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Innovation

The zombies are coming, are you fit enough to outrun them?

You are "Runner 5" set out on a mission to collect supplies and accomplish different objectives in a post-apocalyptic world... that involves the occasional zombie chase.

I think we all knew it would come to this one day. Zombies. Frankly, you can't say we haven't been warned. The CDC published the official Zombie Pandemic preparedness 101 guide in 2011. If you're    ready for a zombie apocalypse, then you're ready for any emergency.    emergency.cdc.gov

We don't know much about zombies. For instance, why do they want to eat brains? In my omnivore days, I did love sautéed calf's brains on toast with lemon caper butter. Are zombies just misguided gourmands? Possibly. However,I for one, am considerably less sympathetic to being the host of their locally sourced human offal delights.

What's to be done? Sure you can stock up on shotguns, barricade yourself in the hollow shell of a run down building and go all Mad Max on anything that moves. Me? I'm more of the out run and out last sort.

Admittedly, that raises the question: Can I outrun the zombies?

That's the premise of Zombies, RUN!, a new smartphone app designed to help encourage cardio fitness. Users fire up their phones and an audio story unfolds that starts with you, Runner 5, being chased by zombies. Along your mission, audio queues prompt you to zig down one street, or zag down another to collect supplies like water or toilet paper. Run too slowly, or not far enough and the zombies get your brains.

I haven't been this excited about a health related app in a long time. What a brilliant innovation on the gameification of health and behavior - add an interactive, fantasy layer.

For years, I've heard techies and entrepreneurs propose games where people with chronic conditions give away their health maintenance data in exchange for points, badges or real world stuff. Post your blood glucose readings and win an xbox... I find ideas like those condescending at best, teetering on malicious.

Zombies, RUN! is different. This is a way to trigger behavior change by upping one's motivation through a fictional, fun story. The end goal here, besides selling an app, is just fitness.

This also ushers in an entirely new concept for video games - ones where you actually work. This isn't pushing buttons, swiping your finger on a screen or flicking the Wimote around. You actually have to run. How interactive is that?!

Will Zombies, RUN live up to my expectations? We'll have to wait until February 27th to find out. But you can count on one thing... I'll be out there with my running shoes on collecting supplies for those of us who survive the zombie apocalypse! (And, assuming this blog is still running, I'll report back what I think of the app).

Here's the NPR storie with the game's creator:

via The New Running Game Where 'Zombies' Chase You : NPR.

Here is the creator's promo video:

Vail's EpicMix, an innovative model for healthcare data

I'm not a huge fan of what I call blatant marketing. You know it when you see it, particularly with interactive campaigns online. You want me to do what? Like this page, give you my home address, and retweet your link for a chance to win an iPad? No thanks. I avoid frequent shopper cards at the grocery store for the same reason. When Vail Resorts launched Epic Mix last year, I was skeptical. Vail wants to track every move you make, literally, on their mountains. Vail installed RF chip readers in every lift line and started putting RFID chips in their lift tickets. You go through a line, and they know it. They also know your age, gender, address, family members and travel dates. With the tracking and demographic data, they have a pretty good idea about your habits at their resorts. You can even tie your credit card to your ticket for on-mountain purchases. I imagine the database thinking something like this (you know, if databases could think):

The Jones family starts skiing at 10am most days. Not surprising since they are from the East coast and have the time change. The kids are both in ski school today ... cha-ching! Oh look, mom and dad just stopped for lunch at the high end restaurant and the kids are eating pizza at the casual on-mountain restaurant. Mom skis black diamonds mostly and is logging 2x as much vertical as dad. They seem to come out every year around the same two weeks. Judging from their address, I bet they make about $110,000 a year and take two major vacations. We should email them a month before, I'll make a note of it. I wonder if they'd want a time share....

Pretty spooky huh?

So what did Vail do to change the value proposition of their data capturing? They launched EpicMix, a customer facing portal into the data. You sign up and register the ID number from your lift ticket. From there, things get social very fast. There is a FourSquare like game component where you earn pins - just like the real pins you see on people's hats or jackets - for accomplishments. Ski 26,400 feet and you get the 5 Miler pin. Head into the Northwoods area and you get the Gone Wild pin. The service also tracks your runs and vertical feet per day and season and lets you compete against friends and family. There's even iPhone and Android apps to track your stats in real time. And, of course, it all connects to Facebook and Twitter.

This year, Vail gave professional third party photographers the boot. Now, Vail's own photogs hang out near huge EpicMix Photo placards around the mountain. Ski up, and they scan the RFID tag on your ticket and snap a few pics. That evening, the pictures are uploaded to your EpicMix account and can be shared on Facebook or Twitter for free.

Vail took customer tracking and turned it into a value added service. It's a draw, something Vail's resorts have which other ski areas don't have.

It will come as no surprise I see a healthcare analogue in all of this. Rather than capture data about customers and keep it to themselves, Vail turned it into a customer-facing service. Does your doctor treat your medical records the same way? Can you go online and look at them? Do you get rewarded, even virtually, for losing those 10 pounds or controlling your asthma? Can you chose to share parts of your record with family or friends?  Can you chart your A1C scores over time?

Even with the rise of patient access into electronic medical records,  we've still got a ways to go before we reach the same level of understanding about personal data. I continue to see consumer devices and services leading the trend, which tells me two things: 1) people do want to own, collect, monitor and selectively share aspects of their health and 2) the consumer oriented companies can do it for cheaper. The later is likely owed to less red tape, regulations, research, etc. To be fair, there are iPhone apps which will graph your weight. And there are iPhone apps which will track your skied vertical feet. But the value of that data changes when it's shared with your provider (not that it has to originate with them, mind you).

Any thoughts? Are you aware of any provider organizations who are going beyond MyChart (an example of a patient EMR portal) and offering value added analysis and services on top of YOUR health data? What kinds of things would you want to see, beyond direct, unfettered access to the record?

By the way, according to my EpicMix dashboard, in the last 12 months, I've skied 121,453 vertical feet at Vail resorts... not too shabby for busted knees!

Since I've basically given Vail a free ad, I might as well embed their EpicMix video, it explains the service pretty well: