It seems the UK isn’t the only country frustrated at the state of their healthcare system. American businesses have also voiced their concerns over the rapidly spiralling cost of medical treatment.
This has led to the allegiance of some of America’s biggest corporations, including Amazon, to team up to form their own independent healthcare company for employees, based on data that they’ve gathered themselves (perhaps world domination is next?!)
And if the venture indeed launches and becomes integrated within the company, how long will it be until Amazon rolls out the system to the wider consumer?
Virtual Healthcare Assistants?
Amazon is one of several large tech companies who’ve ventured in to the world of virtual assistants, with the launch of Amazon Alexa in November 2014.
The voice-responsive AI can be called upon to assist with all sorts of digital tasks such as prompting connected apps or ordering products online. Amazon have been able to learn the behaviours and preferences of the consumer, and have drawn data from these statistics that have led them to them confidently moving into the world of healthcare.
Given that many people already “self-diagnose” using websites such as WebMD to validate their symptoms, (you can also activate this site using a virtual assistant such as Alexa or Google Home), it wouldn’t be unthinkable to imagine a time where we seek medical advice from the comfort of our own homes.
Having access to fast, effective medical solutions solves healthcare system issues such as a lack of workforce and wait time, and potentially reduce the spread of disease.
Home health aides are testing the use of Amazon’s Echo platform to assist elderly patients. They are finding this system gives clients more access to family members and assistance to ensure they get their medication on time. Other tech companies are now rushing to capitalise on this opportunity and provide similar services.
But what about the challenges? It would be both illegal and morally wrong to sell prescription drugs next to toys and household products. AI could potentially obtain inaccurate data leading to misdiagnosis or ineffective advice. There’s also the loss of human interaction, resulting in an impersonal experience, a lack of empathy and trust, and potentially increased paranoia around sickness.
“What we’re seeing is going to be a whole new look at privacy. HIPAA regulations … [are] 20 years old — and they don’t even take into account the technology and the data processing capability that we have today. There have to be a lot of adjustments before this becomes part of routine practice.” – Dr Eric Topol Scripps Health.
What the Health Tech Experts Think
Here’s how some experts believe an Amazon healthcare system might be adopted:
“Amazon, for example, might see that a customer has bought cough drops every week for the last month, and went to the doctor for a cold six weeks before but never filled his prescription. Amazon, or an “Amazon-like company” could use that kind of insight to encourage consumers to go back to the doctor, or drop by a nearby clinic for a nurse practitioner to examine them. That could solve the problem of getting the wrong care.” – Gil Irwin PwC
“One day, we could tell Echo our ailments and have recommendations and potentially some drug recommendations, which they could fulfill if they also have doctors available in live chat on an Echo Show device,” – Wendell Potter Tarbell.
AI’s and virtual assistants have been adopted into the mainstream very successfully, so it will be interesting to see how the IoT filters throughout our homes and personal lives to the point of acceptable dependency, even when it comes to our own health. We’ve noticed ourselves at Bitjam that we’re being approached by an increasing amount of businesses and researchers, including NHS, with regards to IoT projects.
What Bitjam are Doing
We have experimented with Alexa building simple question and answer skills based on health information (the core feature of Alexa). We have begun to think ahead with new products we’re developing integrating data design features for a plug and play capability into Amazon Alexa at future dates. It’s better to make small changes in data design earlier on rather than an after-thought.
To get in touch about your own IoT project, contact Carl for a chat at [email protected] (you could even tell Alexa to email him for you!)
2018 has opened lots of opportunity for us to focus on more data and IoT projects recently, including Staffordshire-based environmental measurement and control company Meaco.
“(Meaco provide) a range of environmental monitoring and control equipment to include data loggers, handheld devices, humidifiers, dehumidifiers and controllers”.
They specialise in providing products and services for high profile national treasures including museums, industrial archives, heritage sites and financial institutions.
Bitjam are to provide a modern solution to replace the current, soon-to-be outmoded hardware and provide effective and highly secure software. To discover more about the project, we’re using our R&D cycle to decipher the requirements, to accurately develop and test hardware and to build appropriate software with scalability in mind.
Currently we’re in the process of getting two units working in the field trial. This has involved the setup of Raspberry Pi’s with software and security configuration, and installing in two different real-situation environments such as a museum or bank.
The project is part of a longer process of working in partnership with Meaco to replace existing software to more modernised and scalable cloud-based technology.
The technology will revolutionise the way that Meaco provide high profile partner services, who deliver a mostly public sector service themselves. This boost of their services has a social benefit so it’s an appealing project to us, as it’s our preference to work in partnership with companies who have a similarly social vision.
We are working in partnership with Meaco director and system creator Michael Hall to innovate the entire system, which has given us a very hands-on experience (something we very much prefer to do at bitjam!). Together we’re working through the challenges of innovating the systems in such a way that business as usual is not affected and that clients are not disrupted during the transition.
If you have an IoT project with a social or public sector benefit and need a partner to develop both hardware and/or software, get in touch! You can drop us an email for a chat at [email protected]
Also, if you have requirements for an environmental monitoring system, we can highly recommend Meaco.
Contact Michael at [email protected]
Linux is a free operating system that broadly denotes a family of free and open-source software operating system distributions. We interviewed bitjam web developer Jakub to provide a useful guide to the Linux operating system, it’s affect on IoT and why it’s a system that’s not going anywhere fast.
In layman’s terms, can you explain what Linux is?
Linux is another operating system, just like Windows and Mac OS, but it’s completely free. It’s actually closer to Mac OS as they both are from the UNIX family. Most operating systems are built from certain components so you can interact with it in a graphical way, such as using the browser or office suite.
These components are:
Kernel: the operating system’s heart that controls everything
Desktop environment: it renders all of the elements that you are used to, such as graphical windows and their controls (for example close, minimise, maximise buttons, etc)
Why is Linux such a major operating system?
Many people would say it’s because it’s free. As much as this is true, there are some other factors to its popularity. Linux architecture is built in such a way that it is very easy to make it minimal, and easy to scale to satisfy many different needs. Security is very strong in Linux as too.
Combine all those and you have the perfect package for a server. Each website that you visit every day needs a server. Free, strong security and scalability allow Linux to serve more than 90% of all websites on the planet. This is unlikely to ever change.
Why is it important to understand Linux as an OS?
It’s important for different reasons depending on your profession or merely personal preference. For me – a web developer – being able to understand the system makes it easier to deploy websites and also make them more secure, and efficient. For other people one such reason could be privacy. With the recent Windows 10 release there were a lot of privacy concerns that Microsoft collects various data from you without notifying you about it. There are options to disable some of them, but it has been proven that you cannot disable all data collection, which can concern some people.
What are the benefits of using Linux?
Linux is free to download and use. Because of it’s architecture it’s very easy to customise it and fit to your needs. You can change how your system looks visually, meaning that you can change your theme, icon style, cursor style. Almost anything! Those things are not easily achieved on Windows or Mac, especially not for free.
Linux does not collect your personal data without your knowledge. Because Linux is built by many different communities there are no single entities like Microsoft or Apple that could make use of you as the consumer. Be it data collection or forcing you to use your PC, not in the way you want to but how they want you to.
What are the challenges?
GAMING GAMING GAMING. Although it’s much much better than it was 5 years ago gaming is still challenging on Linux. There are some big titles available on Linux, but there are 2 fundamental problems:
Firstly, graphic drivers. Companies like NVIDIA or AMD don’t support Linux drivers with the same attention as Windows or Mac. Because of this reason, game producers do not put enough effort into Linux development as it causes them additional problems that are not worth getting into. This is slowly changing with the efforts of companies like Steam though.
Another challenge for many people could be the lack of MS Office or Adobe products support on Linux. There are alternatives available but people in many cases don’t like the change or additional learning curve.
How did Linux influence the explosion of “Internet of Things?”
As mentioned above there several factors that make it the perfect system for IoT:
Low system resource requirements
Low system requirements make it the perfect system to drive IoT devices. In many cases they are small devices with restricted processing speed, memory and data capacity. For example, you could install a perfectly functional Linux system that would only take less than 400MB disk space (because IoT devices in most cases will not need a graphic environment), whereas if you were to install Windows you would need a fair few gigabytes, not to mention the processing power and memory required. Security is another added benefit as the product is instantly more secure straight out of the box, an important factor as there is so much networking between devices in the IoT world.
The fact that Linux is also free encourages developers to tinker with the devices without breaking the law as they don’t need to possess any kind of licences, so in theory, anybody (from their bedroom) can contribute to IoT.
Can you give examples of where Linux is present in public sector technology such as healthcare?
A few examples include Cancer Research, BBC, Keele University, bmj.com and healthsites.co.uk. Surprisingly the NHS website is on a Windows server. This is perhaps due to the fact that back when the NHS website was created Windows was more popular in the UK. Moving such a large site as NHS to Linux would be a VERY expensive and long process, however there are some early developments currently underway that are working to change the digital practice of medicine by making improvements to sharing information and learning.
What does the future look like for Linux?
Linux is not going anywhere. I see Linux crashing Windows and Mac in the future, but perhaps not during my lifetime! If Microsoft won’t change their strategies Linux will dominate in the server space forever. If it comes down to general computer usage, Linux is always the prefered choice, especially among developers like myself.