This is the second of three profiles of Austin-based apps, services or pilot programs from startups that take advantage of the so-called sharing economy or crowdsourcing. You can read the first one, about LeaseBuddies, in a previous post. Look for the third one on Friday on the Digital Savant blog.
Austin, you are having a bad day.
At least according to users of Kinsa, a health app that connects to a smart thermometer made by a San Francisco-based company of the same name. In the app’s new feature, The Health Weather, 19 percent of Kinsa users in Austin report poor health, up a percentage from Wednesday. Allergies are afflicting 3.1 percent of the 1,772 users reporting while other ailments include stomach viruses, colds, strep throat, pink eye and, alarmingly, whooping cough.
Since this is self-reporting, it may lean a little toward hypochondria, but the idea is intriguing. Kinsa two years ago released a smart thermometer that connects to the app. Users take their temperature and then use the app to diagnose their symptoms.
The new Health Weather feature, which is currently only available in Austin in a pilot program, makes that user data anonymous and aggregates it, giving you an idea of what the local health scene is like.
While the smart thermometer — available in a standard model that sells for as little as $15 and a Bluetooth model geared for kids for about $50 — isn’t required for the app to work, it does help give a more accurate picture of health trends.
Kinsa was founded by Inder Singh, former executive vice president of The Clinton Foundation’s Health Access Initiative and the Health Weather update is very much in keeping with Kinsa’s directive to fighting illness, says the company’s Austin-based marketing director Lauren Davis. “It’s the company’s mission to keep communities healthier by seeing how illnesses spread and stopping them from spreading further,” Davis said.
As with crowdsourced apps like the traffic software Waze, Kinsa will get better at reporting health trends as more people use it, Davis said. She said that being based here helped the cause for making Austin the debut location for this feature, but there were other reasons to try it here first before introducing it in other, larger cities.
“It’s the intersection of being a family friendly city, a tech-forward city and a very health-focused city,” Davis said. “It’s a slightly smaller market (than San Francisco) to make sure we got the traction we needed to get really solid percentages.”
The basic FDA-approved Kinsa thermometer, which is available online and in stores including Target and Bye Bye Baby, gives readings in 10 seconds, plugging into a smart phone’s headphone jack. It doesn’t require a battery and doesn’t die, according to Kinsa. Even without the thermometer, the free app can help diagnose health issues and keep track of health data by letting users build profiles for each family member.
One way the company is also making Kinsa appeal to locals is with free stuff. Batches of Kinsa kits were distributed to parents at Travis Heights Elementary School and this week, Kinsa and Favor teamed up to deliver health packages that include a Kinsa thermometer, Soup Peddler Soup and Smart Pants vitamins to sick locals. Unfortunately, only 100 care packages were available and they may be gone by the time you read this.