Archive for February 2019

Your Latest IT News Update

Crypto-Mining Apps Discovered in Microsoft Store

Security researchers at Symantec claim to have discovered eight apps in the Microsoft Store which, if downloaded, can use the victim’s computer to mine crypto-currency.

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Research by developer Patrick Hulce has shown that around 60% of the loading time in a browser is caused by JavaScript code that is used to place adverts or analyse what users do.
Scooter Hack ThreatAn investigation by researchers at Zimperium® found a security flaw in the Xiaomi M365 electric scooter (the same model that is used by ridesharing companies) which could allow hackers to take control of the scooter’s acceleration and braking.

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Potential Jail For Clicking on Terror Links

The new UK Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 means that you could face up to 15 years in jail if you visit web pages where you can obtain information that’s deemed to be useful to ‘committing or preparing an act of terrorism’.

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Kellogg’s Uses Virtual Reality To Sell More Cornflakes

Breakfast cereal manufacturer Kellogg’s has been working with third-party VR companies to help it determine the best way to display its new products in stores.

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Tech Tip – Encrypting Documents Stored on Google Drive

If you use Google Drive to store files in the cloud but worried that Google doesn’t provide a true password protection feature, you may want to encrypt your files before uploading them.  Here’s how:

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Crypto-Mining Apps DiscoCrypto-Mining Apps Discovered in Microsoft Storevered in Microsoft Store

Security researchers at Symantec claim to have discovered eight apps in the Microsoft Store which, if downloaded, can use the victim’s computer to mine crypto-currency.

Only There For A Short Time Last Year

The suspect apps are reported to have only been on the Microsoft Store for a short time between April and December 2018, but it is thought that they still managed to achieve significant download numbers, as indicated by nearly 1,900 ratings posted for the apps.

Which Apps?

The suspect apps, in this case, are Fast-search Lite, Battery Optimizer (Tutorials), VPN Browsers+, Downloader for YouTube Videos, Clean Master+ (Tutorials), FastTube, Findoo Browser 2019, and Findoo Mobile & Desktop Search apps.  These apps have now been removed from the Microsoft Store,

What Is Crypto-currency Mining?

‘Crypto-currency mining’ involves installing ‘mining script’ code such as Coin Hive into multiple web pages without the knowledge of the web page visitor or often the website owner. Multiple computers then join their networks so that the combined computing power can enable mathematical problems to be solved. Whichever scammer is first to solve these problems is then able to claim/generate cash in the form of crypto-currency, hence mining for crypto-currency.

Crypto-currency mining software tends to be written in JavaScript and sends any coins mined by the browser to the owner of the web site. If you visit a website where it is being used (embedded in the web page), you may notice that power consumption and CPU usage on your browser will increase, and your computer will start to lag and become unresponsive. These slowing, lagging symptoms will end when you leave the web page.

Mining For Monero

In the case of the eight suspect apps, they had been loaded with a script that had been designed to mine the ‘Monero’ crypto-currency.  Monero, which was created in April 2014 is a decentralised cryptocurrency that uses an obfuscated public ledger.  This means that anybody can broadcast or send transactions, but no one outside can tell the source.

How?

The secret mining element of the eight suspect apps worked by triggering Google Tag Manager (GTM) in their domain servers as soon as they were downloaded.  The GTM, which was shared across all eight apps, enabled them to fetch a coin-mining JavaScript library, and the mining script was then able to use most of the computer’s CPU cycles to mine Monero.

GTM – Legitimate

GTM is usually a legitimate tool that is designed to enable developers to inject JavaScript dynamically into their applications.  In this case, however, it had been used as a cloak to conceal the malicious purpose of the apps.

Not The First Time

This is not the first time that suspect apps have been discovered lurking in popular, legitimate app stores. Back in January, for example, security researchers discovered 36 fake and malicious apps for Android that can harvest a user’s data and track their location, masquerading as security tools in the trusted Google Play Store. The apps, which had re-assuring names such as Security Defender and Security Keeper, were found to be hiding malware, adware and even tracking software.

Also, back in November 2017, a fake version of WhatsApp, the free, cross-platform instant messaging service for smartphones, was downloaded from the Google Play store by more than one million unsuspecting people before it was discovered to be fake.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This is not the first time that apps which perform legitimate functions of the surface and are available from trusted sources such as Microsoft store have been found to have hidden malicious elements, in this case, mining scripts.  The increased CPU usage and slowing down of computers caused by mining scripts waste time and money for businesses, and the increasingly sophisticated activities of crypto-jackers and other cyber-criminals, combined with a global shortage of skilled cyber-security professionals to handle detection and response have left businesses vulnerable to this kind of hidden app-based threat.

Although the obvious advice is to always check what you are downloading and the source of the download, the difference between fake apps and real apps can be subtle, and even Microsoft and Google don’t always seem to be able to detect the hidden aspects of some apps.

The fact that many of us now store most of our personal and business lives on our smartphones makes reports such as these more alarming. It also undermines our confidence in (and causes potentially costly damage to) the brands that are associated with such incidents e.g. the reputation of Microsoft Store.

Some of the ways that we can try to protect ourselves and our businesses from this kind of threat include checking the publisher of an app, checking which permissions the app requests when you install it, deleting apps from your phone that you no longer use, and contacting your phone’s service provider or visit the High Street store if you think you’ve downloaded a malicious/suspect app.

Also, if you are using an ad blocker on your computer, you can set it to block a specific JavaScript URLs related to crypto-mining, and some popular browsers also have extensions that can help e.g. a browser extension called ‘No Coin’ is available for Chrome, Firefox and Opera (to stop Coin Hive mining code being used through your browser).  Maintaining vigilance for unusual computer symptoms, keeping security patches updated, and raising awareness within your company of current crypto-currency mining threats and scams and what to do to prevent them, are just some of the other ways that you can maintain a basic level of protection for your business.

Browsers Slowed By Adverts and Analytics

Research by developer Patrick Hulce has shown that around 60% of the loading time in a browser is caused by JavaScript code that is used to place adverts or analyse what users do.

Analysed Pages

The researchers analysed data from desktop and mobile versions of a million sites, including many popular ones, and sampled programs written in JavaScript, which is the code that is popularly used not only by developers to make sites interactive, but also by Google to help place ads on pages and analyse user activity.

Two-Thirds of a Second Loading Time Added

The analysis revealed that if ad-placing and analytics JavaScript code are used together on a page this can add more than two-thirds of a second to loading times.

WordAds Script

The JavaScript code that was found to add the most time to page downloads was the WordAds script that’s used in WordPress blogs.  This was found to add a staggering 2.5-second delay to the arrival of a page.

Other Causes

The research did acknowledge that there are other popular causes of slow loading pages including network delays, large file sizes for some content, and even ad-blocking programs which increase script execution time.

Problems Caused By Slow-Loading Pages

Slow-loading pages can cause problems such as frustration to (and loss of) visitors from web pages, and pages being penalised by Google’s search rankings for desktop and mobile search results.

Google sends out Google speed updates for mobile search rankings of the slowest of sites on the Internet. The updates are directed to those who have verified properties in Google Search Console and are aimed at reducing the search rankings of really slow mobile pages.  The updates give site admins recommendations about how to measure and fix slow-loading page problems.  In October 2018 for example, Google announced that it had begun (since July 2018) incorporating a new Speed update algorithm in the mobile search results as a search ranking factor.

Run A Test

It has long been known that JavaScript can add extra time to page downloads.  If you’d like to check whether your pages are being slowed down by JavaScript you can, for example, go to https://www.webpagetest.org/ or Google’s https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Slow-loading web pages can frustrate users and lose your business customers, as well as damaging the position of your web pages in Google search results. Web pages that load quickly are known to have longer average session times, lower bounce rates, and higher viewability, and Google suggests that a good target time in which a page should load is under 2 seconds.

Test tools such as webpagetest.org are good ways to see how your pages currently perform.  Ways to improve slowness caused by JavaScript include only loading the JavaScript needed for the current page / prioritizing what a user will need and lazy-loading the rest with code-splitting and optimizing JavaScript.  If, for example, you have a WordPress website, you can use plugins to help reduce your page load time.

Scooter Hack Threat

An investigation by researchers at Zimperium® found a security flaw in the Xiaomi M365 electric scooter (the same model that is used by ridesharing companies) which could allow hackers to take control of the scooter’s acceleration and braking.

Xiaomi M365

The Xiaomi M365 is a folding, lightweight, stand-on ‘smart’ scooter with an electric motor that retails online for around £300 to £400. It is battery-powered, with a maximum speed of 15 mph, and features a “Smart App” that can track a user’s cycling habits, and riding speed, as well as the battery life, and more.

What Security Flaw?

The security flaw identified by the Zimperium® researchers is that the ‘smart’ scooter has a Bluetooth connection so that users can interact with the scooter’s features e.g. its Anti-Theft System or to update the scooter’s firmware, via an app. Each scooter is protected by a password, but the researchers discovered that the password is only needed for validation and authentication by the app, but commands can still be executed to the actual scooter without the password.

The researchers found that they could use the Bluetooth connection as a way in.  Using this kind of hack, it is estimated that an attacker only needs to be within 100 meters of the scooter to be able to launch a denial-of-service attack via Bluetooth which could enable them to install malicious firmware.  This firmware could be used by the attacker to take control of the scooter’s acceleration and braking capacities. This could mean that the rider could be in danger if an attacker chose to suddenly and remotely cause the scooter to brake or accelerate without warning.  Also, the researchers found that they could use this kind of attack to lock a scooter by using its anti-theft feature without authentication or the user’s consent.

Told The Company

The researchers made a video of their findings as proof, contacted Xiaomi and informed the company about the nature of the security flaw. It has been reported that Xiaomi confirmed that it is a known issue internally, but that no announcement has been made yet about a fix.  The researchers at Zimperium® have stated online that the scooter’s security can’t be fixed by the user and still needs to be updated by Xiaomi or any 3rd parties they work with.

Suggestion From The Researchers

The researchers have suggested that, in the absence of a fix to date, users can stop attackers from connecting to the scooter remotely by using Xiaomi’s app from their mobile before riding and connecting to the scooter.  Once the user’s mobile is connected and kept connected to the scooter an attacker can’t remotely flash malicious firmware or lock the scooter.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This is another example of how smart products/IoT products of all kinds can be vulnerable to attack via their Bluetooth or Internet connections, and particularly where there are password issues.  Usually, the risk comes from smart products from the same manufacturer all being given the same default password which the user doesn’t change.  In this case, the password works with the app, but in this case it appears as though the password isn’t being used properly to protect the product itself.

There have been many examples to date of smart products being vulnerable to attack.  For example, back in November 2017, German Telecoms regulator the Federal Network Agency banned the sale of smartwatches to children and asked parents to destroy any that they already have over fears that they could be hacked, and children could be spied-upon.  Also, back in 2016, cyber-criminals were able to take over many thousands of household IoT devices (white goods, CCTV cameras and printers), and use them together as a botnet to launch an online DDoS attack (Mirai) on the DNS service ‘Dyn’ with global consequences i.e. putting Twitter, Spotify, and Reddit temporarily out of action.

Manufacturers of smart products clearly need to take great care in the R&D process to make sure that the online security aspects have been thoroughly examined. Any company deploying IoT devices in any environment should also require the supply chain to provide evidence of adherence to a well-written set of procurement guidelines that relate to specific and measurable criteria.  In the mobile ecosystem and in adjacent industries, for example, the GSMA provides guidelines to help with IoT security.

As buyers of smart products, making sure that we change default passwords, and making sure that we stay up to date with any patches and fixes for smart products can be ways to reduce some of the risks.   Businesses may also want to conduct an audit and risk assessment for known IoT devices that are used in the business.

Potential Jail For Clicking on Terror Links

The new UK Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 means that you could face up to 15 years in jail if you visit web pages where you can obtain information that’s deemed to be useful to ‘committing or preparing an act of terrorism’.

Really?

The government states that the Act is needed to “make provision in relation to terrorism; to make provision enabling persons at ports and borders to be questioned for national security and other related purposes; and for connected purposes”.

As shown online in at legislation.gov.uk, Chaper1, Section 3 of the Act, which relates to the amended Section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (collection of information) for example, states that unless you’re carrying out work as a journalist, or for academic research, if a person “views, or otherwise accesses, by means of the internet a document or record containing information of that kind” i.e. (new subsection) information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, you can be punished under the new Act.

Longer Sentences

The new Act increases the sentences from The Terrorism Act 2000, so that a sentence of 15 years is now possible in some circumstances.

The Most Terror Deaths in Europe in 2017

A Europol Report showed that the UK suffered more deaths as a result of terror attacks than any other country in Europe in 2017.  The bill which has now become the new law was first introduced on 6th June 2018 after calls to for urgent action to deal with terrorism, following three terrorist attacks on the UK within 3 months back in 2017.

Online Problem

One of the key areas that it is hoped the law will help to tackle is how the internet and particularly social media can be used to recruit, radicalise and raise money.

Criticism

The new Act, which received royal assent on 12th February, has been criticised by some as being inflexible, based too much upon ‘thought crime’, and being likely to affect more of those at the receiving end of information rather than those producing and distributing it.  The new law has also been criticised for infringing upon the privacy and freedom of individuals to freely browse the internet in private without fear of criminal repercussion, as long as that browsing doesn’t contribute to the dissemination of materials that incite violent or intolerant behaviour.

The new Act has been further criticised by MPs for breaching human rights and has been criticised by legal experts such as Max Hill QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, who is reported as saying that the new law may be likely to catch far too many people, and that a 15-year prison is “difficult to countenance when nothing is to be done with the material, it is not passed to a third party, and it is not being collected for a terrorist purpose.”

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

We may assume that most people will be unlikely to willingly view the kind of material that could result in a prison sentence, and many in the UK are likely to welcome a law that provides greater protection against those who plan and commit terror attacks or who are seeking to use online means to recruit, radicalise and raise money.  The worry is that such a law should not be so stringent and inflexible as to punish those who are not viewing or collecting material for terrorist purposes, and there are clearly many prominent commentators who believe that this law may do this.

Businesses, organisations and venues of all kinds are often caught up in (or are the focus of) terror attacks and/or must ensure that they invest in security and other measures to make sure that their customers, staff and other stakeholders are protected.  A safer environment for all in the UK is, of course, welcome, but many would argue that this should not be at the expense of the levels of freedom and privacy that we currently enjoy.

Kellogg’s Uses Virtual Reality To Sell More Cornflakes

Breakfast cereal manufacturer Kellogg’s has been working with third-party VR companies to help it determine the best way to display its new products in stores.

Who?

Kellogg’s is reported to have been working on a pilot scheme with Accenture and Qualcomm.  Accenture is a Dublin-based global management consulting and professional services firm with a strong digital skill-set, and Qualcomm Inc is a US-based world leader in 3G and next-generation mobile technologies.

What?

The pilot’s aim was to determine the best in-store placement for Kellogg’s new Pop Tart Bites.  This involved the use of Accenture’s Extended Reality (XR) software and Qualcomm’s VR headsets.  This combination gave test subjects an immersive and 360-degree experience of a simulated store environment in which they were able to ‘virtually’ pick products, place items in shopping trolleys and make purchases.

Monitoring

The VR headsets and XR software enabled Kellogg’s to closely and precisely monitor the user’s eye movements.  The analytics meant that this test was also able to yield data such as which new products the test subjects looked at and how long they looked at the products.

New Insights Reveal Surprising Result

Whereas traditional understanding of in-store product placement points towards eye-level (or close to it) as an ideal spot, the new insights that the technology provided in this pilot concluded that positioning the new product on a lower shelf could increase sales of the product by 18%.

Growing Trend

The use of a combination of VR, AR and analytics in retail environments has been a growing trend among big brands in recent times.

Brick-and-mortar retail chains have, however, been criticised for reacting slowly to the introduction of technology that could help them and have found themselves at a disadvantage to online retailers who have been able to use digital technology to hyper-personalise retail experiences for their customers. The brick-and-mortar retailers have also been faced with challenges caused by economic and cultural shifts, e.g. customers moving more towards online shopping.

Change In The Landscape

It’s not just manufacturer brands that are now able to take advantage of the technological change in the landscape to benefit sales.

Retailers now have access to many affordable and relatively easy-to-use AI development tools available, such as those offered by big tech vendors e.g.  Google, Microsoft and Amazon. This means that building an AI system/machine learning system has never been easier.  Retail chains, for example, also have the advantage of having access to massive amounts of data which can be used in a value-adding way with analytics and AI.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This story illustrates how the combination of new technologies such as VR, AI and advanced analytics have yielded new insights which could make a greater contribution to sales than more traditional methods.

The portable nature of the technology (and the AI aspect) mean that they are also able to deliver these value-adding insights more quickly and cheaply than before, thereby contributing to faster and more effective product launches and more successful product strategies.  The superior insights gained from combining new technologies such as these mean that it is now possible for business product placement decisions to be made that could positively impact total brand sales, versus only single product sales.

Tech Tip – Encrypting Documents Stored on Google Drive

If you use Google Drive to store files in the cloud but worried that Google doesn’t provide a true password protection feature, you may want to encrypt your files before uploading them.  Here’s how:

If you have Microsoft Office on your PC, it has a built-in encryption feature.

– Go to: File > Protect Document > Encrypt with Password.

– Upload the file to Google Docs.

– Google can’t read the file, but it can be downloaded and opened on any PC with Microsoft Office Installed (using the password).

– If you don’t have Microsoft Office, you could use Boxcryptor.  This is free for syncing one cloud storage service between two PCs.

– Install Boxcryptor (see boxcryptor.com).

– Enable Google Drive in Boxcryptor’s settings.

– Access Boxcryptor from Windows Explorer’s sidebar.

– Go to: Boxcryptor > Encrypt option, and watch the checkbox turn green.

The encrypted files will then be placed in Google Drive, but won’t be accessible unless you have Boxcryptor installed and logged in.

If you’re looking for a solution that’s free and can be used with any cloud storage service and any device, you may want to try Veracrypt (for Windows, macOS, and Linux).  It creates an encrypted container where you can store files you want and put them anywhere for safe keeping.

– Install Veracrypt (see veracrypt.fr).

– Create a new encrypted file container within your Google Drive folder.

– Reach that file from Veracrypt’s main window (it will show as if it were an external hard drive).

– Drag your sensitive files there and unmount the volume.

You will need Veracrypt installed on any PC to access the documents inside that container.

Your Latest IT News Update

Could 5G’s High Frequency Be Dangerous?

5G may be the next generation of mobile internet that could provide new and innovative opportunities and boost to new industries, but there have been some concerns that its high-frequency mmWave spectrum could pose new health risks

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A report, commissioned by health secretary Matt Hancock and led by US academic Eric Topol, has found that even though AI and robotics will enhance healthcare services, 90% of NHS staff will require fresh digital skills within 20-years.
UK Solar-Powered High Latitude Drone Presents New Mapping OpportunitiesThe Astigan high-altitude “pseudo-satellite” (HAPS) drone, built in Somerset using British Technology, and co-developed with Ordinance Survey, could succeed where other earth-mapping efforts by tech giants have failed, and provide a wealth of other opportunities.

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ROI Index Shows That Facebook & Google Offer Best Value For Mobile Advertisers

Marketing report company Singular has produced an ROI index for mobile advertising, based on its own research which shows that Facebook and Google appear to offer the best value for mobile advertisers.

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Russia Plans Disconnect From Rest of World Internet For Cyber-Defence Test

Russia has set itself a deadline of 1st April to test “unplugging” the entire country from the global Internet for reasons relating to defence and control.

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Tech Tip – Link your Android Phone To Your Windows PC or Laptop

If you’ve ever emailed yourself a photo or screenshot to get it from your phone to your computer or uploaded photos to e.g. Google Photos or Dropbox and then download them onto your PC, you may want to try Microsoft’s ‘Your Phone’ app.  With the app, you can link and sync your Android phone to your Windows PC or laptop and simply drag and drop photos or screenshots, plus you can receive and send text messages from your phone on your computer. Here’s how to set it up:

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Could 5G’s High Frequency Be Dangerous?

5G may be the next generation of mobile internet that could provide new and innovative opportunities and boost to new industries, but there have been some concerns that its high-frequency mmWave spectrum could pose new health risks.

Long-Held Concerns

Ever since there have been mobile phones, there have always been concerns that prolonged exposure to low-energy, non-ionising electromagnetic radiation radio waves, the type used by current mobile phones, could increase a person’s risk of health problems such as developing cancerous brain tumours. This radio frequency (RF) radiation does not have enough energy to ionise an atom or molecule, and therefore, is unlikely to have enough energy to damage cell DNA in a way that would cause cancer.  This is the reason why recent research has shown that it is now believed to be unlikely that radio waves from mobile phones or base stations could increase the risk of any health problems.

Even though it is now generally accepted that normal use of current generation mobile phones is relatively safe, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has still given a cautious classification of RF radiation as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”.

What’s Different About 5G?

5G is different because it will use 3 Spectrum bands, low-band spectrum (LTE), mid-band spectrum, and what some believe to be the potentially dangerous mmWave high-frequency spectrum.

The mmWave spectrum, however, is still not close to the kind of ionising wavelengths that can cause damage to DNA.  In fact, mmWave high-frequency spectrum technology appears to be quite some way from the maximum human RF absorption frequency of about 70MHz. Also, mmWave will mostly be deployed in a spectrum that suffers from high reflection rates – 24 to 29GHz.  This should mean that any absorption by the body will be confined to the surface layers of the skin rather than the deeper tissue that is reached by lower frequency radiation.

So, Is It Safe?

Based on the science of radiation, and current evidence and limits relating to mobile phone use, there’s nothing to directly suggest 5G mmWave poses a significant health risk, but 5G is not here and in popular use yet, so more research will need to be done on the subject in future.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

5G represents a great opportunity for business.  Its increased speed and lower latency allow the downloading of films and games in seconds and watching them without any buffering, and this kind of speed will allow all kinds of new opportunities for presentation media e.g. in advertising, on social media and on websites.

Many different types of businesses could benefit from improved connectivity with remote workers or with salespeople in remote areas.

Also, the news from an O2 forecast is that 5G could deliver time savings that could bring £6 billion a year in productivity savings in the UK and that 5G-enabled tools and smart items could save UK householders £450 a year in food, council and fuel bills.

Safety, however, is a major concern for all businesses, but even though 5G will use a higher frequency, there is no compelling evidence to date to show that it would pose new health risks to users.  In the UK, it will be some time before 5G networks are up and running to any significant level, and this means that there will be time for research to be conducted in areas where 5G use is at a more advanced stage.

Report Says 90% of NHS Jobs Will Need Digital Skills, But AI and Robotics Could Enhance Services

A report, commissioned by health secretary Matt Hancock and led by US academic Eric Topol, has found that even though AI and robotics will enhance healthcare services, 90% of NHS staff will require fresh digital skills within 20-years.

Robotics and AI Enhancements

According to the report, although there has been fear that the implementation of AI and robotics to the NHS could be a step towards replacing human practitioners, they will in fact enhance services.

Smart Speakers Could Help

For example, the use of smart digital assistants such as Alexa and Siri could free-up more time for doctors which could be spent with patients. It is anticipated that smart speakers could reduce time spent on paperwork, possibly saving 5.7 million hours of GPs’ time across the country per year.

Mental Health Triage Bots?  

The suggestion that smart speakers could somehow be used as effective “mental health triage bots” by engaging in conversations while analysing text and audio for any suicidal ideas and emotions has been dismissed by mental health professionals. A smart speaker may be capable of listening and talking but as mental health professionals point out, smart speakers can’t pick up many of the visual cues that a skilled human professional can, they can’t quickly develop a relationship with a patient (as is needed in mental health assessment situations), and they may not be particularly useful in a situation where a patient is disordered.

Patient Records

The report indicates that smart speakers could also enhance the capabilities of NHS workers to update patient records.

Three Main Changes

In the report, Mr Topol predicts how, over the next 20 years there will be three main developments that will change patients lives, and how training should begin now to ensure that NHS staff have the skills to make the most of those changes going forward.  According to Eric Topol, who is a cardiologist, geneticist, and digital medicine researcher, the three main changes will be:

  1. Patients having their genome sequenced.  This can help determine things like a person’s predisposition to certain diseases and how they will respond to medication or treatment.
  2. Patients being able to generate and interpret much more of their own health data at home.
  3. AI helping to exponentially increase the speed, accuracy and scalability of medical data interpretation.

Digital Appointments

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who commissioned the report, has also called on GP practices in the UK to be able to offer digital appointments within five years e.g. using Skype and Google.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

According to this report, AI, robotics and other new technologies could provide enhancements that may enable patients to be ultimately better informed about their own medical position and may help NHS staff to deliver a better quality of service while freeing them from spending too much time on paperwork and spending that time instead with patients.

There is, however, a challenge to be met in terms of making sure that NHS staff receive training that will enable them to make the best use of new digital technologies, and this will need planning and will have cost implications.

It is also important to consider, however, that the amount of data gathered about patients e.g. genomic information could be intrusive and has security and privacy risks.  Also, if AI bots are used to handle some communications with patients, those patients need to be informed that they are communicating with a bot and not a person.  Too much reliance on technological innovation could also bring some inequalities. For example, poorer people and ethnic minorities have been shown to have a lower uptake of things like digital health records.