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How IoT is changing health

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The healthcare industry has cottoned onto the IoT with a range of devices entering the market, designed to improve the lives of patients and healthcare practitioners, writes ANDRE DEETLEFS, Executive: Lines of Business & Enterprise, The Jasco Group.

The Internet of Things is evolving quickly, and on a global scale. The healthcare industry has cottoned on to this trend and already we are seeing a host of applications and connected devices entering the market, bearing the promise of improving the lives of patients and healthcare practitioners alike. The benefits of IoT extend well beyond health and fitness monitoring, however, and can help to smooth the interaction process between healthcare and medical aid providers as well as their clients.

The impact of IoT on healthcare

From a healthcare monitoring perspective, the introduction of a variety of connected wearable devices, sensors and health applications have emerged to track a variety of common health concerns. People now have access to a multitude of health-related data from heart rates and fitness levels, to blood pressure, sleep patterns, insulin levels and even the dispensing of medication. These devices – both wearable and in the form of smart phone applications – use the Internet to communicate data back to medical aids and healthcare providers. The steady flow of information keeps them apprised of the health state of the wearer, or user, and helps them to avert worsened conditions.

Healthcare providers and medical aids are finding a wealth of value through the incoming stream of data from these devices. Leveraging the likes of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), they are able to do more with this data than ever before. Data analysis helps them to track trends and identify common problems, risks and solutions, which enables them to make greater medicinal strides. Many incurable disorders can now be managed easily and in an automated fashion, freeing up doctors’ time for research, and providing patients with better quality of life.

IoT is also helping healthcare providers and medical aids in other areas such as in-hospital vital sign monitoring, inventory and asset tracking and logistics. A key area that remains largely unexplored however, is the benefit of IoT on healthcare contact centres.

IoT improves CX

Customer experience (CX) is lauded as the new mark of customer loyalty. In the digital age, where most services are available at the click of a button, customers move swiftly between service providers when their experience with a provider is less than satisfactory. The same is true of healthcare and medical aid providers.

Many people still experience the frustration of repeatedly providing details to representatives of healthcare or medical aid providers. Time and again customers are prompted for the same information, having to fill in the same forms or needing to confirm the same details with a contact centre agent. A few medical aids and healthcare practitioners, as well as third party organisations however, are discovering that they can tap into the data being generated by connected devices and sensors to auto-complete their customer profiles. By having all their customers’ relevant information centrally stored and on-hand when customers contact them. They are providing better, faster service to customers while simultaneously accessing  vital and accurate information that they require.

While some healthcare providers and medical aids are using IoT technology themselves to verify the accuracy and completeness of their databases, third party organisations are also emerging with applications that assist customers while providing an accessible database to healthcare and insurance providers. This must however be approved by the customer. The likes of Logbox have recently been brought to light in South Africa; an application which collates a person’s medical history and personal information on a secure platform and allows them to share it with doctors, hospitals and medical aid providers. This process helps  save time, while giving providers ease of access to customer information. Connected devices which tie into applications such as Logbox can ensure that data collection is both accurate and automatic.

IoT to prevent fraud

A common issue experienced by both healthcare providers and medical aids, is the incorrect relay of information by customers. For example, a person applying for medical aid may state that they are healthy when in fact they may have a pre-existing medical condition. A sensor or connected device would be able to easily counter such claims, providing the contact centre agent with accurate information on the state of the person’s health, depending on the type of mechanism.

In the event of medical aid claims, IoT devices can also prevent fraud by verifying the authenticity of the individual’s claim. Medical aid contact centre agents would easily be able to access the claimant’s accurate medical history and records, through automated data delivery, and validate the necessity of the procedure.

Fraud from healthcare providers is also a lurking problem. Greedy practitioners may recommend more expensive medication, or unnecessary procedures anticipating higher returns. An analysis of data supplied by an IoT enabled device could easily refute the need for any recommended procedure and may even be able to suggest a more suitable solution, with the ongoing application of AI and ML.

IoT for healthcare

IoT, and more specifically the data it generates, opens the door to a world of possibilities for the healthcare industry. Whether applied to improve lives and control health disorders, or used to track and trace hospital assets; perhaps to administer medication, or facilitate smoother interactions between healthcare providers and customers; or possibly to prevent fraudulent activity, one thing is certain: IoT benefits the entire healthcare value chain and. If not already in use, IoT should form part of any healthcare and medical aid provider’s digital strategy.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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Pizoelectrics: Healthcare’s new gymnasts of gadgetry

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Healthcare electronics is rapidly deploying for wellness, electroceuticals, and intrusive medical procedures, among other, powered by new technologies. Much of it is trending to diagnostics and treatment on the move, and removing the need for the patient to perform procedures on time. 

Instruments become wearables, including electronic skin patches and implants. The IDTechEx Research report, “Piezoelectric Harvesting and Sensing for Healthcare 2019-2029”, notes that sensors should preferably be self-powered, non-poisonous even on disposal, and many need to be biocompatible and even biodegradable. 

We need to detect biology, vibration, force, acceleration, stress and linear movement and do imaging. Devices must reject bacteria and be useful in wearables and Internet of Things nodes. Preferably we must move to one device performing multiple tasks. 

So is there a gymnast material category that has that awesome versatility? 

Piezoelectrics has a good claim. It measures all those parameters. That even includes biosensors where the piezo senses the swelling of a biomolecule recognizing a target analyte. The most important form of self-powered (one material, two functions) piezo sensing is ultrasound imaging, a market growing at 5.1% yearly. 

The IDTechEx Research report looks at what comes next, based on global travel and interviewing by its PhD level analysts in 2018 with continuous updates.  

Click here to read how Piezo has been reinvented.

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