood. Around a fifth of its revenue come from fees for trading cryptocurrencies. And crypto trading is roughly 2.5x more profitable than trading equities for Robinhood. Adding a crypto wallet means that Robinhood users will be able to buy and spend cryptocurrencies (they can only buy and sell today). This opens up the world of DeFi, in-app spending on games and buying elote loco from an El Salvadorian street vendor.
For more on Robinhood, read this (it will explain how Robinhood makes its money) 👇
***Just The Headlines***
The history of computer programming languages (one for the nerds!)