eXtensions - Monday 20 March 2017

Cassandra: Monday Review - A Healthy Future for the Internet of Things

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


HealthKit, HomeKit and a Lucrative Future for the Internet of Things. Innovation and resistance in the medical profession. That mystery Apple device is a special lock and is unlikely to go on sale. Phishing and Apple accounts.

I have been writing a lot on the Internet of Things (IoT) recently because that is where a lot of attention is being focussed by some of the major companies in technology these days, including Apple, IBM and others. My Bangkok Post column this Wednesday will touch on this, before focussing on HealthKit and a new blood pressure monitoring device I acquired.

Qardio monitor Withings monitor

Qardio (left) and Withings blood pressure monitors

To me such health devices are not truly IoT, hut closely related as not all are internet-connected for their operations. The Eve sensor device I have at home is one device that is: sending data to me wherever I am via the internet. That also adds some data to Apple Home; and devices can also be controlled from that app. The blood pressure devices I have are connected to the phone via Bluetooth, so are not controlled from a distance, but data connected by these (and other) devices can be sent to others, like a doctor.

In a 2011 report, CISCO estimated that there could be 50 billion IoT devices by 2020. A comment in the Economist recently, points out when quantum technology was first used, no one had any idea of the potential. Reacting to this in a Tweet, M. G. Siegler noted that the same was true of the transistor.

A comment on Patently Apple on Monday morning caught my eye concerning the way Apple is working with medical professionals on the use of iPads. These can be used in several ways and as the business could be worth some $3 trillion, this is worth investing in.

I tracked down the original article cited by Patently Apple and, while this is a fairly long read, it has some valuable ideas. Christina Farr examines the ways the iPad is currently being used in hospitals and by doctors, noting that a new iPad is on the way (this is rumour, but fairly substantial). The article uses practical examples of patient use and interviews with medical professionals who are examining ways to integrate the iPad in patient care.

Using the iPad (Image courtesy of Apple)

A useful observation is that one barrier to use of such innovative solutions is that so many healthcare establishments use proprietary software. Solutions for newer technologies, including tablet use, need to be developed. I am just touching the surface with some of these, like those blood pressure monitors and a blood-glucose checking device. That works with the iPhone (via the 3.5mm headphone jack) and like some modern sports-related apps, they have the capability to communicate data to others: family, hospitals, doctors. Regarding the GMate connection, I was slightly concerned when Apple removed the headphone jack in favour of the Lightning port, but the adapter that came with the iPhone 7 gave a faultless connection and the GMate device works exactly as before.

As in teaching, the medical profession is resistant to some changes, which needs some thinking about, but historically this has often been so. A good example is the stomach ulcer that was thought to be a dietary problem. When it was found that the cause was a bacterium (helicobacter pylori), there was initially an almost total refusal to accept this. Part of the acceptance came when one of the researchers who made the discovery, drank the bacteria and became ill, but was cured by taking antibiotics, now the accepted way to treat this condition. They also won the Nobel Prize (medicine) for that.

Dr Richard Milani The article also includes an interview with Dr Richard Milani to whom I spoke last year when he was in Bangkok. I found the ideas he was working with then to be deeply interesting and that set me off on the new (to me) track of healthcare. I bought the GMate blood-glucose analysis device the same day I spoke to Dr Milani.

I followed that up with the Withings blood-pressure monitor and now the QardioArm smart blood pressure monitor which was designed to work with Apple's HealthKit. Its official price is $99 but with shipping and other costs that came to just over 5,000 baht when I bought it from Amazon.

Apart from air monitors and health-related camera systems, as well as the Withings scales ($99.95) there is little that is HealthKit-related here. The same is true of HomeKit devices with only one (the new Withings camera monitor) available here. Thai prices are often much higher than those quoted for products in the USA. Other devices are internet- or Bluetooth-capable, but none have the HomeKit chip that might give the user the necessary security.

I did buy a couple of plugs that are internet-capable (not one HomeKit plug works with 220v systems) but these are not secure and I am having problems setting them up: a work in progress.

There was some online noise a short while ago about a mystery Apple product that worked with wireless. It was reported on Monday by Roger Fingas on AppleInsider that this appears to be a door access system and rather than a commercial product, this is probably headed for the new Apple spaceship campus. Apple tends not to produce many accessories leaving that to a host of smaller companies who tend to do rather well riding the coat-tails.

I keep seeing examples of phishing that purport to come from Apple, but the very nature of the media used are clear signs that Apple is not sending them. Those that come via email are a little harder to confirm, but unless it is a bill or a monthly (or annual) reminder, be highly sceptical. A query from a user on Twitter today was met with a mixed bag of that scepticism.

User Benwood showed a Tweet he had been sent with the comment, "Well this certainly looks like a phishing text! I seriously doubt it is from @Apple..." One of the replies to the original message was highly ironic: "Seems legit" which was followed by "And that silhouette is professional AF." As Charles Arthur also correctly commented, "Apple IDs don't expire. Tell your non-technical friends to ignore (and block) texts like this."

Gone phishing

It is highly probable that Apple is working seriously on augmented reality as Tim Cook has mentioned this, while dismissing virtual reality. Roger Fingas (AppleInsider) reports that the team working on this for Apple includes experts who were previously working on the technology for Dolby, Oculus, Meta and others.

The article suggests that this is a priority at Cupertino with the suggestion being that something will be available on the next iPhone. This is also the theme of a Patently Apple article, which mentions some of the filings that have been made in this area.

And the growing excitement over the next iPhone has been caught by Wall Street Neil Hughes reports for AppleInsider, with analyst Timothy Arcuri of Cowen, referring to this as a "powder keg" that will push Apple shares to $155. And then? . . .

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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