The Enchanter of Objects

Power Player / by Evan Lerner /

David Rose on how his new company will get people to take their medicine and what Frodo Baggins’s sword can teach us about ubiquitous computing.

Page 1 of 2

Over the past 10 years, serial entrepreneur David Rose has amassed an impressive collection of brainchildren. From LEGO Mindstorms, the classic construction toy’s line of programmable robotics kits, to the Ambient Orb, a digital crystal ball that reflects fluctuations in a data set of a user’s choosing, Rose’s designs make information tangible.

Vitality, his new venture, aims to bring that design philosophy to the world of healthcare. The company’s first product, the GlowCap Solo, is an electronic cap that fits on a standard prescription bottle and reminds people to take their medicine via blinking lights and sounds. Its successor, the GlowCap Connect, will be able to subtly collect information from users in the process, enabling automatic refills and a network of adherence-boosting programs. 

Rose spoke with Seed’s Evan Lerner about Vitality and how “enchanted objects” can defeat information overload and make our lives just a little bit better. 

Seed: Give us the elevator pitch for Vitality’s GlowCaps.
David Rose:
Over half of the people in the US are taking some sort of daily prescription medication, but the adherence rates for drugs treating chronic diseases are around 50 percent. Though it isn’t strictly about forgetfulness, adherence is a really huge problem that touches on everyone in the chain of healthcare. It leads to poorer health, increased hospitalizations, and early nursing home admissions. And it’s bad for insurance companies because they pay for all of that: Adherence problems can represent thousands of dollars of additional care costs a month per person.

Our business is trying to make GlowCaps standard default medicine packaging; consumers shouldn’t even have to pay extra for them. The cost would be picked up by insurance companies because they’d be reducing care costs, or by pharmaceutical companies, because they’d be increasing revenue. The monthly cost of our programs includes not only the hardware, but the intervention services that come with the GlowCap Connect. 

Seed: What will those intervention services entail?
The Connect, like the GlowCap Solo, politely blinks at you whenever it’s time to take a medication, and it will play increasingly insistent melodies if you fail to open the cap after an hour. But with the Connect, your prescription number becomes associated with the unique ID on the cap, which then sends messages to our network to tell us when you’ve opened it. We’re presuming that you take a pill when you do that, so we can text or call your phone if you miss a dose or remind you when your medication is running low. And since we’re working directly with pharmacies we can have them automatically send you a refill if you want.

The real point, however, is empowering the individual. Each week, we send you an email tracking your compliance and send a copy of that email to someone else. This could be a doctor, a loved one who’s supporting you, or someone with the same condition that we pair you up with—a health buddy, if you will. But it’s really important that it be left up to you: The data is about you and the control should be in your hands. And we’re now working with Google Health and Microsoft Health Vault, with the idea that people will be able to use this secure infrastructure to view and control their health data that comes in via these services.

Seed: How is the pricing for those services going to work?
DR: Pharmaceutical companies would spend $10 a person for a program that gets them to take 25 rather than 15 pills per month month. So for any pill over $1/day they get a positive return on investment. Another model is through insurance companies, where there’s an urgent need to reduce care costs.

There is also a consumer-based strategy, where we’re experimenting with loss-aversion pricing. Here, people pick a price, say $20 a month, which would be motivational to lose if they don’t use their GlowCap. But if they do use it, they get the product for free. We’re testing this with a research study at Harvard, and Dan Ariely, the behavioral economist, has another set of pilot tests going at Duke. What Ariely has shown with his studies is that the potential for losing an asset or resource is much more motivational than potential gains.

Page 1 of 2

Tags entrepreneur innovation networks technology

Share this Stumbleupon Reddit Email + More


  • Ideas

    I Tried Almost Everything Else

    John Rinn, snowboarder, skateboarder, and “genomic origamist,” on why we should dumpster-dive in our genomes and the inspiration of a middle-distance runner.

  • Ideas

    Going, Going, Gone

    The second most common element in the universe is increasingly rare on Earth—except, for now, in America.

  • Ideas

    Earth-like Planets Aren’t Rare

    Renowned planetary scientist James Kasting on the odds of finding another Earth-like planet and the power of science fiction.

The Seed Salon

Video: conversations with leading scientists and thinkers on fundamental issues and ideas at the edge of science and culture.

Are We Beyond the Two Cultures?

Video: Seed revisits the questions C.P. Snow raised about science and the humanities 50 years by asking six great thinkers, Where are we now?

Saved by Science

Audio slideshow: Justine Cooper's large-format photographs of the collections behind the walls of the American Museum of Natural History.

The Universe in 2009

In 2009, we are celebrating curiosity and creativity with a dynamic look at the very best ideas that give us reason for optimism.

Revolutionary Minds
The Interpreters

In this installment of Revolutionary Minds, five people who use the new tools of science to educate, illuminate, and engage.

The Seed Design Series

Leading scientists, designers, and architects on ideas like the personal genome, brain visualization, generative architecture, and collective design.

The Seed State of Science

Seed examines the radical changes within science itself by assessing the evolving role of scientists and the shifting dimensions of scientific practice.

A Place for Science

On the trail of the haunts, homes, and posts of knowledge, from the laboratory to the field.


Witness the science. Stunning photographic portfolios from the pages of Seed magazine.

Sites by Seed Media Group: Seed Media Group | ScienceBlogs | Research Blogging | SEEDMAGAZINE.COM