Strategic Informatics

A blog about the strategic application of technology

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WWDC… The long, long, wait

Waiting in line is one of the many memorable events at WWDC. I’ve met several people from all over the world.

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Apple World Wide Developer Conference 2013

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In less than 24 hours, the first Apple event in at least 6 months will be underway.  There are a lot of eyes on Apple given their incremental product releases.  Rumors abound about what will be unveiled however it seems a safe bet given the signs that are posted in the Moscone center that Apple will focus heavily on the OS X and iOS.  Apple has released the innovative MacBook Pro with Retina Display and manufacturers have yet to really catch up with the design or hardware specs of this product so it makes sense Apple innovates in the software in their portfolio.

Follow-me on Twitter @cary_brown for updates…

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What makes a successful mobile device?

I typically don’t title my posts with a question but it begs to be answered with the imminent release of Apple’s iPad.  Frankly… I’m frustrated with all the media fanfare around how tablet based computing is “now” going to revolutionize the industry.  Tablet PC’s have been around for for 10-15 years.  It’s not the hardware in as much as it is the software running on these devices that have been the problem with adoption.  Software also being inclusive of the operating systems that power the devices.  Initial incarnations of the slate based devices tried to take a desktop OS like Windows, and with the help of some task bar utilities (and who doesn’t love more of those cluttering your interface) would create a platform for mobile professionals.  The result was that year over year software vendors continued to make their mouse and keyboard driven desktop applications function in the confines of a cumbersome keyboard and mouse driven OS by pecking at a temperamental resistive touch screen display on a mobile device.  And we wonder why software solution have a hard time getting used by providers and clinicians.

What was needed was a truly mobile and touch driven OS and SDK like Apple provided in their iPhone to help developers conform to building applications that did not rely on technologies that didn’t exist on the hardware like a mouse.  This was needed because no one had stepped up to the challenge in a market dominated almost exclusively by Microsoft.  Linux was in its infancy in the mobile space back then but today the Android OS has certainly stepped up to the challenge the iPhone has presented in the mobile device space and is providing a competitive platform against which Apple may have a hard time competing if the innovations in the open source world continue to leapfrog apple.

My issues with mobile computing in healthcare revolve around technologies that get in the way of providers and clinicians doing their core job which is attending to patients and not fumbling through hundreds of check boxes and interfaces designed to be used on a desktop.  Vendors need to realize just because you can run your application on a tablet PC doesn’t mean you should.  Let me repeat….Just because you CAN run your application on a tablet based device DOESN’T mean you should.  If an application is architected properly then there should always be a layer of abstraction between the interface and the underlying core enterprise services that drive that interface.  I’m not hating on Microsoft for providing Windows Tablet OS as I think they have considerably innovated in this area to help vendors use their legacy applications on mobile slate and convertible based platforms.  Multiple modalities for inputting data such as handwriting, voice, and predictive text recognition are all very good tools.  I think they were smart to merge these functions into the standard Windows 7 build and not offer a separate OS as they have in the past.

More interesting is the total rewrite of their mobile platform with Windows Mobile 7.  This ground-up initiative from Redmond is akin to becoming more like iPhone and Android operating systems but paves the way for more svelte hardware with mobile chip sets that can extend battery life without sacrificing performance.  Microsoft is bringing XAML to the mobile platform and leveraging their gaming SDK for development which eliminates any backward compatibility with pre-Windows Mobile 7 apps but I don’t view this as a bad thing.  New platform new apps…  Microsoft has long since reached the breaking point at which they need to support legacy applications and this new direction and outlook toward supporting the mobile user should be a refreshing change for developers.  A lot of our new development revolves around innovating in the user interface with Rich Internet Application (RIA) technologies such as Silverlight.  It makes us think differently about how applications are used and more importantly how it enables our users (physicians and clinical staff)  to do their job more effectively not insert yet another technology that gets in their way.

It has been a while since I posted an entry but my entire team and I have been hard at work maintaining existing applications and plugging away at UI and WCF service development.   Stay tuned…as we plug through our iterations and get ready to deploy our app I’ll share with you some of what WellMed is doing to “change the face of healthcare for seniors…”

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iPhone Development

Curiosity got the best of me this evening so I signed up for the iPhone Developer Program.  Being a person who has lived through several horrible user interfaces, Apples approach is refreshingly simple and with many more capabilities in the 3.0 release of the iPhone firmware I think there are many more unique applicaitons to be built.  I have more than an idle curiousity with developing an application utilizing some of the  initiatives we currently have going on at work but time will tell what direction our mobile strategy moves in.  In the mean time I’ll test the waters to see what new API’s Apple has released with their new 3.0 SDK.  Bluetooth communications, dock connector API’s, all have some interesting possiblities.

 

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Apple’s Tablet iBook?

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If we are to believe Apple then there is no intent on offering a slate based tablet platform.  However as evidenced by recent Chinese-language financial newspapers this week it is claimed that Wintek has been selected to manufacture touchscreens for a device targeted at the netbook category.  I’ll be the first to admit that I think Apple is poised to offer a device that picks up where Microsoft’s third-party device manufacturers left off.  It is clear to me that the capacitive touch screen on the iPhone/iPod is a great interface to a large screen slate based device.  While the above picture is surely a fake it does draw my attention to the fact that Apple’s recent Beta release of Safari has some very “Touch Friendly” features including the “Top Sites” at-a-glance preview of your favorite websites and Google Chromesque tab management which is uncharactaristic of Apples typicaly UI design within OSX. 

Safari 4 web browser demonstrating Top Sites feature
I became the recent receipient of Dell’s capacitive touch 12″ tablet and can assure you it does not compare to the iPhone’s interface.  Time will tell what Apple does in the coming months and if this rumor has any traction but for my work in developing applications I would love to see some well crafted UI’s sitting atop Apple’s hardware.  As novel as it may sound…”Flicking” through medical records using cover flow would be a pretty neat feature for managing a stack of patient medical records.

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Blackberry Storm First Impressions

Like most large enterprises we have our fair share of smartphones in use.  While IT tries to keep this limited to a select few, I did recently get a hands-on with the new touch screen Blackberry Storm from Verizon.  Being an iPhone user myself I can certainly say it was a different experience and RIM while taking advantage of the now popular touch screen enabled devices has set themselves apart from the iPhone.  For better or for worse the phone appears to be solidly built and well designed.  Several side-by-side comparisons with my iPhone revealed the Blackberry Storm to be a little shorter and thicker but weight was about the same and I would certianly have no problems carrying it in my pocket.  The higher-resolution camera would be a welcomed addition to my iPhone but my real test was trying to use the clickable touchscreen.  Being and iPhone user for the past year and a half didn’t help my experience as the Storm functions more like a tablet PC where the focus is constantly changing as you move your finger around the screen to select different options.  When you have moved your finger over the menu item or area you want to select you simply press down on the screen.  The feedback was intuitive enough but I made the mistake of using it in portrait mode where the web browser presented me with a condensed set of keys (two letters for each key).  Turning the unit sideways revelaed a full single letter per key layout which was better for writing messages.  I enjoyed the iPhones predective text features more and having the pop-up visual keys appear when you type on the iPhone.

The clickable test is not a show stopper but I imagine, that while effortless, a long session of typing would cause your thumbs to become a bit tired.  Granted these devices aren’t meant for long diatribes but should certianly meet the needs of most quick e-mail responses.  I think I’ll stick with my iPhone for now and hope that Apple continues along their roadmap and includes some needed enhancements to the existing software like landscape typing of e-mails, status screen separating unread messages into multiple accounts, more alert options for new messages.  Some of this may come about with the release of the push-messaging agent Apples been promising but if history is any indication I shouldn’t have to wait too long before Apple sends out another enhancement release.

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Microsoft Developing Its Own App Store for Windows Mobile?

It appears that Microsoft, noticing the success of the App Store from Apple, is set to launch its own app store for windows mobile platforms given a recent job posting on computerjob.com. The description states the senior project manager will ead a team that will “drive the launch of a v1 marketpace service for Windows Mobile.” The success of the iPhone App Store is a sure way to drive traffic from a mobile platform. I must agree that searching the app store is far simpler than scouring the Internet in search of an applicaiton for your mobile smart phone. While I’ve certainly had my fair share of issues with the iPhone v2 firmware at least Apple has recognized and actively fixing issues which is a far cry from the issues I’ve experienced on Palm, Windows Mobile, and yes even Blackberry Mobile Operating Systems.

I’m seeing a steady increase in the use of iPhone’s in physician hands. With apps like ePocrates hitting the Apple App Store it won’t be long before more and more physicians take advantage of the quick search capabilities offered by Mobile Safari and reference tools such as ePocrates. At the Microsoft Health Users Group meeting this past week I would say I noticed about 1/3 of the users were iPhone owners. I spoke with the CIO of a healthcare portal company and he is actively developing an application interface for his product. If healthcare application developers would focus more on the interface of their apps I think physicians and clinicians alike would adopt the iPhone as a valid platform. The sheer number of developers for Windows Mobile is tremendous and Microsoft has made it very easy to develop in this platform regardless of your programming language of choice. The iPhone has several enterprise related issue to address before IT managers adopt this as a platform worthy of supporting in larger organizations.

Source: CNet

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Health Monitoring Solutions for Patients

Dr. Touch will soothe your HMO pains

Intel Health PHS5000 is not the first implementation of an in-house health monitor but if I were to judge by the looks of the User Interface I would say this device may have some promise for monitoring one’s health at home so long as you stay home most of the time. Currently being trialed in Asia this device will monitor and check for problems related to chronic diseases, diabetes, blood pressure, etc… Assuming that smiley faces are good and you know what the resulting charts mean in terms of your physicians plan for you I think this might prove useful in visualizing a patients health.

While I agree that devices like this are useful they do not address the primary issue of not being with the patient all of the time. I think devices such as the iPhone will prove far more useful in terms of being an enabler to patients to monitor their health. Its interface is more in tune with providing easy input and quickly being able to enter data, send progress updates to a personal health record, and of course contacting your physician office by phone if necessary.

iPhone Keyboard Typing Email

A mobile iPhone solution can easily offer patients:

  • Reminders and Alerts to take medication or perform blood-checks
  • Secure connections with PCP’s can enable physicians access to real-time data
  • Mobility will not confine you to your home but rather be in your pocket ready to go
  • Software updates via the App Store will also provide easy updates as necessary

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WordPress for iPhone now available


For all you mobile WordPress bloggers with iPhones. A new WordPress app is now available in the iTunes App Directory.
Not available yet for mobile download but I would imagine that will get refereshed soon as well.

Works great and users are finally able to post pictures while blogging on the run.

Setup is pretty easy offering far better options for posting and modifying entries then the web based plug-ins for WordPress blogs. A list of categories are available as well as the current status of your entry. The ability to post pictures is a much welcomed addition as well as a preview option for reviewing posts prior to posting. Kudos to the WordPress team and for making it Open Source


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How to configure the iPhone with Sherweb’s MS Exchange 2007

So I jumped the gun and downloaded the iPhone restore firmware (iPhone1,2_2.0_5A347_Restore.ipsw) from Apple and upgraded my phone using a Windows XP desktop I have in my home office.   Here are the steps I took to install the firmware and configure Exchange to work with my hosting provider Sherweb.

How to upgrade to the 2.0 version of the firmware:
(NOTE:  This will wipe out any of your previous settings and media stored on your iPhone)

1.  Download the latest version of iTunes 7.7 from Apple

2.  Download the 2.0 firmware restore image from Apple and save to your desktop

3.  After installing iTunes and syncing your iPhone one last time go to the iPhone device config section by selecting your iPhone from the DEVICES side of the iTunes interface.  In the Summary tab hold down the shift key and click “Check for Update”  this will prompt you for the ipsw firmware image you downloaded earlier.  Select the iPhone1,2_2.0_5A347_Restore.ipsw image and click OK.

4.  Follow the simple steps to upgrade your pre 2.0 version iPhone.  It will take several minutes to update the firmware from the 225MB image file.

Once complete your iPhone will reboot and you will see the App Store listed on your home screen.

Note when the phone first boots you will be prompted to enter your VM password, and you may want to reconfigure any Wi-Fi settings you had set before the upgrade.

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How to configure Sherweb Hosted Exchange 2007:

1.  Tap on the Mail Icon from the home screen and you are presented with the following screen

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2.  Select “Microsoft Exchange” (Obviously) :) and you will be presented with the following screen

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Now here are the key fields I found after many attempts (Since there is no support thread on the Sherweb site other than how to configure the iPhone with IMAP which I don’t want to do)

Email: Existing E-Mail Address (i.e. name@yourdomain.com)
Username: ihostSAM Account Name ( i.e ihostyourname_yourdoma  which can be found by logging into the Sherweb admin console at http://admin.ihostexchange.net
Password: Your current Exchange password

3.  Click Next and the server will verify your account settings.  It should come up automatically but in the event you are prompted for a Server enter the following:  webmail.ihostexchange.net and click Next again to verify.

The process is pretty quick and the next screen prompts you to enter the synchronization settings.  If you want to Sync your Mail, Contacts, and Calendars then just make sure all the selections are ON.

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There you have it…  I’m finally getting to take advantage of the Active Sync features in the 2.0 firmware.  It feels a little like Christmas since the Apple should be releasing the 2.0 firmware sometime tomorrow with the 3G iPhone.

Now on to the App Store for some free applications…

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