Google's data privacy scrutiny continues, new Peloton machine rumors and more digital health news briefs

Also: Researchers use smart speakers and white noise to monitor infant respiration; ActiGraph integrates with Signant Health.
By Dave Muoio

The increased spotlight on Google’s healthcare privacy practices doesn’t seem to be letting up, with the Washington Post publishing a story this morning detailing a botched arrangement between the tech giant and the National Institutes of Health back in 2017.

The two groups had a research arrangement centered on more than 100,000 chest X-ray images provided to Google by the NIH. However, according to an anonymous source and emails obtained by the Post through a Freedom of Information Act request, Google was days from publicly posting these images before being stopped by the NIH due to concerns that many contained identifiable details.

While the project never saw the light of day, the anonymous stressed that Google researchers didn’t obtained legal patient information privacy agreements throughout the effort.

“We take great care to protect patient data and ensure that personal information remains private and secure,” Google spokesman Michael Moeschler told the Post in regard to the NIH project. “Out of an abundance of caution, and in the interest of protecting personal privacy, we elected to not host the NIH dataset. We deleted all images from our internal systems and did not pursue further work with NIH.”


Connected fitness equipment maker Peloton Interactive is said to be preparing two new machines to release sometime next year, according to anonymous sources speaking to Bloomberg. These two builds would be the first new hardware from Peloton since the release of its treadmill, and are said to take the form of a cheaper treadmill and a rowing machine.

Additionally, the company has also been investigating new companion apps designed for Fire TV and Apple Watches.

Peloton has been facing some internal pressure since its recent IPO, although its stock took a slight jump upon word of the rumors.


Alexa, monitor the baby’s breathing. University of Washington researchers have developed a new technology that could allow smart speakers like Amazon Echos or Google Homes to monitor the breathing and movement of a sleeping baby. To do so, the devices would play white noise played over the speaker and record how it is reflected back to the microphone. In a test of five babies in a hospital’s NICU, the approach was able to detect respiratory rates similar to those of a standard vital sign monitor.

“One of the biggest challenges new parents face is making sure their babies get enough sleep. They also want to monitor their children while they’re sleeping,” Dr. Jacob SUnshine, assistant professor of anesthesiology and pain medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine, said in a statement. “With this in mind, we sought to develop a system that combines soothing white noise with the ability to unobtrusively measure an infant’s motion and breathing.”


Further digitizing the digital trial. ActiGraph’s FDA-cleared sleep and activity monitoring tech is now at the heart of Signant Health’s electronic clinical outcome assessment platform TrialMax thanks to a new arrangement between the companies. This integration allows researchers to collect and record these data via connected research-grade wearables.

"It's important that patients continue to experience trials that benefit them without burdening them,” Bill Byrom, Signant Health’s VP of product strategy and innovation, said in a statement. “Using ActiGraph's devices not only provides a simple and efficient experience for patients, it also simplifies and streamlines trials for sites and sponsors while offering better data and insights."  


New research conducted by virtual reality focused startup XRHealth found that its VR product was significantly (p = .01) better able to capture a reliable measurement of cervical and shoulder range motion than goniometer, the current standard.According to a survey component in the study, 72.5% of subjects reported preferring to be measured with the VR tool instead of the standard goniometer.