|By David Strom||
|October 15, 2012 09:20 AM EDT||
You wouldn’t think that a hang gliding accident could start a revolution in medicine. But when a teenager fell 150 feet into a lake several years ago, the subsequent events that sparked a revolutionary new diagnostic method, what I am calling the first open source MRI. The story is a fascinating look at what one family can accomplish if they keep asking questions and getting the right people into a room to talk to each other.
MRIs are big proprietary machines made by a dozen large equipment manufacturers (such as Siemens, Hitachi and Toshiba) and cost plenty: think of them as what IBM mainframes of the 1980s were when PCs first started entering the corporate ecosystem. You have to train people how to operate them and interpret their scans, and once they are setup, you have to run them more or less continuously to realize the return on your investment. If your hospital or imaging center buys equipment from one vendor, you are pretty much locked into that vendor’s line of accessories and upgrades. And they are designed for very specific diagnostic situations. One of them that they aren’t very good at is looking at spinal cord abnormalities.
This is what Spencer Stein faced when he hit that lake after his hang gliding accident. His fall ended up giving him four spinal fractures, which he found after a week of living with back pain and going to the doctor. That was to be expected, given the height of his fall: he was lucky to be mobile. But what the doctors also found was a cavernous angioma, a series of blood clots inside his spine that he had since birth. The defect wasn’t related to the fall, just something that had been with him all his life, silent and symptom-free. The clots could stay that way, or they could bleed out and paralyze him instantly from the chest down.
Spencer had a tough choice; “I faced a dilemma. Leaving my defect alone, without surgery, could mean permanent loss of all bodily sensation, hideous neurological pain, or loss of functioning and movement in the lower half of my body. Yet an operation on this ultra-important, all-but-inaccessible part of my body could cause any of the same problems. It seemed like a no-win situation.” He wrote this for an article in the local San Diego newspaper this past summer chronicling his adventures.
As Spencer says, the fall was really a gift to learn about his birth defect. Without his fall, it would have never been discovered. So should he get the operation, or leave it alone? It wasn’t an easy decision. First, he had to find a surgeon who did many of these operations: this is a very highly specialized field, and only a few people actually do more than a few spinal operations a year of this nature. Second, many of the doctors Spencer saw didn’t want to do high-risk surgery on someone so young and otherwise so healthy, and said they wouldn’t dare operate. Spencer’s parents left the decision up to him. Can you imagine having to make the call of opening up a spinal cord on an extreme athlete?
Spencer with his parents visited a few of the doctors who specialize in this two-hour procedure, and eventually found one who was willing to proceed with the surgery in Arizona. That was great. But to really understand the structure of the clot, this doctor wanted better, higher-resolution pictures.
Back to the MRIs. Most of the machines that are available to the general public use 1.5 to 3 Tesla magnets (this is a measurement of magnetic force, named after the scientist that did a lot of early work, not the contemporary electric car company). Stein had a series of these MRIs to see what was going on inside his spine. But these images only told part of the story. The way to get to higher res images is to use a bigger magnet, just like our camera phones have a bigger image sensor in them.
It so happens that there is a 7 Tesla magnet at NYU Medical Center, but it was used for medical research unrelated to spinal imaging. No one had ever thought to use this research magnet in this way before.
That’s where Spencer’s dad came into our story. His dad made a few phone calls, and knew some of the leading edge diagnosticians in medical imaging. He managed to bring together people from bio-imaging, neurosurgery, and other clinicians to collaborate on how to use this magnet to take the right kind of spinal pictures.
Spencer’s dad is Lee Stein, someone that I have known for decades for his work in tech. Lee was part of the initial digital payments efforts in the mid-1990s, before there was a PayPal, before there was a Square, when paying for something online using a credit card was new. Now we take these things for granted, but back then Lee and a group of Internet pioneers assembled an elegant way to pay for things using nothing more than email. The effort never took off, but the founders of the firm laid the groundwork for how we pay for things online today.
I have written about Lee before, in another effort that he has been working on for several years called Prize Capital. As a result of this work, Lee became familiar with the TED Med community. (You can watch his TED Talk here
He is a very unassuming and modest man for someone who has led some pretty amazing technologic efforts over the years. “Spencer was no longer a patient, but a catalyst for forming a new center at NYU.” When I met up with Lee a few months ago, he told me that he just made a couple of phone calls. Yeah, right. The scan brought together many specialists who were able to cobble together this open source solution in real time, rather than years that it would have normally taken. As you can see in the TED video, the doctors are sitting together, hunched around the MRI monitor, sharing knowledge and ideas on the spot.
As a result of Spencer’s scan and his parents’ efforts, more than $22 million dollars was raised for this new center, including contributions from Siemens, the MRI vendor used at NYU. “It has been a remarkable experience for us as a family to see how NYU has come together to do this,” Lee says in his TED lecture.
The Steins brought together these very highly specialized doctors at NYU, and now they are figuring out ways to use the equipment for a variety of diagnoses of different diseases. It is quite thrilling.
However, the irony of all this is that the 7 Tesla images didn’t help Spencer’s situation. Turns out, the large blood clot concentrates iron molecules in one place, and the large amount of iron deflects the higher-intensity MRI beams so no additional information could be gleaned from these higher res pictures.
But Spencer went ahead with the operation, and fortunately it was successful. He is back in school at Cornell. The Stein family, being who they are, created a prize of $5,000 as part of an ongoing annual business plan competition held by the school.
Their prize is given for the business plan that best addressed issues of disability or environmental sustainability. The first one was given to an idea called EcoFishFeed that raises forager fish for feed at salmon aquaculture farms. The Stein Family Prize will continue to be a part of future Cornell business plan competitions.
It is a fitting testimonial to Spencer’s fall from the sky.
WebRTC has had a real tough three or four years, and so have those working with it. Only a few short years ago, the development world were excited about WebRTC and proclaiming how awesome it was. You might have played with the technology a couple of years ago, only to find the extra infrastructure requirements were painful to implement and poorly documented. This probably left a bitter taste in your mouth, especially when things went wrong.
Aug. 31, 2015 02:00 AM EDT Reads: 442
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome,” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
Aug. 30, 2015 10:00 PM EDT Reads: 347
While many app developers are comfortable building apps for the smartphone, there is a whole new world out there. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Narayan Sainaney, Co-founder and CTO of Mojio, will discuss how the business case for connected car apps is growing and, with open platform companies having already done the heavy lifting, there really is no barrier to entry.
Aug. 30, 2015 05:00 PM EDT Reads: 136
As more intelligent IoT applications shift into gear, they’re merging into the ever-increasing traffic flow of the Internet. It won’t be long before we experience bottlenecks, as IoT traffic peaks during rush hours. Organizations that are unprepared will find themselves by the side of the road unable to cross back into the fast lane. As billions of new devices begin to communicate and exchange data – will your infrastructure be scalable enough to handle this new interconnected world?
Aug. 30, 2015 04:00 PM EDT Reads: 154
SYS-CON Events announced today that Micron Technology, Inc., a global leader in advanced semiconductor systems, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Micron’s broad portfolio of high-performance memory technologies – including DRAM, NAND and NOR Flash – is the basis for solid state drives, modules, multichip packages and other system solutions. Backed by more than 35 years of technology leadership, Micron's memory solutions enable the world's most innovative computing, consumer,...
Aug. 30, 2015 01:30 PM EDT Reads: 225
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies leverage disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advanced analytics, and DevOps to advance innovation and increase agility. Specializing in designing, imple...
Aug. 30, 2015 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 289
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Aug. 30, 2015 10:30 AM EDT Reads: 876
Consumer IoT applications provide data about the user that just doesn’t exist in traditional PC or mobile web applications. This rich data, or “context,” enables the highly personalized consumer experiences that characterize many consumer IoT apps. This same data is also providing brands with unprecedented insight into how their connected products are being used, while, at the same time, powering highly targeted engagement and marketing opportunities. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nathan Treloar, President and COO of Bebaio, will explore examples of brands transforming their businesses by t...
Aug. 30, 2015 10:15 AM EDT Reads: 228
Through WebRTC, audio and video communications are being embedded more easily than ever into applications, helping carriers, enterprises and independent software vendors deliver greater functionality to their end users. With today’s business world increasingly focused on outcomes, users’ growing calls for ease of use, and businesses craving smarter, tighter integration, what’s the next step in delivering a richer, more immersive experience? That richer, more fully integrated experience comes about through a Communications Platform as a Service which allows for messaging, screen sharing, video...
Aug. 30, 2015 09:15 AM EDT Reads: 619
With the proliferation of connected devices underpinning new Internet of Things systems, Brandon Schulz, Director of Luxoft IoT – Retail, will be looking at the transformation of the retail customer experience in brick and mortar stores in his session at @ThingsExpo. Questions he will address include: Will beacons drop to the wayside like QR codes, or be a proximity-based profit driver? How will the customer experience change in stores of all types when everything can be instrumented and analyzed? As an area of investment, how might a retail company move towards an innovation methodolo...
Aug. 30, 2015 09:15 AM EDT Reads: 444
The Internet of Things (IoT) is about the digitization of physical assets including sensors, devices, machines, gateways, and the network. It creates possibilities for significant value creation and new revenue generating business models via data democratization and ubiquitous analytics across IoT networks. The explosion of data in all forms in IoT requires a more robust and broader lens in order to enable smarter timely actions and better outcomes. Business operations become the key driver of IoT applications and projects. Business operations, IT, and data scientists need advanced analytics t...
Aug. 30, 2015 08:30 AM EDT Reads: 398
A producer of the first smartphones and tablets, presenter Lee M. Williams will talk about how he is now applying his experience in mobile technology to the design and development of the next generation of Environmental and Sustainability Services at ETwater. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lee Williams, COO of ETwater, will talk about how he is now applying his experience in mobile technology to the design and development of the next generation of Environmental and Sustainability Services at ETwater.
Aug. 30, 2015 07:00 AM EDT Reads: 123
SYS-CON Events announced today that IceWarp will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IceWarp, the leader of cloud and on-premise messaging, delivers secured email, chat, documents, conferencing and collaboration to today's mobile workforce, all in one unified interface
Aug. 30, 2015 01:00 AM EDT Reads: 396
As more and more data is generated from a variety of connected devices, the need to get insights from this data and predict future behavior and trends is increasingly essential for businesses. Real-time stream processing is needed in a variety of different industries such as Manufacturing, Oil and Gas, Automobile, Finance, Online Retail, Smart Grids, and Healthcare. Azure Stream Analytics is a fully managed distributed stream computation service that provides low latency, scalable processing of streaming data in the cloud with an enterprise grade SLA. It features built-in integration with Azur...
Aug. 28, 2015 07:45 PM EDT Reads: 212
Akana has announced the availability of the new Akana Healthcare Solution. The API-driven solution helps healthcare organizations accelerate their transition to being secure, digitally interoperable businesses. It leverages the Health Level Seven International Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (HL7 FHIR) standard to enable broader business use of medical data. Akana developed the Healthcare Solution in response to healthcare businesses that want to increase electronic, multi-device access to health records while reducing operating costs and complying with government regulations.
Aug. 26, 2015 07:00 AM EDT Reads: 134
For IoT to grow as quickly as analyst firms’ project, a lot is going to fall on developers to quickly bring applications to market. But the lack of a standard development platform threatens to slow growth and make application development more time consuming and costly, much like we’ve seen in the mobile space. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Weiner, Product Manager of the Omega DevCloud with KORE Telematics Inc., discussed the evolving requirements for developers as IoT matures and conducted a live demonstration of how quickly application development can happen when the need to comply wit...
Aug. 2, 2015 11:15 AM EDT Reads: 556
The Internet of Everything (IoE) brings together people, process, data and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before – transforming information into knowledge and knowledge into wisdom. IoE creates new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented opportunities to improve business and government operations, decision making and mission support capabilities.
Aug. 1, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 480
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems, described how to revolutionize your archit...
Jul. 30, 2015 07:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,564
MuleSoft has announced the findings of its 2015 Connectivity Benchmark Report on the adoption and business impact of APIs. The findings suggest traditional businesses are quickly evolving into "composable enterprises" built out of hundreds of connected software services, applications and devices. Most are embracing the Internet of Things (IoT) and microservices technologies like Docker. A majority are integrating wearables, like smart watches, and more than half plan to generate revenue with APIs within the next year.
Jul. 30, 2015 02:30 PM EDT Reads: 281
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Opening Keynote at 16th Cloud Expo, Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, d...
Jul. 30, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,228