Category Archives: Technology Innovation

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The Medical Futurist

Healthcare Technologies Shaping the Future of Medicine

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Healthcare technologies that have potential to really shape the way medicine and healthcare is practiced and delivered is explored  by Dr. Bertalan Mesko, PhD, The Medical Futurist, author, keynote speaker, geek doctor with PhD in genomics, science fiction fanatic who shares  his thoughts on his favorite technologies in this video.

More from Dr Mesko can be found at https://www.youtube.com/user/medicalfuturist/featured


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ICDPPC 2014

Mauritius Declaration on the Internet of Things


Jacob Kohnstamm – Chairman of the Executive Committee of the International Privacy Conference

Drudeisha Madhub – Chairwoman of the Mauritius Data Protection Office

Mauritius Declaration on the Internet of Things

The internet of things is here to stay. Ever more devices are connected to the internet and are able to communicate with each other, sometimes without the user being aware such communications take place. These devices can make our lives much easier. For example in healthcare, transportation and energy the connected devices can change the way we do things. The internet of things however, can also reveal intimate details about the doings and goings of their owners through the sensors they contain.

Self determination is an inalienable right for all human beings. Personal development should not be defined by what business and government know about you. The proliferation of the internet of things increases the risk that this will happen.

The assembled data protection and privacy commissioners have therefore discussed the possibilities of the internet of things and its consequences during the 36th International Privacy Conference held in Balaclava, Mauritius on 13 and 14 October 2014.

Four speakers representing both the private sector and academia presented the Commissioners with the positive changes the internet of things may bring to our daily lives as well as the risks. The speakers also took stock of what needs to be done in order to ensure the continued protection of our personal data as well as our private lives.

The subsequent discussion led to the following observations and conclusions:

  • Internet of things’ sensor data is high in quantity, quality and sensitivity. This means the inferences that can be drawn are much bigger and more sensitive, and identifiability becomes more likely than not. Considering that the identifiability and protection of big data already is a major challenge, it is clear that big data derived from internet of things devices makes this challenge many times larger. Therefore, such data should be regarded and treated as personal data.
  • Even though for many companies the business model is as yet unknown, it is clear that the value of the internet of things is not only in the devices themselves. The money is in the new services related to the internet of things and in the data.
  • Everyone who lives today will realize that connectivity is ubiquitous. This may apply even more strongly to the young and to future generations, who cannot imagine a world without being connected. It should not though solely be their concern as to whether or not their data is protected. It is a joint responsibility of all actors in society so that the trust in connected systems can be maintained. To this end, transparency is key: those who offer internet of things devices should be clear about what data they collect, for what purposes and how long this data is retained. They should eliminate the out-of context surprises for customers. When purchasing an internet of things device or application, proper, sufficient and understandable information should be provided. Current privacy policies do not always provide information in a clear, understandable
    manner. Consent on the basis of such policies can hardly be considered to be informed consent. Companies need a mind shift to ensure privacy policies are no longer primarily about protecting them from litigation.
  • Data processing starts from the moment the data are collected. All protective measures should be in place from the outset. We encourage the development of technologies that facilitate new ways to incorporate data protection and consumer privacy from the outset. Privacy by design and default should no longer be regarded as something peculiar. They should become a key selling point of innovative technologies.
  • The internet of things also poses significant security challenges that need to be addressed. A simple firewall is no longer sufficient. One way to minimize the risk to individuals is to ensure that data can be processed on the device itself (local processing). Where this is not an option, companies should ensure end-to-end encryption is in place to protect the data from unwarranted interference and/or tampering.
  • The data protection and privacy authorities will continue to monitor the developments in the internet of things. They undertake to ensure compliance with the data protection and privacy laws in their respective countries, as well as with the internationally agreed privacy principles. Where breaches of the law are discovered, they will seek appropriate enforcement action, either unilaterally or through means of international cooperation.
  • Taking into account the huge challenges faced by internet of things developers, data protection authorities and individuals, all actors should engage in a strong, active and constructive debate on the implications of the internet of things and its derived big data to raise awareness of the choices to be made.

Links to Original

Mauritius Declaration on the Internet of Things from the 36th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners


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Wearable Technology Show

The Wearable Technology Show 2015

In case you missed it – a video on why this is the biggest event for wearable technology anywhere in the world. Filmed over two days in March 2015 at London’s Excel.


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TED Talks

What’s next in 3D printing

Just like his beloved grandfather, Avi Reichental is a maker of things. The difference is, now he can use 3D printers to make almost anything, out of almost any material. Reichental tours us through the possibilities of 3D printing, for everything from printed candy to highly custom sneakers.

Links to the Original TED Posting


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The NHS and Microsoft, is it time to part company?

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Since the NHS announcement of the cancellation of the NHS and Microsoft Enterprise Wide Licensing Agreement, on news forums such as eHealth Insider many in passing comment have been heralding this to be an opportunity for a change, suggesting it would be good for the NHS to break from the dominance of Microsoft as the primary technology provider.

Whilst the ending of the NHS and Microsoft agreement has created the opportunity to take stock, there are many strategic aspects not presently raised in discussions that should be considered before any organisations takes the plunge for change.

Of course nobody can fail to acknowledge that one of the key factors driving the agenda are the challenging targets for cost and efficiency savings to be made across the service, and arguably a primary reason behind the decision to cancel the agreement. Just as important however, patients, staff and the taxpayer will not be expecting responsible ministers and health service managers to be making short term gains, without ensuring these are not detrimental to the service in the medium to long term.

Microsoft is the dominant provider of software technology into the NHS, in fact this has been the case for more than 10 years, since organisations made the switch from technologies, for example Novell, Lotus, WordPerfect, that were then the predominant technology providers.

Yes, the NHS has undergone fairly significant technology change before. But it was not operating under the financial challenges faced by the NHS today. The migration from these technologies actually happened slowly over an almost 10 year time frame and critically, it also affected a much smaller number of end users than we are dealing with today.

Worth taking a step back for moment

One of the major factors that drove the change at that time was the Windows operating system with the easier use Windows interface, which delivered a radically different and far simpler way of working for both systems administrators and user alike, providing the means to more rapidly introduce computer solutions to new sections of the workforce at much less cost than could have been with the previous DOS based application environments.

A key factor in Microsoft’s early success was the fact that Windows and the early applications they released shipped with “Application Programming Interfaces” (Windows API) and “open systems architecture” (OSA) standards (noting that the OSA aspect did not necessarily employing then accepted industry standards defined by Open Systems Interconnect – OSI).

With the Windows API and OSA interfaces and the fact that Microsoft delivered then, and has continued to release, ever increasingly capable programming languages enabling simple utilisation of these technology layers, with an ability to incorporate functions and features from their “off-the-shelf” desktop and BackOffice technologies, Microsoft had delivered a rich and dynamic computing capability like no other.

A second and equally significant key to Microsoft’s success was the adoption of the Microsoft open standards and programming languages by the developer community worldwide. This coupled with the very successful partnering scheme which helped to established Microsoft’s becoming not only the most widely used and widely developed, but also the most widely supported technology, with thousands of technology service providers basing their business on the delivery and development of Windows based solutions.

The significance of what Microsoft has had a large hand in delivering, from a software engineering and development perspective cannot be understated. The ability to blend “commercial off-the-shelf” (COTS) technologies with new code to deliver new or custom applications has revolutionised software engineering. Enabling new “Agile” software engineering methodologies to come into existence which when applied correctly with COTS, delivers functionally rich applications at considerably less cost, time and most importantly risk than was achieved in the period predating Microsoft.

A IM&T Manager in a trust being asked to consider what investments in technology would deliver the most significant increases in efficiency savings over the next three years, could suggest:

Office automation and workflow, represents a means to deliver efficiencies and savings across a wide range of workforce activities. Importantly it is also a mechanism for delivering improvements in information quality to address gaps highlighted in the National Quality Board report recently published, which has identified 40% of health programme budget areas, representing £20bn of annual expenditure, is without any nationally collected quality information.

To deliver office automation and workflow a number of components are required:

– A messaging service to pass around workflow messages
– A business rules engine to manage events and actions
– A database engine to store metadata and structured data items
– Digital signature solution
– Forms tools, browser tools etc.

In considering the cost efficiency options for developing, implementing and supporting the office automation and workflow solutions they should be looking to utilise as much of our existing investment in technology as possible.

In acknowledging that not all of the components would already be available in my organisations, they should be looking to select technologies that had the best fit with those already deployed and with which my staff had been trained to use or are accustomed to.

In acknowledging that the trust would not have all the required skills readily available in house, then the choice of technologies would be influenced by selecting those that are supported the most in terms of third parties that could be called upon to help.

Another technical consideration, would be the ability to use as much commercial off the shelf software as possible, to limit the amount of software development (risk) to the minimum possible.

Top of the list for this would be Microsoft, with technologies addressing every aspect of the outline requirements listed above, with application programming interfaces to support development of any bespoke requirements, hundreds of technology partner specialist covering every aspect of the technologies above, thousands of developers to help at very competitive rates, and an unprecedented level of online resources available also.

Microsoft would clearly represents the lowest risk option for the iniative, given the majority of trusts already have:

MS Exchange Server (and Outlook Client), MS SQL Server for metadata storage, MS SharePoint for my document management and means through which presentation of workflow interfaces can be achieved, MS Office and Internet Explorer for my clients requirements that can be customised and tailored to deliver the most appropriate interface.

Trusts have digital signature capable technology in the NHS Smartcard, the only remaining missing link is Microsoft BizTalk to provide the business rules engine for the workflows.

In addition, there are also an extensive range of third-party Microsoft compatible third party components and bespoke solutions that address parts of the requirements that can be considered for purchase, to potentially further reduce production time and risk.

Alternative technology options for consideration

The alternative options to Microsoft at the same level of support and limitations of risk are not so easy to define, especially in terms of making a technology switch, Open Source being the option most widely promoted. Can Open Source truly provide the same complete range of “off-the-shelf” components with the integrated and standard programmatic interfaces and data integration / sharing capabilities comparable with that of Microsoft?

Even if the answer to this is yes, then the next consideration is the need for third party resources to help in the development, noting that the level of external support would initially be greater to address the unfamiliarity internally with the new technologies. How readily available are these, can they be obtained without any premium on the basis that they are less readily available?

But even before a trust could begin to consider the implementation of workflow development initiatives and commencement of securing efficiency savings and productivity gains, there would be the need for a migration project and switch of the organisation from the current set of technologies to the new, no small task in itself.

Summary

Very little exploration of the practicalities of making a technological switch of this significance is presented in the commentary I have seen to date, the focus very much on the assumption that moving to Open Source will reduces costs, and next to nothing has been offered in regards to the more strategic implications.

Open Source licences are free, but migration is not. There would be a requirement for investment to evaluate the implications of the technology switch (taking into account clinical applications exploiting the programmatic integration capabilities of Microsoft technologies), and then the investment in the projects to manage the transition.

Best estimate is that it would take a trust a minimum of six months to fully explore the implications and arrive at a plan for accomplishing the switch over, with another 6 months to accomplish the task fully.

An IM&T Manager instead could be looking to implement programme of work delivering office automation and workflow on an “agile” incremental basis, taking the least risk approach to produce the maximum return on investment at each stage.

In the same time frame as it would take to evaluate and plan a migration to alternative technologies, the trust could be delivered a range of cash releasing efficiency savings, with a plan and progress towards meeting requirements for Information on the Quality of Service, supporting the NHS strategic aim for Equity and Excellent: Liberating the NHS.

It would not take much to identify benefits and returns on investment that would easily justify the cost of procuring and maintaining investment in Microsoft licences.

Trust technology investments going forward need to align with the revised NHS national strategy of “connect all” rather than “replace all”. The NHS has tried revolution with only limited success, it now only has the resources for evolution.


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