A COVID-19 hack the Salvation Army desperately need in the field…

Front line staff are constantly at risk during the global pandemic, and the Salvation Army believe that an instant COVID risk screening test & a rapid translation app would lower that risk.

With ‘The Global Hack’ kicking off in a matter of hours, it’s heartening to see so many worthy projects being submitted that align with the various UN sustainability goals that the event has been shaped around.

The goal is simple, each virtual team needs to work together to develop an MVP over a 48hr period, delivering a practical solution that aligns with one, or more, of the program streams that include crisis, governance, education, environment, mental health, solidarity in action, empowerment, health & wellness, and work.

A quick review of the various project submissions reveals that whilst the crisis track is popular, teams are also forward-looking, so tracks like education, health, empowerment, mental health and work have a lot of interest.

Front-line care workers are arguably at most risk of exposure in the community, yet they continue to show up day after day because they know they must or people will suffer, and in some communities, starve. In Philadelphia, The Salvation Army has a veritable army of volunteers handing out food boxes every morning, risking exposure, so we asked them to tell us about what life is like in their community today and what hack they need tomorrow.

Can you tell me about your day to day work in the community?

Our agency (The Salvation Army) and church are in an at-risk neighborhood in Philadelphia. Within this community there is quite a bit of need during normal times which is multiplied during these days.

Our typical day begins at about 7:30 as we await the delivery of either perishable or non-perishable food. We have the sidewalks marked with bright red tape set six feet apart. This is our attempt to keep social distancing for a mass distribution.

Our distribution is set to begin at 10am and people begin to line up about 8:30 with the line stretching about 500 meters up the side streets. Once we know how many packages we have, we count out tickets in that number to be handed out. At about 10am we begin to hand out the boxes. It goes very quickly for the most part.

All volunteers are wearing masks and gloves; many of those in line are wearing masks as well. For the most part, by 11am the food has been handed out, so far this has ranged between 400-500 boxes per day. Those who cannot get a box are encouraged to come back earlier the next distribution day. We also set boxes aside to do home delivery of food to the elderly.

What is your biggest challenge or risk?

Obviously, this front-line work exposes us and our volunteers and staff to the virus. It also exposes those who line up to greater risk as well. We do our best to enforce social distancing – but the increased risk is there, nonetheless.

In our context, there are many language groups which makes effective communication difficult. Also, will we have enough supply or will we run out of product? So, effectively communicating important information to all language groups is a concern and challenge, and I’m certain this would extend to city/state and federal government as well.

The longer this crisis lasts, the more likely it is that we will run out of regular supplies – especially at the volume and rate we are distributing, which is another risk as it could cause unrest, particularly in inner city neighbourhoods like ours.

How are you currently managing this risk?

When serving publicly we wear masks and gloves. We also wash our hands regularly. At the beginning of the crisis we did not have these protections, but as things have progressed, it was provided.

What one issue could The Global Hack solve for you?

An easy translation app that could be used in the heat of battle. Also, an instant test that tells us if someone has a temp or even tell us quickly is someone has the virus (or a future virus!).

Smart solutions for reducing the risk and impact of COVID-19

Technologies we took for granted yesterday will soon save lives tomorrow. COVID-19 has forced 3 billion people into lock down around the globe, but even that hasn’t stopped some enterprising cohorts of talent around the world from coming together to apply their skills, experience and knowledge to developing potential solutions to deal with the pandemic.

Earlier today I spoke with 22yr old Sophie Wharrie, Chief Technology Officer at Velmio, who’s globally distributed team recently developed a Corona tracker app. It’s a data driven app to help you monitor the COVID-19 outbreak and contribute to research efforts worldwide.

Normally working on pregnancy health tracking, the team volunteered time to develop a data driven app to help you monitor the COVID-19 outbreak and contribute to research efforts worldwide.

Users simply download the app and answer some questions about their symptoms and risk factors. They can also share their location and data from their wearable devices, to help data scientists create a visualization of how the virus is spreading and help everyone understand the risk level around them.

Velmio developed the Corona-tracker app in response to Estonia’s “Hack the Crisis” virtual hackathon event, ranking within the top 5 teams to receive support from Accelerate Estonia, Limitless Fund and Bolt to further develop their project during the state of emergency.

The “Hack the Crisis” movement has since spread across the world, with start-ups coming together to solve urgent issues in their local communities as part of The Global Hack which has already drawn attention across the globe – covered by Forbes, Silicon Republic, GovInsider among others – and brought on board a fleet of world-class mentors, such as Silicon Valley’s tech superstar Steve Jurvetson, former President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Chris Anderson – Head of TED

Across the pond in Pittsburgh, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a BETA version of an app that aims to determine whether you might have COVID-19 simply by analyzing your voice. Worldwide, there are particularly widespread shortages of testing kits, so whilst the app’s results are preliminary and untested, it has the potential to be a highly scalable solution.

And in Korea, a local developer has developed a data visualisation app using public government data to allow users to see how close they are to confirmed Covid-19 patients, with the app alerting users if they are within 100m of a location visited by Covid-19 patients.

Regardless of whether you’re perfectly healthy, infected or recovered, thanks to smart technology, globally connected talent and 3 billion people working from home, now is an ideal time to connect and work together to help each other fight the crisis and bring this pandemic to a swift end.

The power of Voice to make a difference

It’s little surprise that the country that holds one of the world’s largest song festivals has made voice-enabled technology a priority in its next evolution of delivering seamless digital government services.

Voice-enabled services are arguably the technology that will change the lives of almost everyone connected to the internet. Consider the facts; at present, around 20% of all searches are voice, around 30% of smartphone users worldwide use voice tech at least once a week, and astonishingly, it’s estimated that around 50% of all online searches will be voice-based in the next year or two.

Voice platforms have evolved remarkably in recent years, and continue to evolve at a rapid pace, turning voice from a ‘nice to have’ path to market for public and private entities into a ‘must have’ solution, primarily because voice facilitates the one thing end users crave, convenience.

Kaimar Karu, Estonia’s Minister of Foreign Trade and Information Technology, sums it up nicely.
“A defining factor of what will be the ‘next big thing’ is often based on what makes life easier or more convenient for ‘lazy people’”, he said. “We are all lazy people in that sense, so anything that helps us to be slightly more lazy, to put in less effort or work less in order to achieve something or get something is quite likely to be well used, popular and needed.”

It’s this focus on ‘end-user’ convenience that underpins Estonia’s recently published #KrattAI framework which aims to deliver the next evolution of digital public services in Estonia. It’s essentially a vision of how public services should digitally work in the age of artificial intelligence (AI), and one of its core use cases is that it would provide people with the opportunity to use public direct and informational services by voice-based interaction with AI-based virtual assistants.

The ultimate goal is that #KrattAI is an interoperable network of public sector AI applications (agents, bots, assistants, etc) as well as private sector ones, which would work from the user perspective as a single, united channel for accessing public direct and informational services. In the simplest terms, it’s an interoperable voice enabled platform that will make everyday life easier for Estonians.

Looking specifically at the health care sector, the potential use cases of voice are countless and have the potential to improve the value and efficiency of care. Book an appointment with your doctor or specialist of choice through a mobile app that has Alexa integration. Doctors could use voice analysis to identify behavioural health issues. Family members could program their elderly parents Alexa Echo to remind them of the time they have to take their medication. Physicians could utilize voice to text enabled programs to streamline the process of taking patient notes, the list goes on.

Which is probably why voice is such a hot topic in the global hacker community. At a recent hackathon in Italy, voice took centre stage when a local team developed a solution to help isolated elderly people stay connected. Likewise, in the upcoming “The Global Hack” event which is attracting literally thousands of designers, programmers, data scientists and health care workers, to explore how to rapidly hack tech to deliver solutions to COVID-19, it’s expected voice solutions will be a hot topic.

The Global Hack is a partnership between Accelerate Estonia, Garage48, with additional financial support from the European Commission, running from 09-12 April and is expected to attract over 1 million participants from across the world.

The coder who used Python in 2000 is now in charge of Estonia’s space program

Twenty years ago, Kaimar Karu lead a web development agency at a time when 80% of internet users used Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, internet speeds were measured in kilobytes, people used computers to access the Internet, and the dominant coding language was PHP.

Yet at that time, Karu encouraged his dev team to code in Python, today’s coding language of choice in the epoch of AI and Machine Learning. Why? Because, in his view, Python was better.

“We delivered projects using Python at a time where everybody was using PHP, so we were outliers who used different languages simply because we thought it worked best. Throughout my career I have had the opportunity to work with amazing, forward-looking people who have rarely settled for the status quo. Now look at the world, Python is everywhere,” Karu said.

Today, as the Minister of Foreign Trade and Information Technology for the Republic of Estonia, he’s leading ICT strategy for his country from earth to space, yet he’s typically Estonian about it.

“When I describe my role, I’d jokingly say it’s everything from post box to space. Which is kind of what it is as I’m in charge of Estonian post and the Estonian space program, among other things,” he remarked.

In the middle of a global pandemic, it’s this type of self-effacing mindset, backed by a capacity to think like an outlier and make pragmatic decisions in real-time that has to be one of the reasons Estonia is emotionally weathering the COVID-19 pandemic better than most EU countries.

“We’re a small country and I believe that our real competitive advantage is pragmatism and lack of patience for everything stupid. Estonians have proven to live by a ‘can do’ attitude. We aren’t afraid of taking risks, experimenting, building on what works and abandoning what doesn’t.”

Arguably, Estonia’s inherent pragmatism and appetite for risk and innovation is a result of the fact their country literally had to start from scratch after regaining independence in 1991. How they then moved from independence to become the world’s most digitized government is legendary.

“Estonia’s world-leading position in tech is built on luck and hard work. We were lucky, in a sense, to have the need to build our economy, our government, our collaboration models from scratch after regaining independence. This created a context where everything was possible – and we took this opportunity to build something that no-one else thought was possible,” he said.

Today, most services offered by Estonia’s government are made available electronically via a national Digital I.D. that empowers people to vote, access health data, manage tax, police records and prescriptions online. But they’re not stopping there. Next on the to-do list are projects such as migrating most government services to voice under the #KrattAI framework, as well as exploring ongoing innovation in the education and the environmental sectors.

Through Minister Karu’s eyes, necessity is the mother of invention.

“We started by building a foundation where we could build everything else. Then, we just did what felt right and it seems to have worked and still does. So far, the choice of focus has been organic, whenever there’s a need, innovation will happen. Today, during the crisis, everything will shift, and everything will change, and innovation must happen in a very rapid way because it requires significant changes in our everyday lives,” he said.

Estonia’s short but proud history of innovation built through public private partnerships makes it the perfect home to launch a global initiative to develop solutions and strategies to directly address the COVID-19 crisis via The Global Hack that’s being led in partnership between Accelerate Estonian, the innovation unit in Karu’s ministry, and Garage48, with additional financial support from the European Commission.

The global hackathon is a platform and a movement that gathers the brightest minds over the world from the public and private sectors, which is the key way that it differs from other hacks – that this crisis unquestionably needs strong cooperation between the public and private sector.

When asked about some of the expected outcomes he’d like to see from The Global Hack, Minister Karu is cautiously optimistic.

“We are quite likely to find quite a few amazing ideas coming from this, I expect the teams are likely to come up with completely novel solutions, because many of the old ways don’t work anymore, and today’s world does need bravery and novelty. The opportunity to gather great minds from around the world to work together on most critical challenges and find questions to acute questions is simply invaluable. By combining potential solutions with governmental and legislative support, we are in a good position to act fast” he said.

The tech community initiative – “The Global Hack“ online hackathon – will run from 09-12 April and is expected to attract over 1 million participants from across the world.

A first-hand account of being quarantined with COVID-19…

Saturday, March 7th was a life changing day for 48yr old Tiit Müil. Attending the Saaremaa Mullifestival – Estonia’s biggest Champagne and Sparkling Wine Festival – without a care in the world, he spent the day mingling with the crowd of revellers, spending hours savouring some of the best food and wine from around the world.

A first-hand account of being quarantined with COVID-19…

Little did he or the crowd know that COVID-19 had arrived on Estonia’s shores just days before. How could they have known, as COVID-19 was barely making news headlines in other countries? So Tiit and co enjoyed their weekend and returned home as the weekend came to a close.

But on Monday 9th March, Tiit knew something wasn’t right.

“On Monday, I started feeling chills, but they didn’t seem too serious, so I still made it to two exercise classes. But I knew something wasn’t right after I came out of the sauna. I normally feel warm and good for hours, but I immediately noticed I had chills when I got into the car, and then I realised I had a fever when I got home,” he said.

What Tiit would soon discover was that Saaremaa had become the epicentre of Estonia’s coronavirus outbreak, and that he, and hundreds of other people had inadvertently been exposed to the virus that has now claimed in excess of 75,000 lives worldwide.

“When I took my temperature, it was 37.5 degrees, so I did what most Estonians do, I drank tea with honey and ate garlic. I was delighted to wake up Tuesday morning to discover the fever was gone, so I couldn’t imagine anything was seriously wrong as the virus hadn’t officially arrived in Estonia yet.

But on Wednesday, I developed a dry cough, which was ironically the first day announcements started in the media explaining what was going on. Then Thursday morning the fever returned so I didn’t go to work. In the evening the fever got worse, my temperature hit 38.8 degrees as I waited 36hrs for my test results. They arrived Friday, by which time the fever had already gone.”

What was your experience like of having the virus?

“I was officially declared the first sick with the coronavirus in Pärnu, but I didn’t experience any breathing or lung problems; in fact, I could breathe really well. I did sweat a lot on Friday, and I had a very strange headache that felt like something I’d never felt before. Sort of felt like under my skull there was no feeling at all.

What did you think of the media coverage of the virus?

“In the beginning, I was trying to get as much information about the virus as I could from the media and news, but I came across a lot of fake news that caused me a lot of anxiety and caused me to have something like a panic attack. I had to go to sleep to calm down. Since then, I don’t read news anymore because I’m trying to live without getting caught up in the negativity.”

What did you do after being told you had the virus?

“I stayed at home as best I could, and the health ministry called me every week asking how I was doing. I didn’t take any drugs at all, I just ate healthy foods, drank tea, and tried about 10 different types of vitamins. Whilst in quarantine, I had the option to go back to work remotely, but it was hard to read and concentrate. I didn’t really watch TV. My partner and I did sneak out for a couple of walks through our separate entrance to our apartment, but we made sure to stay away from everyone as we walked to the sea. It was just hard to stay indoors, even in our large apartment.

To be officially deemed healthy, I was supposed to give two negative tests, but these never happened because testing capabilities were low. In the end, I just went back to work on the 30th.”

Any advice for people out there?

“Stay positive. Stay Healthy. Keep in touch.”

The global hunger for health-tech may just save us all

Health-Tech – the world’s second fastest growing innovation sector, with an almost unprecedented growth trajectory – is a far more interesting sector than it initially sounds.

It’s interesting because the health care sector is desperate for disruption and innovation all the way along the value chain from improving patient delivery of care, right through to back office innovations that improve interoperability of an array of legacy enterprise systems with a widening array of nimble, purpose built databases, applications, platforms and devices.

From a tech innovation perspective, innovating within the health care sector has its own unique and often endemic challenges around data protection, system interoperability, a seemingly endless array of stakeholders with complex and sometimes counterintuitive needs, and an at times frustratingly snail-like pace of change on the path to modernization.

Yet despite the abovementioned challenges, the growth in health tech start-ups globally is simply astounding. Possibly, this is being driven by three key factors;

1. Consumers (patients) have come to expect technology innovations in every area of their lives, so they are forcing &/or challenging their carers to make their lives easier.

2. Health care administrators are under increasing pressure to streamline and become more efficient – much like everywhere else – because the bottom-line ultimately rules.

3. And finally, there seems to be a genuinely understood hunger by the people within health care to work with health tech start-ups simply because it’s a cohort of passionate entrepreneurs hoping to solve their day-to-day problems.

That why it’s not surprising that events like The Global Hack attract literally thousands of designers, programmers, data nerds, scientists and health care workers, all vying to create the new-new thing to disrupt their sector and improve the quality of health care.

Case in point, the recent #HACKTHEVIRUS event that was pulled together by Garage48 and Accelerate Estonia with the stated goal of the event being to rapidly uncover innovative solutions to fight the COVID-19 pandemic with the power of community. The event attracted 1,000+ hackers and resulted in 5 winners who won $5k for execution of their moon-shot idea.

This, in turn, led to the upcoming “The Global Hack“ online hackathon running from 09-12 April and which is expected to attract over 1 million participants from across the world. The event is being led in partnership between Accelerate Estonia, the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Information Technology, Garage48, with additional financial support from the European Commission.

At a time where fully half the planets population is in lockdown, what better cause can there be than to team up online and combine forces to tackle the world’s most serious issue?

PODCAST: Utilising technology to save the lives of military veterans – Soldier.ly

Podcast republished from Defence Connect

Veteran Chris Rhyss Edwards came within moments of taking his own life. In this episode of the Defence Connect Podcast, he recounts how it was an SMS at exactly the right time which changed that decision and is the reason that he is alive today.

Joining host Phil Tarrant, Edwards shares how this occurrence shaped his decision to explore how technology could be used to avoid veteran suicides, unpack the technology that he is developing and share how Soldier.ly is future-proofing its business plan to utilise new and upcoming technology.

Edwards also reveals his advice for those looking to start a business in the defence sector, who he is hoping to recruit as part of his team, and the biggest challenges facing Soldier.ly today.

 Listen here…

Feature article: A Revolutionary New Weapon for Combating Stress: The Soldierly Smartwatch App

Article republished from HOTDOC

We talked to the founder and CEO of Soldier.ly, which has built a revolutionary new smartwatch app focused on improving the lives of veterans and others prone to high stress.

Chris Rhyss Edwards is a former soldier who spent a decade in the Australian Army as a Combat Engineer and Peacekeeper. Many years after leaving the military, on his honeymoon in Thailand, he and his wife were having serious problems. Rather than enjoying what should have been a romantic vacation, they were at each other’s throats because they felt socially isolated from their support networks, and were struggling spending so much time together in confinement. At his lowest moment, Chris found himself on top of a building seven stories high, emotionally burnt out, and contemplating whether to jump.

As he stood there, peering over the ledge, he was interrupted by a text message from a friend asking, ‘Are you OK? I haven’t seen you on social media’. Fortunately, that was enough to change Chris’ mindset, and he stepped away from the edge.

What was happening to Chris, happens to too many veterans. Bouts of depression, anxiety and PTSD affect almost half of those who leave the Australian Defence Force.

Although his wife returned to Australia — and Chris subsequently struggled with insomnia, heavy drinking, and loneliness — he carried on, realising he wanted to do something to help others in similar stressful circumstances.

After thinking the idea over, he was inspired to create an app linked to wearable technology. The app would help people identify stress early on, so they could turn things around before their stress worsened. As an army veteran, Chris thought this technology would be particularly useful for those who had served in the military.

Stress and the military

If anyone is to know something about stress, it’s Chris. Growing up in the shadow of a violent alcoholic father, Chris became accustomed to witnessing regular beatings of his mother, as well as enduring many beatings of his own.

From a young age he recalled standing in front of his mother when his father returned home drunk and angry. This compulsion to protect ultimately led Chris to want to become a soldier as soon as he could. So, at the age of 17, he joined the army and never looked back.

Unfortunately, by then Chris had already developed complex PTSD, and his time in the habitually chronic stress environment of the army only worsened it.

As Chris described, “It’s a fairly stress filled environment that comes at you from many directions. There’d be car accidents with people killed or seriously injured, so if you were first on the scene you’d be scraping up your mates or patching them up until help arrived. Other times, there’d have been a suicide and you’d be the first on the scene so you’d need to try and keep people calm, things like that”.

Pictured: Chris Rhyss Edwards during his time serving in the ADF.

As a result of those experiences, Chris developed complex PTSD or CPTSD. Whereas PTSD is caused by a single traumatic event, CPTSD occurs after months — and even years — of repeated traumatic experiences. It also has more debilitating symptoms than PTSD.

For instance, while both diagnoses are associated with nightmares, flashbacks and hyperarousal, complex PTSD also includes symptoms like: uncontrollable feelings, dissociation, negative self-perception, relationship difficulties and a strong sense of despair.

Regrettably, this condition is relatively common among military personnel. As Chris explains:

Only about 20% of soldiers in operation are shot at, but 46% of us leave with some form of mental illness or injury, and about 28% suffer from post-traumatic stress. PTSD actually derives from being in a sustained period of stress and never having the chance to power down. Basically, the brain rewires and you stay in a state of chronic stress.

The development of the Soldierly app

As a result of his army experiences, Chris was easily able to see how wearable technology could benefit those currently serving in the military, as well as veterans. So, he sat down with various factory executives at Apple, Fitbit, Samsung, and Google Life Sciences to discuss the idea with them, and it was met with great enthusiasm.

Based on those conversations, Chris founded the company, Soldier.ly, to produce his smartphone app. The Soldierly app which will be released in early 2019 — runs on Fitbit smartwatches and works on popular iOS and Android smartphones to detect stress and help the wearer take control.

It does this by tracking various behavioural biometrics including heart rate variability, sleep cycles, time spent in exercise and time spent using a smartphone. Then, based on various signals, it interrupts the wearer when it senses the onset of stress. Chris describes this as especially important, because many military personnel have become so accustomed to stress that they don’t even realise when they’re beginning to experience it.

He explains:

We lose a veteran every hour in the United States, and in Australia, it’s one every four days. The goal of the Soldierly app is to reduce suffering in the veteran and first responder communities by actually helping people who are accustomed to living with chronic stress to become mindful of it.

“The interesting thing is because they get so used to stress, they actually don’t recognise the signals anymore. So, when you can actually look at an outsider — your device being the outsider — and say ‘Hey, I’m detecting sustained periods of stress, do something about that right now’.

“This does two things… the first is that the app makes them mindful of stress and then helps them calm down, but what it also does is help them start to notice when they’re in these scenarios that have previously caused stress so they’re less stressed when facing them in the future. That was an unexpected outcome for us”, he says.

Pictured: The Soldierly app walking a user through a breathing exercise to alleviate mild stress.

How the Soldierly app works

“Basically, your average Fitbit sits on your wrist with its array of electronic sensors and apps that quietly run in the background, looking at how far you’re moving, whether you’re sleeping or moving around at night, noticing if your heart rate is steady for a period of time etc.  There are several different algorithms running at once and it’s building up a baseline”, Chris explains.

The Soldierly app then notices when there are significant variations from the baseline. When these are observed, Chris explains, “It alerts you by vibrating. On the screen, it will say, ‘Hey, are you okay? I’m detecting elevated heart rate levels’.

“If you say, ‘Yeah, I’m OK, then it asks ‘OK, so how serious an event was this?’ and it then asks you to rate the triggering event. So, for example, you may have been playing Xbox, which is a positive stressor, so now the app learns that this biometric incident profile isn’t a threat, so it knows not to worry about that in the future’. Basically, the device learns about you as an individual as you go about your day to day life, becoming smarter daily”.

Pictured: The Soldierly app showing (left) the screen that appears when stress is detected, (middle) the screen that appears when ‘mild stress’ is selected, and (right) the screen that appears on other wearers’ smartwatches when a friend alerts them of ‘severe stress’.

On the flip side, if the user is experiencing stress, the Soldierly app identifies the level of stress and then makes suggestions to bring users closer to their baseline. For example, in the case of mild stress, users are guided to do a breathing exercise — breathing in for four counts, holding their breath for four counts, and then exhaling for four counts, until they return to a calm state.

In the event of moderate stress, they’re directed to open up their smartphone and go through a guided visualisation and auditory exercise that uses binaural beats — in conjunction with guided meditation — to calm the brain down.

Then, in the case of severe stress, the Soldierly app does one of three things.

The first option it will offer is to reach out to the users chosen social connections, letting them know via messenger or SMS that their friend needs their support right now. If the user wants more formal support, the app asks, ‘Do you want to find support in your local area to go and see right now?’ If they choose yes, the app recommends whichever of the 3,000+ national Ex-Service Organisations that are located within the persons postcode. If there’s no local support available, the app will connect them immediately to the Open Arms (formerly VVCS) national hotline.

“We’ve tested this tiered approach and it’s just gone down so well. The boys will literally prefer to let their friends know, so when I hit the reach out button, it automatically pings the phones of the five people in my network, where we’ve found that at least two of them pick up in real-time and that, for our community, is awesome”, he says.

The Soldierly app has so much potential to serve the veteran community that Chris and his team are in discussions with the Department of Veterans Affairs to conduct a national trial. The aim of the trial is to better understand what is causing veterans’ stress, as well as to help veterans achieve better mental health by helping them take control of the stress in their lives.

Other uses for the Soldierly app

As useful as the Soldierly app is for the military, it has the potential to be far more than just a tool for improving the lives of veterans. The app can readily be used in other vulnerable communities, such as helping people with disabilities, first-responders, the elderly and even stressed out executives.

To that end, there’s a lot of exciting research underway at Soldierly who have recently partnered with UTS’ Neuroscience Research Laboratory to conduct medical grade testing of the app with a view to it receiving TGA approval as a medical device.

“By the end of January, we hope to have enough data to make one final tweak of the algorithm so that we know we are achieving accuracy scores above 90%”, he said. “We plan to run tests on veterans and first responders, and then validate the learnings from these tests with mainstream civilian audiences so we can make the app live on the App Store and Google Play Store where it’s available to the 40 million Americans and 2.5 million Australians who are dealing with severe stress”.

Chris mentions that in addition to helping those individuals, the Soldierly app also has the potential to be extremely valuable in the corporate world. To this end, he considers himself especially fortunate for his amazing experience with HCF Catalyst, Australian’s leading health tech accelerator program.

“HCF Accelerator has been so good to us in the sense of supporting us through our journey and connecting us with some amazing people along the way. They have also agreed to participate in a pilot trial with 100 executives using the Soldierly app, which I think is a great start for us to move into the corporate sector where stress costs big business around $300 billion a year.

“It’s very much thanks to Sheena Jack, CEO of HCF, that we’ve been able to develop a fully-functional prototype which we have been able to take to trial in under 6 months. They’re a very proactive supporter of ours, and we’re deeply grateful for that support”, Chris says.

How the Soldierly app can benefit GPs

While the Soldierly app will be especially useful to individuals suffering from stress, it can also make it easier for GPs to treat their patients. For instance, after speaking to a large group of GPs in Australia, Chris realised there’s a very specific need for improved patient monitoring. This is seen as particularly important, because a whopping 70% of visits to doctors are stress-related.

“We could lessen the burden on the National Health System if there was a proactive monitoring tool that a doctor could use to help patients who come in frequently”, Chris says. He believes that with this capability, doctors could monitor patients from their office and give them a call if it looked like they needed additional help.

It’s great for elderly people as well… Some older people can fall over in their houses and may lay there for hours or days undetected and unable to reach out for help. With the Soldierly app, we could see they were incredibly stressed, and that persons GP, neighbours or family could be immediately alerted to offer support.

Pictured: The Soldierly app displayed on the wrist of an elderly wearer.

Chris encourages doctors who are interested in the technology to visit the Soldier.ly website. He also appreciates receiving emails from GPs and other people who offer suggestions for other use cases for the app, saying, “I get the weirdest and most wonderful emails at all hours of the day from people offering their support, it’s been amazing”.

To reach Chris by email, you can contact him at chris@soldier.ly.

The bottom line

Stress in itself isn’t bad, yet we’ve normalised stress to the point that it’s become dangerous. According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide. It also leads to negative mental health outcomes that affect our entire society, impacting people of all ages relationships and working lives, and resulting in billions of dollars in productivity losses every year.

While stress impacts almost everyone at some point in their lives, there are some populations that are particularly vulnerable, such as military personnel, veterans, the disabled, the elderly and those with mental illnesses.

Until recently, there were few reliable solutions to help these individuals identify when they were beginning to experience stress, so they could turn things around. With the advent of the Soldierly app, that’s changed.

Perhaps, in the not-so-distant-future, GPs will be able to monitor patients’ conditions from the comfort of their office with the use of wearable technologies — allowing them to proactively provide patients with the best possible care. Sounds to us like an idea whose time has come.