Hacking Chronic Diseases at the Smart Health coLAB


Very few topics bring people together like health does. Health is something that everyone can relate to and lately, even those who are not from the health / healthcare sector can make substantial contributions to this conversation. Breakthroughs in digital health are making health-related knowledge more accessible to the public and monitoring one’s health much easier than it was 10 years ago. The digital health trend is especially relevant in Singapore, where the prevalence of chronic diseases make it increasingly important for us to have an open conversation on health and empower individuals with the tools to manage their own lifestyles.

Keeping this in mind, the UP Singapore community and other health-tech experts got together at the Smart Health coLAB (11–16 May 2015) for a week of co-learning and co-creation. This coLAB, which consisted of three workshops and a hackathon, was a community-led effort to making health management smarter and more individualised in order to prevent chronic diseases.

The success of any UP Singapore event can be measured by how diverse the participant pool is, which includes the attendees, speakers, mentors and, of course, the hackers. The more diverse this pool, the greater the learning opportunities for everyone involved. The diversity also affects the quality of the solutions presented at the hackathon, as the participants would have had the chance to look at the problem from a variety of different perspectives.

Our youngest hacker

At the Smart Health coLAB, the participant pool was especially diverse with individuals representing a wide range of industries and occupations. There were developers, data scientists, students, academics, entrepreneurs, investors, healthcare professionals as well as representatives from various public and private hospitals, insurance agencies, pharmaceutical companies and other corporates.

Dr. Ung Peck Huoy speaking at the Smart Health Futures Workshop

The coLAB kicked off with the Smart Health Futures Workshop, which provided an introduction to Smart Health and chronic diseases. This was followed by the Data & Tech Workshop, where participants learned about the different ways data, analytics and new technologies can be applied to the health space. The last workshop was the Services Workshop, which introduced participants to the many ways start-ups, SMEs and corporates are using technology and data solve problems regarding health. The programme for these workshops was designed to give participants a holistic view of the health-tech sphere and give them a chance to talk to people outside their usual circles. Click here to view the complete list of speakers from the Smart Health coLAB.

The coLAB ended with the Smart Health Hack on Saturday (16 May 2015). Despite being a really short hackathon (around eight hours), most of the participating teams had a solid idea to present by the end of the day. Each team also had the opportunity consult with our extremely helpful mentors, who ensured that the teams were on the right track with their ideas. Our group of mentors consisted of Dr Adam Chee (BinaryHealthCare), Balaji Venkatesan (Zuellig Pharma), Bill Barman (Anantya), Niels Kemp Rasmussen (Kemp & Associates) and Natalie Black (Zuellig Pharma).

Mentor Niels Kemp Rasmussen (left) with one of the hackers

At the end of the hack day, there were 11 different ideas ready to be pitched to the judges and the audience. The judging team consisted of Balaji Venkatesan (Zuellig Pharma), Julien de Salaberry (The Propell Group) and Eddy Chan (Kimberly-Clark). Everyone kicked back with some nachos and dips (prepared using a healthy recipe, of course!) to listen to the presentations. To give you a glimpse of the final presentations, here are the winning ideas:

  • Stickers: This family team created a solution to help users and their family members track their health-related goals with worksheets and stickers. The worksheets can then be analysed on their mobile app, which uses image recognition to rate adherence to goals and gives feedback on their progress:
Team Stickers
  • PictoTracker: This team created a food tracking app that uses image recognition, geolocation and gamification. Once users upload a picture of their meal, the app displays the nutritional value of their food intake. The geotag on the uploaded picture will also help identify which restaurant the meal is from. In time, users can create a summary of their food intake in the form of a map and diagram.
Team PictoTracker
  • A&D: This duo highlighted the fact that a person’s health should measured in a holistic way, not simply by their diet and level of exercise. This is why their app tracks a user’s lifestyle and mood in addition to their diet and exercise habits. The solution relies on positive reinforcement, i.e. rewarding and encouraging users for existing healthy habits, rather than making drastic changes to their lifestyles.
Team A&D
  • Food Snap: This team created an app that requires users to simply take pictures of their meals, which is then used to analyse their diets. The app also generates challenges to help them stay healthy and physically active. Users can also share their activity with friends and find recommendations for healthy food options in their vicinity.
Team Food Snap
  • Retro: A common misconception today is that healthy lifestyle cannot be fun. This is why Team Retro created a mobile app that allows users to explore fun ways to exercise, such as mass dancing. Users can access self-learning dance courses, register for local activities and join various social groups where they can share and compare their activities with their friends.
Team Retro

We hope the Smart Health coLAB was a fun learning and collaborative experience for everyone involved. However, the conversation on chronic diseases and technology should not end with this coLAB, and we hope that it inspires many more ideas and discussions on the topic!

If you want get in touch with any of the above teams to help take their project further, please email us at askus@padang.sg

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