How IoT will disrupt healthcare

There are hundreds of proposals for the IoT in the health services. Half of them could be terrible. If only we knew which half! I’m not sure about other countries but whenever I hear about ‘disruptive technology’ and the British National Health Service (NHS), I always feel nervous.

We’ve already wasted £11 billion (€12.31 billion) and rising on a ‘fit for purpose’ programme for IT that wasn’t fit for anything. It would be a brave NHS purchaser that would sign off on any more ‘disruption’. Surely, if they are going to sell the idea, they need a new catchphrase, says Nick Booth, freelance IT and communications writer.

For now, in this sector at least, IoT needs to be a bit less brash and ambitious. We don’t want to see any more flash IT salesmen flaunting their wealth. Acqueon claims its IoT could save the NHS £500 million (€559.72 million) a year. Well, OK, prove it, by taking your payment as a commission on the savings you create.

The savings they are so confident about will come from solving the problem of medication noncompliance – that situation where patients don’t keep taking the pills. This will get worse as our population ages. IoT connected pill boxes don’t miss their doses.

Failing to take medication correctly leads to 200,000 premature deaths in Europe a year. Partly it’s because the old are bamboozled with complicated drug taking regimes. This polypharmacy involves a smorgasboard of pills which have to be taken in varying intervals.

A smart pill box knows when they’ve not been opened and sends automated reminders to the patient. If these messages go answered and the pill box still not opened, the device snitches on you to the clinician who then phones you directly.

Robots are getting old now too. The first robot assistant, the Arthrobot, made its debut in an operating theatre in 1984. Since then, robots have performed surgery on everything in degrees of complexity ranging from eyes and knees to neurosurgery.

Imperial College London created the PROBOT, which first performed prostate surgery at Guy’s & St Thomas’s Hospital in 1992. The robots are starting to take on human characteristics.

They’re starting to leave pieces of equipment in the patients, just like their human counterparts. This is all documented in Adverse Events in Robotic Surgery: A Retrospective Study of 14 Years of FDA Data. The authors from University of Illinois, Michigan Institute of Technology and Rush Medical Center compiled the report from MAUDE data (as in Manufacturer and User Facility Device Experience).

In a study of 1.74 million robotic surgical procedures – mostly urological or gynaecological – the data recorded 8,061 device malfunctions, 1,391 patient injuries and 144 patient deaths. Adverse incidents included electrical arcing, sparking or charring of instruments and the falling of broken or burnt pieces into the patient’s body. Such incidents were said to have contributed to 119 injuries and one patient death.

“Clearly, operations utilising robotics are not without their risk, says Greg McEwen, partner at insurance law specialist BLM. As he points out, incidents relating to broken or left behind instruments […]

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Aon: Insurtech start-ups will help, not disrupt, insurance stalwarts

Aon: Insurtech start-ups will help, not disrupt, older insurance companies

Expertise in IoT, robotics, artificial intelligence and advanced analytics will be the defining feature of the most successful insurance companies of the future – and that looks set to drive established players into partnership with young insurtech start-ups, according to a new study from professional services company Aon.

The report, Global insurance market opportunities: Reimagining risk management, argues that insurtech start-ups are more likely to be helpful than disruptive when it comes carrying the market forwards. Over half of these companies, it points out, develop technologies that are designed to be sold to insurance providers as their target customers, rather provide competing services.

“The insurance industry has been relatively slow to embrace digital technology compared with other industries. That reticence has opened up a window of opportunity for entrepreneurs to deploy digital technology to improve the customer experience through a host of start-up companies,” say the report’s authors.

“This has allowed the start-ups to not only provide more effective solutions, but also to continuously improve them through the collection and analysis of data.”

Read more: Survey: Life insurance firms face hurdles in digital transformation race

Focus on IoT

Looking at IoT in particular, the report focuses on connected cars and smart devices as a new source of information that could “change the basis for underwriting and pricing of risk, as well as provide continuous monitoring that enables customers to mitigate exposure to losses before they happen.

The report’s authors provide three examples of devices they believe reflect this trend. They are:

  • Zubie: A connected auto hardware device and free app that provides real-time location data, trip histories, maintenance alerts, engine diagnostics and driving insights.
  • HumanAPI: A healthcare IoT platform that aggregates, normalizes and stores data from multiple sensors in consumer wearables, medical devices and mobile health apps, along with medical records, lab test results and prescriptions.
  • Neos: A home insurance start-up that uses connected devices to monitor the home for break-ins, fires and leaks and that has the support of numerous insurers, including Hiscox, Aviva and Munich Re.  

Read more: Intellect SEEC: Transforming the underwriting role for the IoT age

“Gnashing of teeth”

It’s time established insurance companies took this tech stuff seriously. They should look at novel business models and emerging technologies as ‘opportunity generators’ that can open the door to new risk markets, say the report’s authors.

“With all the gnashing of teeth about how insurtech is going to hurt the industry, one would think some outside force was imposing its will on us – some Wall Street bankers or faceless global power brokers at work. Instead, it turns out that we are fueling the fire ourselves. We are enabling the disruption,” they conclude.


Next week will see our Internet of Insurance event open in Austin, Texas, on 26 & 27 September. Attendees with gather to discuss how they are navigating the digital disruption of traditional insurance business models. 

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Want to see IoT disrupt businesses? Check out Verizon Hum.

This guy couldn’t diagnose his engine issue, but Verizon could.

I’ve been watching a lot of Hulu lately thanks to The Handmaid’s Tale and revisiting my favorite Battlestar Galactica Episodes. While watching Hulu, I’ve been subjected to commercials that Verizon is running on Hulu for its Hum connected car device. Verizon’s Hum is a dongle that uses the Verizon network to send data collected from a car’s onboard diagnostic port.

In the commercials, the Hum helps a family find a car in an airport parking lot and helps a family diagnose a warning light on its car.

While watching the second commercial I was struck by how this is an excellent example of how the data available through connected devices can provide new business models for established companies while erasing old advantages in others.

Every car made in 1996 or later has an onboard diagnostic port. It provides engine diagnostic data and can also share information about how fast someone is going, their braking and accelerating style and even real-time location when combined with a cellular network.

Other companies competing with Verizon’s Hum include Zubie and Automatic, which was backed by insurer USAA and acquired this year by Sirius XM.

So back to that commercial and my epiphany. With Hum, Verizon is providing an entirely new service to customers built on its 4G network. Buy the device for $ 50 ($ 30 for the device and $ 20 for Verizon’s activation fees) and then pay $ 10 a month and a consumer has a portable OnStar-like system for their cars. They can get warning information from their vehicle and 24-7 roadside assistance.

Meanwhile, Verizon gets data on how its customers drive, what goes wrong across a fleet of cars, and an additional revenue stream that generates money from Verizon’s multi-billion core asset (its network). But why should Verizon stop there?

When USAA invested in Automatic, industry watchers were excited about what car-level data could do for the insurance business. Not only could your insurer provide Triple AAA type services, but it could also have data on actual driving habits and patterns that could influence its actuarial charts. This type of device could change the relationship you have with your insurer and it could allow them to price insurance more accurately.

But having your insurance firm know how you drive goes a step too far for most consumers. Many of them would balk at letting their insurer know they regularly speed or that they perform a rolling stop at stop signs. Good drivers might share their data in exchange for lower rates, but a real picture of all drivers would likely remain elusive.

Yet Verizon has an advantage with consumers. Verizon doesn’t sell insurance, so it can pitch a data-gathering connected car device as a service. Instead of charging you more for those rolling stops, Verizon will let you know if your teen has picked up your bad habit. Or it will send a tow truck after a fender bender.

With Hum, the consumer gets a service from a perceived neutral provider while Verizon gets to capitalize on its network and get high-quality data of interest to insurers and car makers. From there, who’s to say that Verizon won’t gather enough data to create and price a better insurance product, entering a new market?

That’s what should be keeping every executive up at night. Cheaper access to data and analytics means that anyone who can get that data (by tapping into a larger consumer audience or signing a deal with a data provider) can use it to undermine established ways of doing business. Technology is razing barriers to entry left and right, but most companies are too slow to realize it because they are afraid to cannibalize their existing business lines, or because they are working from outdated metrics that are no longer relevant.

So the two things a business should realize are that with the right data any company might become a competitor, and thanks to the internet of things, getting access to the “right data” has now expanded. For example, Amazon gained its early advantage optimizing search results and stocking the products consumers wanted based on searches and purchases on the web site. Now it is preparing to get that data from the physical world with its purchase of Whole Foods and forays into brick and mortar retailing.

Will Verizon decide to take on insurers? I don’t know, but the point is that given enough data they have not just an opportunity, but even an advantage. All because of the internet of things.

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

Security flaw in IoT solar equipment could disrupt Europe’s electricity grid

Security flaw in IoT solar equipment could disrupt electricity grid

A Dutch security researcher claims to have found vulnerabilities in internet-connected solar panel equipment installed throughout Europe, which could potentially be exploited by hackers.

Willem Westerhof, a cybersecurity researcher at ITsec, says he has found 21 security flaws in power inverters, which convert direct current from the panels into alternating current that goes into electricity grids.

According to Volkskrant, the Dutch newspaper that first reported the story, Westerhof has suggested that the vulnerability exists in thousands of internet-connected inverters. He has noted that the vulnerability affects devices made by various manufacturers throughout Europe, and confirms that those made by German specialist manufacturer SMA Solar Technology is among them. All manufacturers were notified of the flaws in December 2016.

Potentially disastrous consequences

Due to this vulnerability, Westerhof has suggested, hackers would be able to access these devices remotely, giving them control to alter the flow of power or switch them off simultaneously to disrupt powergrids supplying electricity across the continent.

“In Europe there is over 90 GW of [photovoltaic] power installed. An attacker capable of controlling the flow of power from a large number of these devices could therefore cause peaks or dips of several gigawatts, causing massive balancing issues which may lead to large-scale power outages,” he warned.

In response to Westerhof’s claims, SMA issued the following statement: “Please be assured that the security of our devices has highest priority for SMA in all respects and that we do everything we can to protect our inverters and communication products against cyber-attacks. We already assessed the mentioned issues on a technical basis and work intensively on the correction. The stated potential security issues only affect older SMA products and only a very few products in our portfolio.”

The company has assured customers that only the Sunny Boy models TLST-21 and TL-21 and the Sunny Tripower models TL-10 and TL-30 are affected and that all other products comply with the latest security standards.

Read more: Energy industry looks to drones for competitive edge

A surprising discovery

According to the BBC, Westerhof claims to have discovered the security flaws while working on his undergraduate thesis, which he revealed in a talk at the SHA2017 security conference in the Netherlands on Monday.

Westerhof did not release the full details of potential of these vulnerabilities to the public, in order to avoid encouraging malicious hackers.

Read more: Energy-powered smart windows could save energy and power IoT devices

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