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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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Seedstars seeks tech to reverse land degradation in Africa

A new partnership is offering prizes to young entrepreneurs for coming up with innovations that tackle the loss of arable land in Africa.

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The DOEN Foundation has joined forces with Seedstars, an emerging market startup community, to launch the DOEN Land Restoration Prize, which showcases solutions to environmental, social and financial challenges that focus on land restoration activities in Africa. Stichting DOEN is a Dutch fund that supports green, socially-inclusive and creative initiatives that contribute to a better and cleaner world.

While land degradation and deforestation date back millennia, industrialization and a rising population have dramatically accelerated the process. Today we are seeing unprecedented land degradation, and the loss of arable land at 30 to 35 times the historical rate.

Currently, nearly two-thirds of Africa’s land is degraded, which hinders sustainable economic development and resilience to climate change. As a result, Africa has the largest restoration opportunity of any continent: more than 700 million hectares (1.7 billion acres) of degraded forest landscapes that can be restored. The potential benefits include improved food and water security, biodiversity protection, climate change resilience, and economic growth. Recognizing this opportunity, the African Union set an ambitious target to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030.

Land restoration is an urgent response to the poor management of land. Forest and landscape restoration is the process of reversing the degradation of soils, agricultural areas, forests, and watersheds thereby regaining their ecological functionality. According to the World Resources Institute, for every $1 invested in land restoration it can yield $7-$30 in benefits, and now is the time to prove it.

The winner of the challenge will be awarded 9 months access to the Seedstars Investment Readiness Program, the hybrid program challenging traditional acceleration models by creating a unique mix to improve startup performance and get them ready to secure investment. They will also access a 10K USD grant.

“Our current economic system does not meet the growing need to improve our society ecologically and socially,” says Saskia Werther, Program Manager at the DOEN Foundation. “The problems arising from this can be tackled only if a different economic system is considered. DOEN sees opportunities to contribute to this necessary change. After all, the world is changing rapidly and the outlines of a new economy are becoming increasingly clear. This new economy is circular and regenerative. Landscape restoration is a vital part of this regenerative economy and social entrepreneurs play an important role to establish innovative business models to counter land degradation and deforestation. Through this challenge, DOEN wants to highlight the work of early-stage restoration enterprises and inspire other frontrunners to follow suit.”

Applications are open now and will be accepted until October 15th. Startups can apply here: http://seedsta.rs/doen

To enter the competition, startups should meet the following criteria:

  • Existing startups/young companies with less than 4 years of existence
  • Startups that can adapt their current solution to the land restoration space
  • The startup must have a demonstrable product or service (Minimum Viable Product, MVP)
  • The startup needs to be scalable or have the potential to reach scalability in low resource areas.
  • The startup can show clear environmental impact (either by reducing a negative impact or creating a positive one)
  • The startup can show a clear social impact
  • Technology startups, tech-enabled startups and/or businesses that can show a clear innovation component (e.g. in their business model)

Also, a specific emphasis is laid, but not limited to: Finance the restoration of degraded land for production and/or conservation purposes; big data and technology to reverse land degradation; resource efficiency optimization technologies, ecosystems impacts reduction and lower carbon emissions; water-saving soil technologies; technologies focused on improving livelihoods and communities ; planning, management and education tools for land restoration; agriculture (with a focus on precision conservation) and agroforestry; clean Energy solutions that aid in the combat of land degradation; and responsible ecotourism that aids in the support of land restoration.

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The dark side of apps

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Mobile device security threats are on the rise and it’s not hard to see why. In 2019 the number of worldwide mobile phone users is forecast to reach 4.68 billion of which 2.7 billion are smartphone users. So, if you are looking for a target, it certainly makes sense to go where the numbers are. Think about it, unsecured Wi-Fi connections, network spoofing, phishing attacks, ransomware, spyware and improper session handling – mobile devices make for the perfect easy target. In fact, according to Kaspersky, mobile apps are often the cause of unintentional data leakage.

“Apps pose a real problem for mobile users, who give them sweeping permissions, but don’t always check security,” says Riaan Badenhorst, General Manager for Kaspersky in Africa. “These are typically free apps found in official app stores that perform as advertised, but also send personal – and potentially corporate – data to a remote server, where it is mined by advertisers or even cybercriminals. Data leakage can also happen through hostile enterprise-signed mobile apps. Here, mobile malware uses distribution code native to popular mobile operating systems like iOS and Android to spread valuable data across corporate networks without raising red flags.”

In fact, according to recent reports, 6 Android apps that were downloaded a staggering 90 million times from the Google Play Store were found to have been loaded with the PreAMo malware, while another recent threat saw 50 malware-filled apps on the Google Play Store infect over 30 million Android devices. Surveillance malware was also loaded onto fake versions of Android apps such as Evernote, Google Play and Skype.

Considering that as of 2019, Android users were able to choose between 2.46 million apps, while Apple users have almost 1.96 million app options to select from, and that the average person has 60-90 apps installed on their phone, using around 30 of them each month and launching 9 per day – it’s easy to see how viral apps take several social media channels by storm.

“In this age where users jump onto a bandwagon because it’s fun or trendy, the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) can overshadow basic security habits – like being vigilant on granting app permissions,” says Bethwel Opil, Enterprise Sales Manager at Kaspersky in Africa. “In fact, accordingly to a previous Kaspersky study, the majority (63%) of consumers do not read license agreements and 43% just tick all privacy permissions when they are installing new apps on their phone. And this is exactly where the danger lies – as there is certainly ‘no harm’ in joining online challenges or installing new apps.”

However, it is dangerous when users just grant these apps limitless permissions into their contacts, photos, private messages, and more. “Doing so allows the app makers possible, and even legal, access to what should remain confidential data. When this sensitive data is hacked or misused, a viral app can turn a source into a loophole which hackers can exploit to spread malicious viruses or ransomware,” adds Badenhorst. 

As such, online users should always have their thinking caps on and be more careful when it comes to the internet and their app habits including:

  • Only download apps from trusted sources. Read the reviews and ratings of the apps as well
  • Select apps you wish to install on your devices wisely
  • Read the license agreement carefully
  • Pay attention to the list of permissions your apps are requesting. Only give apps permissions they absolutely insist on, and forgo any programme that asks for more than necessary
  • Avoid simply clicking “next” during an app installation
  • For an additional security layer, be sure to have a security solution installed on your device

“While the app market shows no signs of slowing down, it is changing,” says Opil. “Consumers download the apps they love on their devices which in turn gives them access to content that is relevant and useful. The future of apps will be in real-world attribution, influenced by local content and this type of tailored in-app experience will lead consumers to share their data more willing in a trusted, premium app environment in exchange for more personalised experiences. But until then, proceed with caution.”

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