Where has the internet of things gone? Article by Scott Arrol, NZHIT CEO

Regular column by Scott Arrol, NZHIT CEO

Scott Arrol goes searching for the internet of things and finds it may be hidden in plain sight. What can we learn from that in the development of internet-based healthcare programmes?

Firstly, like all of us I’m struggling to understand the tragic events that have unfolded beginning on Friday 15 March. There is no previous context in this country to explain such a heinous act and there possibly never will be.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all those people who have been impacted by this situation. It is a difficult thing to comprehend but the support shown throughout New Zealand has demonstrated what the true spirit of this country is all about.

The internet – who to trust?

In relation to this article, over the past few days we’ve witnessed the stark contrast of the good and the bad of the internet. On the one hand, it has supported the outpouring of emotion, communication of important messages at scale and enabled people a channel with which to make donations.

Sadly, on the other hand, the live streaming of the event was, and continues to be, an absolutely evil act that feeds upon the worst levels of hatred and racism. We have also been warned about the acts of cyber criminals taking advantage of the situation for their own financial gain. These people are akin to looters following a disaster who take advantage of the suffering of others to fulfil their own selfish needs.

The question then gets raised about what and who do we trust when it comes to the internet? The likes of Facebook and YouTube (and others) surely have an important part to play when it comes to ensuring that the good parts of the internet are enhanced as much as possible, while policing the bad parts to prevent, or severely lessen, their ability to cause ongoing distress.

There are no excuses or half measures when it comes to the latter. Regardless of whether an organisation makes money from the internet or not, there is an absolute obligation to be responsible for maintaining a trusted and secure platform at all times.

If not, then people will vote with their fingers and find somewhere else that provides the levels of trust they expect and require.

Some will say that New Zealand is such a small place that the large internet corporations won’t feel a thing if they lose market share, but this forgets about the global nature of the internet itself and the large communities of interest that it supports. Friday’s event has been felt at an international level and will continue to play out at that scale for some time to come.

What’s happened to the internet of things?

This then brings me to the title of this article – where has the internet of things gone? It was only a handful of years ago that we were told the IoT was going to change our lives forever. When it comes to the health sector, IoT was going to completely disrupt the way care was provided and we all needed to get ready for the bow wave that was going to wash over us.

Has this happened yet, because I think I missed it? Or, has the next big thing to save the world washed over IoT – blockchain, AI, robotics, cryptocurrency, personalised health and so on?

What I suspect has happened is that the IoT has actually become quietly embedded in our daily lives and in healthcare delivery. Some of this has been noticeable, such as in security systems, lights, appliances and so on that can be controlled remotely and tell us things that we might not have known before.

I’ve got a sports watch that tells me my heart rate, daily steps and many other things that I was hitherto oblivious to (and probably didn’t care about until I knew them). In healthcare, there are many monitoring devices in use that are using the internet to share data and information.

Perhaps, the clever thing that the internet of thing has done is move from hype to business as usual so quickly that we haven’t explicitly noticed it. Or perhaps it hasn’t caused the level of predicted disruption, which has played to its advantage, especially when it comes to the healthcare sector, as we all know how disruption-adverse the sector is.

If so, there are lessons to be learnt from this, as the sales pitch can so often drown out the practical advantages that a new solution can provide.

Need to understand obligations to safety

In any case, this brings me back to my initial point about the absolute need for trust regardless of what it is we’re using the internet for. There are examples of where devices connected to the internet of things have been used to gain backdoor access to health-related data. Baby incubators, scanning machines, printers and even the trusty old fax machine have provided insecure portals into a hospital’s data repositories.

The ubiquitous nature of the internet and the ‘digitisation of everything’ places increased onus on all of us to understand our obligations.

The internet is now an extension of our daily lives to the extent that we’ve tended to absolve to others the responsibility for how it is used, especially to the large multinationals. This is clearly not acceptable as it’s like crashing a car through poor driving then blaming the manufacturer for it.

If we get behind the wheel then we accept joint responsibility for making sure everyone is safe while we drive, not just the company who made the car. It’s not so simple with the internet but the principle remains the same: make sure you’re using it safely and responsibly and then be prepared to hold others to account when it’s necessary.

Scott Arrol is the CEO of New Zealand Health IT (NZHIT).

Post on behalf of eHealth News

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