How AI can help you get into the best shape of your life!

How AI can help you get into the best shape of your life!

I have less than a month before my trips to London, Hawaii and China! With that in mind, I’ve been searching for the right diet and workout plan. I don’t have a personal trainer, but thought I couldn’t go wrong with the 2-pound rule from this LiveStrong article. To lose 2 pounds a week, I would cut out 1000 calories per day 1. Assuming I stick to a 1200-calorie diet (which has been a challenge because I LOVE FOOD) and normally burn 2000 calories per day without doing much, all I’d need to do is burn an additional 200 calories each day through exercise. Seems simple enough, but it’s been 2 weeks of on-and-off barre, yoga, spinning and 30-min treadmill sessions. And I still weigh the same! Of course, body weight is just one measure and doesn’t account for progress in the form of reduction in body-fat percentage and overall fitness level. However, what I’ve noticed is, I’ve had to take a couple of breaks. I didn’t work out much before this summer and experienced a lot of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The group classes I took had good instruction and helped me stay motivated, but they were not tailored for someone who needs to step it up gradually. I know I’m not alone in my desire for individualized workout plans. Research shows that depending on one’s fitness level, body composition and medical restraints, there are specific routines that would be more effective in reaching his or her goals. Nevertheless, the cost of a personal trainer is still very high. Hence, that’s why an AI-driven solution that provides customized workout plans is useful for anyone interested in becoming fit.

The Little Big Idea:

Smart Scale and integrated web/mobile application that: (a) tracks users’ progress against their health and fitness goals and (b) leverages their workout history and research from physiotherapists and sports scientists to curate exercise routines that are personalized and highly effective. It does this through an algorithm that predicts, day by day, the type, intensity and duration of physical activity that would help users reach their desired outcome. These predictions will be based on both users’ live performance metrics (e.g. weekly BMI & weight loss, gains in flexibility, muscular endurance, etc.) and insights generated from crowdsourced data collected through the app. Essentially, the more people who train with the app, the more it actively learns from users’ experience, what works and what doesn’t. The application should do the following:

  • Perform an initial physical assessment on users and recommending a starting point. New users are asked to fill out a questionnaire about their medical history, diet, hobbies, barriers to exercise and goals 2. In addition, a series of tests that measure endurance, strength, flexibility and speed will be conducted to assess the user’s fitness level 4. So, whether you’re ready to do squats with 125 pounds or something more low-impact, like a 20-min elliptical interval workout, the app will figure it out!
  • Provide workout videos that you can try out either at home or at the gym. This will be dependent upon your preferences and information from the initial assessment.
  • Introduce additional variety and challenge to help users reinforce strengths, work on deficiencies and avoid injury 3.
  • Adjust workouts to take into account schedule changes as you go along.
  • Correct a user’s positioning. For staple workout exercises, such as squats and planks, the app will provide live feedback to ensure that your form is correct. Through the camera, it compares where your joints, arms and legs are, along with the angles they create, to the “perfect” form 5.

Are there similar ideas out there for you to check out?

  • Freeletics is a fitness app that assigns a personal training plan to each user. It recently integrated AI into its Bodyweight Coach feature, which now provides interval workouts that tackle specific areas of the body more effectively 6, 7, 8.
  • Sworkit guides its users of all levels – from beginner to advanced – through video workouts that can be done at home in as little as 5-15 minutes. The user can customize these workouts to focus on specific areas of the body, workout type, difficulty, etc. In addition, a real, personal trainer is also available to answer questions and help you choose the right workout 9.
  • Perfect Squat Challenge (by Kaia Health) uses AI-powered motion tracking and correction technology to help users perfect their squat. It does this by gauging the relative positions of limbs and joints and the angles between them, comparing them with what physiotherapists would describe as the “ideal” squat. While the technology is very impressive, the app is limited to squats, but has the potential to help users attune to more exercises 10.

So what do you guys think? Any recommendations and suggestions for a workout plan are also welcome!

Sources:

1 https://www.livestrong.com/article/266078-how-many-calories-do-i-need-to-lose-2-pounds-per-week/

2 https://www.livestrong.com/article/338717-fitness-assessment-for-personal-training-services/

3 https://www.wholelifechallenge.com/how-to-design-your-own-workout-program-a-guide-for-beginners/

4 https://www.sportsscience.co/sport/top-11-fitness-metrics-gauge-your-fitness-level/

5 https://appdevelopermagazine.com/ai-powered-fitness-app-helps-users-perfect-their-squats/

6 https://www.insidehook.com/nation/freeletics-ai-workout-app

7 https://www.healthista.com/fitness-app-powered-ai-gives-workout-programme/

8 https://www.freeletics.com/en/press/wp-content/uploads/sites/24/2015/02/Press-Release_Bodyweight-Update.pdf

9 https://sworkit.com/pricing

10 https://www.engadget.com/2018/06/27/the-perfect-squat-app-ai-trainer/

Wine or wine not? Knowing how restaurants price their wine may impact your decision.

Wine or wine not? Knowing how restaurants price their wine may impact your decision.

I love wine, but I’m no sommelier. When a friend and I ordered a bottle of prosecco at a “happy hour” rate of $30 (normally $40), I thought we were getting pretty good value. It didn’t occur to me until I took a sip and thought, “well, this doesn’t taste very good”, that perhaps we were better off ordering cocktails by the glass for $8-12 instead. A quick search of the prosecco brand, Primaterra, on the Internet showed me that the entire bottle retailed for $10. Given that the wholesale price is even lower, that’s more than a 200% markup! I was shocked and ever since, I’ve wondered how do restaurants price their wines? And does it make sense to order wine at restaurants? If so, when?

According to an article by Gretchen Roberts, “The Lowdown on Restaurant Markups” from the Wine Enthusiast, “industry-wide markups average two and a half to three times wholesale cost” 1. While the article is a little dated (2010), it’s similar/consistent with a more recent article from Crain’s in 2015, which reports markups of up to 300% per glass (4 times the wholesale price) 2. Why is this the case? Here’s how restaurants would justify their pricing strategies:

  • Value-add to the drinking experience. Restaurants spend time selecting wines that pair well with menu items and can provide that knowledge when you ask for recommendations 3.
  • It’s market-driven. People who order wine often feel strongly about it and if they’re willing to pay the premium, why not?
  • Taxes. Each state collects excise taxes on wine that is consumed, varying by alcohol content and ranging from $0.20 (California & Texas) to $2.50 (Alaska) per gallon 4, 5.
  • Costs. The need to cover stemware, wages, rent, inventory, may warrant restaurants to charge a markup on wine 6. One-off restaurants (unlike chain restaurants) do not benefit from volume discounts and therefore, may need to mark up wine prices more to cover costs. And it just so happens that wine is one of those few menu items for which there is a market even if you charge a premium.

That being said, I’m not convinced by the reasons above because there’s no indication that restaurants will be worse off by reducing prices and in doing so, make up for the difference by encouraging more people to consume wine.

So should you order wine or not? It depends. Most restaurants are not BYOB (bring your own beverage), so if it’s a romantic dinner or if you’re catching up with friends after a long day at work, it might make sense to pay a premium for wine to savor the moment. If you do decide to wine (and dine), here are some quick guidelines for you:

  • Markups are higher on the cheapest wines than on the more expensive ones, so you’ll get more bang for your buck by ordering a few levels above 1, 4.
  • Don’t order wine by the glass, especially if you have enough people to share a bottle 7.
  • It’s OK to try lesser-known brands. Restaurants are more likely to place a full markup on popular brands they know they’ll sell 1, 4. According to Juliet Chung from the WSJ, “wines from regions like Argentina and Spain are likely to be marked up less than ones from Napa or Bordeaux” 7.
  • Use an app like CellarTracker, to help you find good-value wines.
  • If you’re in New York, I’ve compiled a short list of wine markups for restaurants and wine bars that were voted to be the best in 2018 by The Infatuation and Eater NY. I was initially trying to gain insights on whether restaurants and wine bars price their wines very differently, but it seems like the markups are all over the place! These numbers are markups on average retail prices I found on sites like Wine-Searcher and Vivino for wine of the same type/vintage and from the same winery. I only took a sample of each restaurant’s wine list, so that’s where the accuracy may be off. Overall, it looks like the markups at wine bars and high-end restaurants, such as Momofuku and Balthazar, are lower than the rest, but their price points are also higher ($36-$100+). Whereas places like “Her Name is Han” had a really high 290% markup on their wines, but they were priced all at $37/bottle and retailed for only $5-14.
Name Neighborhood Type Yelp Rating Average Markup Over Retail
Vanguard Wine Bar* Upper West Side Wine Bar 4 125%
Momofuku Ssam Bar East Village Restaurant, American (New) 4 144%
Jadis Lower East Side Wine Bar 4 145%
Amelie Greenwich Village Wine Bar & Restaurant, French/Belgian 4.5 153%
Terroir Tribeca Tribeca Wine Bar 4 163%
Balthazar SoHo Restaurant, French 4 164%
Le Cou Cou SoHo Restaurant, French 4 205%
Gottino Enoteca Salumeria West Village Wine Bar, Italian 4 214%
Aldea Flatiron Restaurant, Portuguese 4 251%
Her Name Is Han Midtown East Restaurant, Korean 4 290%
Victor’s Café* Midtown West Restaurant, Cuban 4 341%

* For restaurants/wine bars that only offered pricing by the glass, I made the assumption that had they offered bottle pricing, it would be 3.7 times the amount charged by glass.

Lastly, don’t forget that “price” is only one factor to consider in your selection of wine! I’m always drinking $10 wines from Trader Joe’s, many of which I’d prefer over the really expensive ones anyway. So don’t forget to keep that in mind too!

Sources:

1 https://www.winemag.com/2010/05/07/the-lowdown-on-restaurant-markups/

2 http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20150319/BLOGS09/150319719/why-your-glass-of-wine-costs-so-much-or-does-it

3 http://www.newsweek.com/2014/07/11/why-wine-can-cost-four-times-much-restaurants-257169.html

4 https://www.reluctantgourmet.com/restaurant-w-wine-markups/

5 https://www.statista.com/statistics/324624/us-wine-excise-tax-rates-by-state/

6 http://www.businessinsider.com/how-wine-markups-work-2017-3

7 https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB121875695594642607

Where does all the money go? How Blockchain can help the Non-Profit Sector become more transparent.

blockchain-3019121_640

Donations are like a black hole. On several occasions, nonprofits have reached out to me for donations without telling me how much of my money goes towards projects they’re “supporting” as opposed to management salary, fundraising and other overhead expenses. Because few non-profits provide this information, choosing worthy causes becomes a challenge. As an example, Kids Wish Network, a charity that grants wishes to children who are battling life-threatening illnesses, raised $18.6M in 2012 and spent only $240K (a little over 1%) granting wishes 1. Kids Wish Network still exists today and is among the 50 worst charities in the U.S. that devote less than 4% of donations to their causes 1. Restoring donor trust and ensuring that donation dollars are being put to their best use, is an important matter. And that’s where blockchain technology comes in. By only processing donations to charities that meet specific criteria and tracking how donations are spent, blockchain can enhance accountability and governance within the philanthropy sector.

Key Industry Highlights:

  • In 2017, $390 billion was donated to >1M nonprofits in the U.S 2.
  • The average program efficiency ratio (% of donations that go directly to the charitable purpose) in 2017 was 87% 3. According to charity watchdogs, such as Wise Giving Alliance, no financially-responsible charity should have a ratio lower than 65% 3.
  • A poll conducted by the Chronicle of Philanthropy in 2015 indicated that 1/3 of Americans believe that charities spend funds irresponsibly. And “35 percent said they had little or no confidence in charities” 4.

A Little Big Idea:

All incoming and outgoing cash flows in nonprofits should be in the form of a traceable, digital currency (i.e. Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency) recorded on the blockchain through a platform that does the following:

  • Provide an audit trail of how donations at both the individual and aggregate level are spent. By having a nonprofit’s donors, recipients, employees and vendors/partners interact on either a public or semi-private blockchain, there will be an immutable record of how donations funnel down to the end recipient. Each time a cryptocurrency donation gets converted into a local currency (i.e. when a nonprofit converts 40% of its Bitcoin donations to USD in order to cover payroll and buy necessary supplies for its projects), that information is recorded by the platform. Subsequently, the nonprofit can also upload receipts and evidence to confirm their spending.
  • Track donations against milestones and provide notifications to donors on progress. (i.e. Kerry’s donation of $10K led to the completion of a new well in Kenya!)
  • Leverage smart contracts that can facilitate goal-based funding. Given an objective function, Kerry can set up donations that satisfy how it is she wants her money to be spent. For instance, she can customize her recurring, yearly donations such that they don’t go through unless the nonprofit maintains a program efficiency ratio of at least 80%. In addition, a subsequent donation will not be made until her previous donation resulted in a known outcome.

BlockChain for Philanthropy

Who does this benefit?

Donors
  • Increased transparency
  • Ability to know how their donations are being used
Non-Profits
  • Increase in donor trust can lead to increased giving
  • Reduce costs; eliminates transfer fees by processing transactions to happen without an intermediary (i.e. bank or central authority)
  • Mitigate financial risks, such as corruption and fraud committed by partners 5. When nonprofits collaborate with other organizations to obtain materials and services that are necessary for the completion of a project, setting up payments that will only be processed once contractual work is finished reduces the possibility of fraud.
  • Enhances coordination between different charities, allowing funds to be transferred automatically once they complete the part of the project they’re responsible for.

Are there similar ideas out there? 

There have been many recent developments that leverage blockchain for philanthropy 6:

Crypto Fundraising –

  • BitHope is a crowdfunding platforms (think Kickstarter) that allows people to make Bitcoin donations to charities of their choice 7.

Crypto Tracking –

  • GiveTrackAlice and AidCoin all offer platforms that can track donations through their life cycles, from donor to donee. However, they’re still in early stages and while GiveTrack was founded by a 501c3 nonprofit called Bitgive, it is unclear how much Alice and AidCoin – which seem to operate on a for-profit model – will charge as commission. Ideally, the platform should be run as a non-profit and only collect a % enough to sustain and improve itself. GiveTrack, currently in beta version, collects donations in the form of Bitcoin and tracks how they’re spent by maintaining a record of transactions in which the Bitcoin either exchanges hands or is converted into local currency 8. Alice and AidCoin are both powered by the Ethereum blockchain 9, but AidCoin uses its own cryptocurrency to track the flow of donations 10,11, which gives rise to exchange risks and uncertainties around its value.

Challenges / Risks:

Realistically, it would take years before all nonprofits – let alone, a single non-profit – has all of their cash flows recorded on the blockchain. For this to happen, there needs to be widespread adoption of blockchain by all counterparties that a nonprofit engages with. Right now, less than 8% of Americans own cryptocurrencies 12 because a) they’re not easy for the average consumer to use (you can’t buy items at the store with Bitcoin yet), b) their value is unpredictable and c) the process of buying cryptocurrencies isn’t very straightforward 13. Nevertheless, people’s mentality towards cryptocurrencies may be different when it’s purchased for philanthropy and for the purpose of introducing traceability and trust (rather than for speculative and investment reasons). Furthermore, any concerns that donors have on how a drop in Bitcoin value has on non-profits’ ability to deliver impact, opens the door for more creative solutions, such as hedge products.

Sources:

1 https://www.cnn.com/2013/06/13/us/worst-charities/index.html

2 https://www.forbes.com/top-charities/#205ffb6276ab

3 https://www.forbes.com/sites/williampbarrett/2017/12/13/analyzing-a-charity-before-giving/

4 https://www.philanthropy.com/article/1-in-3-Americans-Lacks-Faith/233613

5 https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2018/04/25/blockchain-is-reestablishing-trust-in-nonprofits/#57f25c577916

6 https://cointelegraph.com/news/how-cryptocurrency-and-blockchain-are-changing-philanthropy-expert-take

7 https://bithope.org/what-is-bithope

8 https://www.givetrack.org/docs/faq/basics

http://donationsapp.alice.si/#/how-it-works/main

10 https://www.aidcoin.co/assets/documents/whitepaper.pdf?v=3.18.4

11 https://medium.com/aidcoin/aidcoin-bringing-blockchain-technology-to-the-charity-sector-e7ce77380d83

12 https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/16/why-just-8-percent-of-americans-are-invested-in-cryptocurrencies-.html

13 https://www.finder.com/why-people-arent-buying-cryptocurrency