• IoT
  • How can Africa expand its broadband for health?

    Yesterday, eHNA reported on Africa’s broadband challenges. It seems that Africa’s not alone. The UK, despite being ahead of Africa, has its own challenges. What are the lessons for Africa?

    The UK’s Institute of Directors (IoD) published Ultrafast Britain, it’s remedy to the UK’s digital divide with Europe. It has some of the worst broadband speeds in the developed world, least reliable broadband in rural and urban areas and patchy mobile coverage. Investing to fix it needs to achieve two goals: 

    Immediate improvement, including peak capacity of 3.6 times the average hourly rate Future proofing to meet growing demand partly fuelled by better supply, increased video use and the Internet of Things (IoT).

    These should be Africa’s goals too, but expanded to reflect a growth in cloud computing, which will be more common and routine in the future, and may have a much bigger role in Africa’s eHealth. The IoD report sees business growth expanding in several sectors, such as rail and sir travel. In Africa, eHealth’s expanding too. 

    An important theme was emphasised in the report’s launch: broadband solutions have no silver bullet and one size doesn’t fit all. The mix proposed for the UK’s:

    Fibre to and for homes, Fibre to the Home (FTTH) Fibre to and for businesses, Fibre to the Business (FTTB) WiFi and satellite for mobility.

    This doesn’t fit Africa very well. Remote and rural homes can be many miles away from urban centres. It does offer a way to create an appropriate mix. If WiFI and satellite’s seen as needed for mobility, it can support rural and remote homes and businesses to give an African mix of:

    FTTH for urban homes FTTH, WiFi and satellite for rural and remote homes, depending on their remoteness FTTB for urban businesses FTTB, WiFi and satellite for rural and remote businesses, depending on their remoteness WiFi and satellite for mobility.

    Once it’s installed, fibre’s 20% to 30% cheaper to upgrade and maintain than copper. It offers the most affordable solution. That doesn’t mean that it’s easily affordable. Aerial fibre uses telegraph lines, where they’re in place, offers a lower cost than digging trenches for fibre.

    Financing this can rely extensively, but not entirely on the private sector. The IoD says that for rural areas, the Return on Investment (ROI) to suppliers isn’t attractive when FTTH opportunities remain in urban areas. For Africa’s event more rural and remote communities, government spending’s a requirement, but limited by affordability constraints. A long-term investment plan’s needed.

    For super-fast broadband, the UK’s in a bid of a competition bind. Four big suppliers, BT, Sky, Talk Talk and Virgin dominate about 95% of supply. Smaller firms take a shrinking 5%. This’s a supply model African countries should try to avoid. One way to do this is to engage smaller, local and national firms in supplying Internet and broadband services to rural and remote communities.

    How long will this take? The UK sees 2030 as the horizon. African countries are usually bigger, with more dispersed populations and bigger affordability constraints. An investment horizon well beyond 2030 seems inevitable. Two drivers for faster change are:

    Financial support from aid agencies Matching investment against IoT and IoT for health priorities.

    New opportunities from IoT for health need new eHealth strategies. This’s the starting point for Africa’s health systems to take new opportunities alongside accelerating business investment in broadband. It’s a challenge that needs sustainable, affordable investment year on year.

  • GE's investing in IoT for health

    Machines are chatty, at least many of them are with each other. The Internet of Things (IoT) enables them to talk digital and transfer data to other machines with the IoT capabilities. GE has lots of these types of machines used in healthcare, such as telepathology and radiology. At the recent Africa Healthcare Summit 2016, GE Healthcare Africa CEO, Faried Fezoua, reminded the audience that it’s already committed to spending $2b to develop IoT capacity across all its customers’ machines, including healthcare.

    It’s investment in IoT for health’s based on a core requirement that utilising data in healthcare machines provides information for healthcare professionals to improve healthcare for patients. Examples from its global surveys show that:

    Only 32% of nurses say their hospitals’ are excellent at capturing patient safety data 59% of nurses say their hospitals’ where patient safety data’s collected and reported, there’s no follow-up 47% have seen a near-miss that wasn’t reported during the previous year 39% have seen and adverse event that wasn’t reported during the previous year Only 8% of nurses describe their patient safety systems as innovative. 

    There’s a lot to do to bring these performances up to a high standard. IoT for health offers a way forward to both innovate process, and avoid the need for extra healthcare workers to deal with the collection, reporting and action. GE’s report on Industrial Internet Insights Report for 2015 sets these out. GE wants to develop its IoT for health in close collaboration with its users to ensure success. Africa can benefit directly as it has few legacy systems to replace, making an IoT investment cheaper, faster, providing lower risks and higher net benefits. eHNA’s tracking this.

  • Tanzania has a new diabetes management device

    Diabetes is a huge and growing problem, and the costs to society are high and escalating. The disease’s reaching epidemic proportions the world over, so includes Africa. In 2013, approximately 19.6 million people suffered from diabetes in Africa, says the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). It estimates that there’ll be more people suffering, around 41.5 million by 2035.

    In 2013, Tanzania had 1.7 million people living with diabetes, the fourth highest in Africa. To address the problem, the country’s launching an innovative device to help people with diabetes manage their condition better.

    Thousands of Tanzanians with diabetes will now be able to send their glucose levels to doctors using a smart technology device introduced by Cumii International to ensure efficient diabetes management. The device will be launched within the next month, says an article in All Africa. 

    It’ll utilise the Internet of Things (IOT), It’s expected to revolutionise the existing smart technology market in Tanzania, as it provides a practical and essential solution to consumers in both urban and rural areas.

    Norman Moyo, the CEO of Cumii International, said he’s excited about the possibilities of IoT. "Africa is on the threshold of a new era of innovation and change with the convergence of industry powered by computing, analytics, low cost sensing and higher level of connectivity. This is bringing a profound transformation to many aspects of daily life and our ways of working".

    Tanzania is part of Cumii International's key Pan African markets that includes Kenya, Zambia, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, South Africa, DRC, Uganda and Nigeria rolling out connected services as part of its suite of IOT services in Africa.

  • Is IoT changing Africa's eHealth opportunities in a big way?

    Machines that send data to each other embody some core features of science fiction, but they’re here now and expanding. The Internet of Things (IoT) has much to offer Africa’s health systems, and the opportunities are expanding. Many of these were highlighted at the African Healthcare Summit. 

    While IoT for health’s a relatively new phenomenon, an important theme’s that Africa’s health systems can move towards it by building from existing eHealth. Telepathology and teleradiology already contain data that a wider range of machines can transfer routinely to each other directly, and provide rich sources of data for analytics for both surveillance of communities and more personalised care for individuals. The Summit revealed that eHealth’s long awaited paradigm shift’s arriving with IoT. 

    Most of Africa’s eHealth strategies don’t provide for this yet. With the opportunities approaching rapidly, strategies need reviewing to incorporate IoT for health. The themes are: 

    What do Africa’s health systems need to do to be ready for IoT for health? What are Africa’s health systems’ information priorities for IoT for health? How do Africa’s health systems realise the benefits from IoT for health?

    Acfee’s setting in place a new, long-term work programme to heighten the new significance of IoT for health. It includes providing health systems with insights and information as they emerge. It’s a theme that eHNA’ll be returning to frequently.

  • Philips partners with Amazon to expand digital health solutions

    Philips and Amazon have joined forces to connect millions of devices to the Internet of Things (IoT) using Amazon Web Services (AWS). An article in Med Device Online says the deal extends the health data management connectivity and capability of Philips own HealthSuite digital platform. 

    “Our HealthSuite digital platform and its device cloud are already managing more than seven million connected, medical-grade and consumer devices, sensors, and mobile apps. With the addition of AWS IoT, we will greatly accelerate the pursuit of our vision. It will be easier to acquire, process, and act upon data from heterogeneous devices in real-time. Our products, and the care they support, are enabled to grow smarter and more personalized over time,” says Jeroen Tas, CEO Healthcare Informatics, Solutions and Services, Philips.

    For data from unrelated devices to interact securely with each other, device manufacturers have to create expensive new systems. AWS IoT is a cost effective alternative that provides a "pay-as-you-go service that handles the heavy lifting." The system makes these devices interoperable and allows for better managing of the continuous stream of data they create. 

    "The digital health revolution and the power of the Internet of Things offer tremendous opportunities to positively transform how care is delivered," said Tas in a separate release. "By unleashing data from connected devices and health records, combined with analytics, valuable insights into how we can live and age well can be uncovered.”

    Philips introduced its initial series of personal health programmes where consumers can use health devices, related apps, and a cloud-based data analysis performed by HealthSuite in Germany last month. The devices include a health watch, blood pressure monitor, body analysis scale, and ear thermometer.

    Philips claims that, every year, over 275 million hospital patients are monitored by Philips equipment, and it sells the same number of consumer appliances into homes across the world. This new partnership should have global implications for eHealth, so Africa.

  • IoTSF to tackle IoT's cyber-vulnerabilities

    Cyber-security’s an increasing priority. The Internet of Things (IoT) hasn’t escaped it. eHNA’s already reported on the growing demand for better IoT security. The Internet of Things Security Foundation (IoTSF) was set up today. It’s an initiative of more than 30 major suppliers of IoT services and products are eager to ensure that their IoT devices aren’t vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

    IoTSF has a clear view:

    IoT’s economic impact will be measured in $trillions The number of connected devices will be measured in billions The resultant benefits of a connected society are significant, disruptive and transformational Alongside the opportunities are fears and concerns about the IoT security IoTSF’s goal’s to respond to the concerns.

    You can register with IoTSF on its website and sign up to its newsletter. It’s an important initiative. 

  • Whose data is it anyway?

    Ownership’s not a trivial matter. The play Whose Life is it Anyway? by Brian Clark in the 1970s explored decisions about euthanasia. Now, we also have the question of whose data is it?

    Like all new technology, there are benefits and costs. In an interview in Harvard Business Review (HBR), Prof Pentland, from the Media Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), says for Big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT), success depends on an assumption that the data generated by Internet companies and dispersed devices belongs to the organisations collecting it. What if it doesn’t?

    Prof Pentland suggests that companies don’t own the data, so without rules specifying who does, consumers and regulators will have their own, different views on ownership and inhibit progress. Guidelines and rules are needed so people can control data about them. Some of his principles to achieve this include:

    People have a right to know Transparency’s key Don’t hamper innovation Treat data like money Make sure it scales.

    As African’s move ahead slowly to improve eHealth regulation, it’s important they take account of principles like these in framing and setting their specific eHealth legislation and regulations. 

  • IoT expansion needs security measures

    Malicious intruders already know how to flout the security of the Internet of Things (IoT), but IoT’s forecast expansion may just add more security holes for cyber criminals to exploit.

    A blog at Trustwave by Dan Kaplan, its online content manager, sets out five steps to take to help block them. It’s not an exhaustive list.

    Know what you've signed up for, understand how it operates, what data it’s collecting, why it’s being collected and where its stored Avoid the market rush, build in, and maintain security from the start Test, don't guess, so you know and understand the assets on your network and weaknesses across your IoT environment in embedded devices, interface applications, back-end services, Application Programming Interfaces (API), cloud clusters and the connections in between Hold vendors accountable if you're buying IoT, vet their security as you would your own and ask them what they do to ensure the security of your IoT, then demonstrate it Practice defence in-depth, so IoT’s not the endpoint, but an entire ecosystem that needs a thorough set of security measures, including authentication controls, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) protection, intrusion prevention, web application firewalls, incident monitoring, patching and incident response.

    As Africa’s health systems approach IoT investment, it has time to put these measures in place to minimise their risk exposures. It can become routine good practice.

  • Is it now the Internet of Everything?

    It hasn’t taken long for the digerati to move the Internet of Things (IoT) on to the Internet of Everything (IoE). At the Bio Science 2015 conference a report in Bio Science Technology (BST) the session “The Internet of Everything Meets Digital Health” set out how it might look in some specific settings. It fits into Africa’s mHealth directions.

    Cognitive training software provides mental exercises for schizophrenia patients. The aim is to improve cognition to support patients’ recoveries. Wearables and biosensors can help to monitor thoughts and feelings, set daily schedules and manage medication compliance.

    In oncology services, computational immunotherapy and genomics are beginning to offer alternatives to chemo and radiotherapy. It includes better modelling of immune systems to find new breakthroughs and bigger genomic analysis of populations. The falling price of this technology is improving its sustainability.

    Wireless medicine is leading to connected sensors for monitoring patients in clinical trials. These will become routine services for healthcare as nodes on the net to transmit information from a range of sources to help researchers form a more comprehensive view of people’s conditions and illnesses. 

    Cloud computing and social network are essential resources for the digital healthcare’s evolution. They lead on to the need for a better infrastructure in place to collect and analyse the new an immense data as part of Big Data’s emerging role in health and healthcare.

    Do these examples take the IoT into an IoE realm? It may not be important if they don’t. It’s more important that they show a set of scenarios for Africa’s mHealth that leads to its role in analytics and Big Data. It’s a long, slow journey. To run is necessary to arrive. 

  • Is IoT an open goal for security threats?

    As healthcare and eHealth adopt more Internet of Things (IOT) devices for activities such as monitoring and mHealth, they need to deal with privacy, security and safety risks. Ahmed Banafa sets these out in Open Mind. The start point is that the IoT has broad and potentially crippling security risks because its infrastructure components offer a good target for national and industrial espionage, denial of service and other attacks. These lead to privacy concerns about personal information.

    With many IoT devices located in remote and inhospitable places, sustained physical security is a challenge. From these, cyber-attackers can change controls, intercept, read or change data and change functionality. Home control hubs have been found to be vulnerable. These highlight security priorities for Africa’s healthcare. There are safety issues too because IoT interfaces with the physical world.

    The extensive use of basic tools and practices is a first step. They include data encryption, rigorous user authentication, resilient coding and standardised, tested and proven Application Program Interfaces (API) that define exactly how programs interact with the rest of their software world.

    IoT devices can’t often defend against attackers, so need firewalls and intrusion detection and prevention systems to protect them. Creating a separate network segment for IoT is also an option.

    Perhaps the most important step is for suppliers to incorporate effective security in their IoT. This could fit alongside agreed interoperability standards that are safe and valid. These measures can extend across mHealth too, making it a single, comprehensive activity. This is more manageable for African countries than lots of separate security measures. It also needs a cadre of skilled staff to deal with it, and this needs sustained recruitment, development and retention measures.