Can Blockchain Technology Be Used For Things Other Than Cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrency is perhaps the most publicized use for blockchain technology. Perhaps this is why most people assume that cryptocurrency and blockchain are the same. In this article, we will show you that blockchain can be used for more than just finance and banking. This exciting, new technology has a wide array of applications that extend far beyond the implementation of digital currencies.

 

Cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin and others, merely use the blocks on the blockchain as a means to transparently and securely record a ledger of payments. Blockchain can also be used as a secure way of keeping data about other types of transactions.

 

In theory, people across various industries can use blockchain to store different data points immutably. This could be in the form of votes in an election, financial transactions, titles to properties, product inventories, and much more.

 

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Blockchain can be useful in any application where data security is paramount.

This explains blockchain’s wide adoption in vast industries like healthcare, supply chain, cloud storage and so on. We'll expound on these and other applications of blockchain in this article. But first, let's look at the technology, as it relates to cryptocurrency.

 

Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain

While people use cryptocurrency and blockchain interchangeably, these two aren't the same thing. Bitcoin was the first example of blockchain in action when it was introduced as an open-source code.  

 

Cryptocurrencies serve as an exchange medium. They are a disruptive fintech designed to make international transactions secure, faster, and easier, by putting control straight into the concerned parties' hands. These digital assets use cryptography and proof-of-work to create global currencies, secure transactions, control rate issues, all while removing aspects of government control.

 

The immutable, decentralized feature has fueled blockchain's adoption beyond its original use of supporting Bitcoin transactions. Here's how blockchain technology can be used for things other than cryptocurrency.

 

Blockchain Uses in Monitoring Supply Chain Data

 

The supply chain industry is challenged with enormous complexity, utilizing vast amounts of data. Information is often fragmented, inconsistently formatted, making it difficult to access or analyze. Blockchain technology seeks to address these and many other challenges.

 

Blockchain integration in the supply chain allows businesses to record a wide range of information effectively from date, price, location, certification, quality and other forms of critical data. This enables a more accurate and transparent end-to-end monitoring. It can also reduce disputes, as well as blockages of assets throughout the entire supply chain. By eliminating paper-based trails, companies can quickly identify inefficiencies and locate the assets in real-time.

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Blockchain integration in supply chain management will help save time and money.

 

Most companies agree that one of the biggest benefits of using blockchain technology for supply chain management is cost reduction. The ability to use real-time tracking in supply chain management proves to be one of the largest sources of cost-reduction.

 

Plus, there are other incredible benefits such as increasing automation through smart contracts, the provenance of tracking, scalability, and security.

 

Blockchain Uses In the Internet of Things (IoT) Systems

IoT is changing the way businesses run through the use of sensors and other edge infrastructure and devices. While a great thing, this poses a unique challenge for companies that have to protect data at all levels of the IoT environment. And with the ever-growing number of connected IoT devices, the need for data security has never been this complex. Blockchain technology is helping businesses resolve the security challenges in their IoT systems.

 

Blockchain combines with IoT to facilitate the machine-to-machine transaction. This blend also provides a range of potential benefits, like allowing smart devices to run autonomously without a centralized authority. It can also monitor how IoT devices send and receive information. The distributed ledger technology with IoT applies in automotive, agriculture, and banking sectors while, also, extending to smart homes, logistics and smart contracts. Blockchain application allows businesses to manage information on smart devices in an IoT system. This lowers costs linked to data transfer and IoT device maintenance.

 

 

Blockchain Uses in Smart Contracts

 

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Smart contracts are transactions that are secured by a distributed blockchain network.

A smart contract is a transaction protocol or computer program meant to automatically execute, document, or control legally relevant actions and events, as per the terms of an agreement or contract. It aims at reducing the need for external enforcement or a central entity as well as fraud losses.

 

Smart contracts use blockchain to capture, verify, approve and enforce agreements between parties. Blockchain-based smart contracts are irreversible, traceable, and transparent transactions. They are immutable, secure, and exist across a distributed blockchain network. Once recorded, it becomes impossible to change, delete or lose an agreement. The uses of smart contracts are vast, but they are common in property ownership and cross-border financial transactions. Other uses include: monitoring origin and the path of goods, banking and credit card services, among others.

 

Blockchain Uses in Cloud Storage

 

Dropbox, Google Drive, Gmail are great examples of cloud storage. Many companies are using these and other premium cloud storage services to streamline their operations. Data in the cloud is easy to access, edit and share. It also cuts out the need for physical storage and security. 

 

Blockchain applied to cloud storage breaks down user data into small chunks and adds an extra layer of security before distributing it across the network. This is thanks to its features like transaction ledgers, private/public key encryption, and hashing function. Blockchain stores these chunks of data in a decentralized location. So, when hackers try to access the data, they’ll find encrypted data that’s only in parts. They will never be able to access the entire file.

 

Blockchain Technology in Healthcare

 

There are vast applications of blockchain in healthcare. Uses include protecting healthcare data, point-of-care genomics management, managing electronic medical record data, electronics, and personal health record data management.

 

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Protecting personal health information is one of the main ways blockchain tech can be used in the healthcare industry. It can also be used to track disease outbreaks and enable doctors to monitor patients, remotely.

Specific applications of blockchain in healthcare include:

· Research

 

· Collecting data

 

· Interoperable electronic health records

 

· Mobile health apps and remote monitoring

 

· Tracking outbreaks and diseases

 

· Safeguarding genomics

 

· Health insurance claims

 

· Tracing and securing medical supplies

 

· Data security

 

Blockchain Uses in Privacy and Security of Chats and Media

Media companies are now adopting blockchain to secure intellectual property rights of content, minimize costs and eliminate fraud. Blockchain in Media and Entertainment Market report 2021 by MarketWatch reveals that the sector will reach USD 1.54 billion by 2024. Messenger services are also not left behind. With billions of devices and users, there's an inherent danger of hacks, social engineering, and so on. Blockchain technology prevents identity theft, fraud, and data tampering while also protecting critical infrastructure.

 

How to Use Modern Technology for Senior Care

More than 40 million people in the US are 65 years and older. Projections show that this number will increase by almost 18 million, between 2020 and 2030, and hit the 89 million mark by 2050. So, basically, 1 in 5 Americans will be 65 years or over by 2030. With this growth comes an unprecedented time to watch modern technology for senior care emerge.

An aging population comes with a rising need for long term care, healthcare, and social services. Older adults have different healthcare needs than youths and children as they may have vast health issues like hypertension, depression, arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease. Estimates reveal that 90% of the elderly have one or more chronic conditions and require specific medical care and treatments. This tends to separate them from the rest of the population.

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As more elders face isolation in the age of COVID-19, modern technology is innovating various aspects of medical care for seniors.

The need for this distinction has never been more evident than in the phase of Coronavirus. In fact, on March 17, 2020, Medicare announced that it would immediately expand coverage for telemedicine nationwide to assist seniors with health issues, stay at home and avoid COVID-19. This was in a bid to limit exposure to the virus, considering how vulnerable the older population is to the virus. Thanks to telemedicine, those suffering from diabetes and other conditions won't have to postpone their regular checks with the doctors. They can consult through calls or communication apps like Skype or Zoom.

Under the announcement, Medicare said that hospitals and a range of clinicians would provide telehealth services. Nursing home residents will also have access to doctors through telehealth. The caregivers were allowed to use their day-to-day technologies – including laptops, smartphones, and tablets – to support seniors and provide these services, but at a lower cost than traditional services.

Telemedicine is not the only scenario where modern technology applies to senior care. As it turns out, senior care is an upcoming market that is abundant with new tech opportunities

Families, friends, and caregiving communities are embracing digital innovation for senior care. The seniors themselves are also using technology in their daily endeavors. Reports show that 94% of those aged 50 and above use technology to communicate. Additionally, 80% of those aged 50-64 own and use smartphones.

With that in mind, here are some insights on how to use modern technology in senior care.

Webcams

Many states now mandate that senior living communities allow seniors and their families to install webcams or video monitoring equipment. Relatives can now install cameras to try to spare their loved ones from the harms of abuse, which is somewhat common in nursing homes. A webcam – or nanny cam as they're often referred to – also allows families to monitor the resident miles away and remain on alert in case of any problems occurring. Surveillance ensures timely help should the elderly fall, get agitated, lost, or lose their memory, etc.

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As new technologies emerge, senior care has made giant leaps in quality and ability to serve our growing elderly populations.

It's highly unlikely that an assisted living or a nursing home will have a 24/7 presence in a resident's room. Nurses simply won't be able to be there at all times. This leaves families wondering whether their loved one is safe. Webcams offer families peace of mind and can also exonerate caregivers who are wrongfully accused of theft or abuse.

And although privacy concerns often arise regarding webcams, HIPAA doesn't preclude their use in assisted facilities, provided the patient, his or her family, and the clinicians offer consent. After all, the resident's security and safety are the most crucial consideration. Other than nursing homes, webcams are also effective for hospice care, respite care and home care services, among other senior care options.

Thermostats

For senior adults, maintaining optimum room temperatures is critical for comfort and good health. During hot months, the elderly can be at a higher risk for heat stroke, among other complications. Cold weather is just as bad. 45 minutes of a cold indoor environment can reduce muscle strength of the elderly, according to an Age and Aging report. This makes them more prone to falls and injuries.

Besides, radiant heating can cause irregular hot and cold spots throughout the room. It can also introduce air pollutants and allergens in the space. This can be a problem for seniors, especially those with asthma or respiratory sensitivity.

Programmable thermostats are easy to control and allow for standard heating and cooling. They are ideal for the senior population. It is even better when the thermostats are specifically designed for the elderly, as they will have automation options and include large texts for those with less than perfect eyesight. Some of these thermostats use modern technology for senior care, including voice-controlled interfaces, while others even use artificial intelligence to learn the user's schedule and adjust the temperatures accordingly. The latter can be a great option if the senior has any mobility restrictions.

Internet of medical things (IoMT)

The Internet of Things (IoMT) is a network of medical apps and devices connected to health care data technology systems using a network of connected devices and databases. It cuts down unnecessary hospital visits and health care system burdens by connecting seniors to their doctors and enabling the transfer of medical information over a safe network.

The IoMT includes smart devices like vital monitors and wearables strictly for healthcare use on the body in hospital settings, community, or even with in-home senior care. The in-home segment features remote patient monitoring (RPM), personal emergency response systems (PERS), and telehealth virtual visits.

PERS includes wearable units as well as medical call center services to enhance self-reliance for limited-mobility seniors. It allows the elderly to communicate in a timely fashion and get emergency medical care. RPM, on the other hand, includes sensors and devices used for chronic disease management. It involves long-term care in the senior's home to slow the disease's progression and manage medication.

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Contrary to various stereotypes, many seniors have adapted and genuinely enjoy the use of modern technology.

Mobile applications

Many seniors are using smartphones to keep in touch with their loved ones and connect with the world. Since they are already familiar with their mobile phones, apps can be a great way to render personal care. There are all kinds of senior safety apps in the market – the goal should be to find one that's ideal for the situation. The best senior safety apps do most or all of the following:

Emergency response services (ERS)

Lack of sight, hearing, and mobility make it hard for seniors to navigate alone. Emergency response services like LifeAlert have GPS systems that allow caregivers to locate seniors – and can be a lifesaver when the senior strays or encounters problems. Advancements in the ERS world have also seen the development of unique gadgets, safety belts, and other tools to ensure that the seniors are safe.

These are only a few examples of modern technology for senior care. There are dozens of technologies designed for different reasons. But since seniors do not have the same set of conditions, its best to shop around to identify the right technology for their needs.

Is Blockchain Just for Cryptocurrencies?

Blockchain technology is an online database that offers information to organizations and enables them to record their transactions easily. The database is encrypted, so all communications are done between the organization and the peer-to-peer network only when it’s veritable.

The technology offers an excellent way to transfer data from point X to Y without worrying about false data being stored in the database because that would falsify the whole chain of millions of instances. Blockchain provides accountability since the transactions recorded pass through multiple-party verification and no transaction in the database can be changed by the parties later on.

What is blockchain technology?

As the name implies, blockchain is essentially blocks of encrypted data stored in a database (or ledger). Many would like to think of it as a robust spreadsheet. A single block of data links to a previous block, thus forming a chain. What makes blockchain unique is the fact that it’s a network of interconnected computers that don’t depend on a centralized entity to execute interactions.

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A central authority manages most databases that keep financial information. But with the blockchain database, the ledger is amended and updated communally by all the computers that are connected in the network. Since the records are held communally, no financial institution or computer is in charge. So, if a single computer in the system gets knocked offline or is hacked, the others can still function without it.

Advantages and disadvantages of blockchain

Pros

Cons

Blockchain and cryptocurrencies

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In the context of cryptocurrencies, blockchain features a stable chain of blocks, each with a list of previously approved transactions. The blockchain network works as a decentralized ledger because its run by a network of computers spread worldwide. So, each participant (node) holds a copy of the blockchain data and communicates with the others to make sure they are all on the same page.

Blockchain transaction happens within a peer-to-peer network and is what makes Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies decentralized digital currencies that are borderless and censorship-resistant. The whole point of using this technology is to allow people – especially those who don’t trust each other – to share critical data in a secure and tamper-proof manner. This is because blockchain technology holds data using innovative software and sophisticated math functions that are extremely difficult for hackers to manipulate.

Is blockchain just for cryptocurrencies? 

One of the first real-world uses of blockchain technology was in Bitcoin, a virtual currency that was announced in 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto (pseudonym). But these types of projects are not tied to the Bitcoin network alone. In fact, most blockchains have nothing to do with Bitcoin. Once Bitcoin blockchain had been around for a while – successfully recording all Bitcoin transactions and surviving vast attacks – many entrepreneurs and programmers wondered if the Bitcoin data security design might be applied to create other types of secure databases, unrelated to Bitcoin.

Today, startups, SMEs, and large scale companies across different types of fields are increasingly integrating blockchain into their daily operations. It is now widely used in banking and finance to facilitate payments, improve capital markets, trade finance, deter money laundering, and in insurance. It also has applications in business, especially in areas like healthcare, supply chain management, real estate, media, and energy. The government, too, can use the technology for record management, identity management, taxes, voting, regulatory/compliance oversight and a virtually infinite amount of other types of real-world applications.

Blockchain’s best features for corporations

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The growing applications and use cases of blockchain technology

Healthcare industry

One of the main challenges that healthcare professionals face is to share information across platforms securely. A seamless flow of data between providers could increase the chances of accurate diagnoses and effective treatment. It’ll also lower the cost of healthcare. Blockchain technology allows healthcare institutions and other related parties to share network access without affecting the integrity or security of data.

Critical infrastructure security

The internet infrastructure has proven vulnerable to attacks, particularly when it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Since critical infrastructures like transportation and power plants have connected sensors, there’s a heightened risk to the civil society. Luckily, some companies are using the tamper-proof database to share critical information across their networks. Others are using blockchain to offer massive scale data authentication. A good example is using blockchain powered Keyless Signature Infrastructure (KSI) to tag and verify data transactions.

Supply chain management 

The supply chain involves a series of transaction nodes that connect to move goods from one point to another. The technology allows businesses to document transactions in a decentralized record, thus limiting delays, human errors, and added costs. Different companies are coming up with blockchain-based products that enable enterprises to engage clients at the point-of-sale with data collected collaboratively from suppliers along the supply chain.

Blockchain and Internet of Things (IoT)

Blockchain technology decentralizes cloud services, therefore increasing security, connectivity, and computational power. This solves the inefficiency problems – especially those surrounding data storage and computational resources – that are associated with launching IoT products.

Blockchain and cloud storage

Companies that provide cloud storage usually keep clients’ data in one secure server, which makes it vulnerable to attacks. Blockchain cloud storage services decentralize data storage, making it less prone to hacks that can lead to systemic damage and colossal data loss. Companies are now providing blockchain-enabled cloud storage to enhance security and also reduce the cost of storing data in the cloud.

Blockchain ensures the security of data. The information stored in blockchain is fully decentralized since it’s kept in multiple nodes across the globe rather than in a single place. This addresses the concern of data protection in case there’s an error or breach. Records that are uploaded in blockchain aren’t accessible to or controlled by an individual. But each party holding the data has a private key that they can use to access the encrypted files. So, even if a hacker gets to access a folder, he/she will only see a partial file –which won’t be useful. That’s why industries, other than cryptocurrencies, are taking advantage of blockchain to enhance their operations.

How are Cloud Computing & IoT Related?

Cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) are two very closely-related internet technologies that complement each other. The convergence of these two distinct technologies has derived numerous benefits, including better infrastructure, enhanced performance, and increased scalability.

Cloud computing and IoT have a complementary relationship and work best as inseparable cohorts. Cloud-based IoT allows for smart usage of information, applications, and infrastructure cost-effectively. But to understand the relationship between IoT and cloud computing, we’ll need to look at each technology separately.

What’s IoT

IoT is an ecosystem of connected devices that are accessible through the internet. With an estimated 50 billion devices connected to the internet by 2020 – and more than 75 billion projected to be in use by 2025 globally – IoT is a top consideration for forward-thinking enterprises.

IoT features different components, including:

The devices are fitted with actuators and sensors that gather data from the environment and transfer it to the gateway for pre-processing. The gateway serves a security level for the network and transmitted data. Once the data is collected, it is sent to the cloud, which is often a set of serves linked to the internet 24/7. The information then undergoes processing and becomes available through different user interfaces.

IoT bases its model in smart devices which intercommunicate in a dynamic infrastructure and global network. It facilitates ubiquitous computing scenarios. The Internet of Things is characterized by widespread devices with limited storage and processing abilities. These devices are prone to issues regarding privacy, reliability, performance and security.

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What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing is an on-demand delivery of computing power, applications, database storage, and IT resources. It allows companies to use computing resources, like a virtual machine, rather than deploying a computing infrastructure in-house.

Cloud computing is characterized by aspects like:

Cloud computing comprises an extensive network with unlimited computational power and storage abilities. It offers a flexible and robust environment that facilitates data integration from different data sources. Cloud computing has the potential to resolve almost all IoT issues.  

Cloud computing has four types of deployment models: Public Cloud, Private Cloud, Hybrid Cloud, and Community Cloud. Since businesses have varied needs, they may have to choose a cloud computing service that fits their preferences. Examples of these services include Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

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A closer look at the relationship between cloud computing and IoT

The Internet of Things (devices, machines, and sensors) produces extensive quantities of data per second. And as we discussed, cloud computing helps in the analysis and management of this data so that companies can reap the most benefit out of their IoT infrastructure. The goal of IoT is to connect and enable communication between people, processes, and things. Cloud computing facilitates this collaboration to create greater visibility.

The fundamental idea behind cloud computing and IoT is to optimize the daily tasks, without affecting the quality of data stored or exchanged. Since the relationship is symbiotic, the two complement each other successfully. The IoT becomes the source of information, while the cloud becomes the destination for the data to be stored.

Cloud computing, with its vast models and implementation platforms, allow enterprises to analyze and manage data, improving overall efficiency and working of the IoT system. It also allows data storage and transfer through the internet or with a direct link that facilitates uninterrupted data transfer between applications, devices, and cloud.

This explains why almost most companies (96%) use cloud computing in one way or another. And with the rise of cloud platforms like Google Cloud Platform, IBM Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Web Services, we can only expect to see a surge in the uptake of IoT solutions. Experts believe that we’ll see lots of growth in cloud services for devices in the coming years, much of it from Google, AWS, and Microsoft, along with purpose-built clouds that device makers may share or use exclusively.

A successful partnership between IoT and cloud computing

IoT is powered by the cloud, meaning that the collection of sensor-enabled devices depends on the strength of specific cloud computing techniques to thrive. This need makes IoT a critical element in the adoption and growth of cloud infrastructure, and vice versa. Companies need to employ a cloud strategy that enables them to support IoT development if they want to leverage the new applications that will be created and delivered through cloud-based platforms.

How cloud computing augments the growth IoT 

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Increases efficiencies

One of the main ways cloud computing complements IoT initiatives is by increasing efficiencies in daily tasks. IoT generates large amounts of data, and the cloud offers a pathway for this data to travel.

Data storage

Data storage in the cloud allows IoT enterprises to adapt quickly and distribute resources in different areas. And with the emergence of big data, the cloud is now an appealing option for many companies.

Providing infrastructure

Integration of IoT and cloud enables public cloud services to grant third-parties the power to access infrastructure. This, in turn, helps IoT data or computational modules running over different devices.

Augmented performance

Big data generated by extensive IoT devices need robust performance to interact and connect with other devices quickly. The integration of IoT and cloud can offer connectivity that’s vital to share data between devices and obtain quick meaning from it.

Enhanced scalability

IoT devices need plenty of storage to share data for critical reasons. Cloud services like IBM Watson, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, etc. are some of the IoT-based cloud systems that provide consumers with greater storage that can be increased or decreased accordingly.

Remote computing power

Thanks to this technology, enterprises can expand their infrastructure and network without deploying extensive hardware. And with faster networking technologies like the 5G, teams can now accelerate the creation of real-time applications and access remote cloud computing services with a few clicks.

Pay-as-you-go

Pay as you go (PAYG) is a cloud computing payment method that enables consumers to pay for the data they store. The PAYG model allows businesses to expand their usage according to need. They also won’t have to spend money to buy provision servers or other infrastructure, thus saving on cost.

Conclusion

IoT devices generate a massive amount of data, putting a strain on internet infrastructure. Cloud computing comes in to help store, process, and transfer data in the cloud rather than connected devices. IoT and cloud computing technologies are closely associated, and when combined, can deliver powerful innovation that will continue to change the way we interact with our devices, with each other as well as how we store, manage and consume information.

Technologies That Will Revolutionize Healthcare

Technology is transforming medicine everywhere, from the patient’s home to the operating room. Patients are now able to access quality and timely care without having to leave their homes. Doctors, too, can diagnose, treat, and monitor patients in a way that was never thought possible thanks to technologies that will revolutionize healthcare. 

According to one survey, doctors are increasingly using Artificial Intelligence (AI) for clinical decision support, population health, and disease management. The study further revealed that in 5 years, the value of VR in healthcare and medicine would grow over 30X, from $8.8 million in 2017 to $285 million in 2022. 

With that in mind, let’s now look at some of the technologies that will revolutionize healthcare in the coming days.

Artificial Intelligence

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Artificial intelligence is already being used by doctors and hospitals around the world for disease diagnosis, detection and prevention.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is getting increasingly sophisticated at replicating what humans do, only faster, cheaper, and more efficiently. The applications for AI in healthcare are vast. One of the biggest potential benefits of AI in healthcare is to help individuals stay healthy, so they don't need a medical caregiver, or at least not as often. AI, along with the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), encourages healthier behaviors in people and help with proactive management of a healthy lifestyle.

AI is widely used for the early detection of diseases like cancer. AI-powered systems evaluate thousands of pathology images from different cancers for an accurate diagnosis. They then suggest the most suitable anti-cancer drug combination. In imaging diagnostics, AI allows radiologists to identify details (like cancer cells) that wouldn't be visible to the human eye.

Beyond diagnosis, AI allows doctors to better coordinate treatment plans, take a more holistic approach for disease management and assist patients to better manage and adhere to their long-term treatment plans. It improves the ability of medical professionals to better understand the daily patterns and needs of their patients to provide better guidance, feedback and support.

The best opportunities for AI in the coming years are hybrid models, where doctors are supported in diagnosis, risk factor identification and treatment planning, but retain the primary responsibility for patient care. This will lead to speedy adoption by medical professionals.

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality 

Augmented reality (AR) involves the use of displays, cameras, and sensors to transmit digital data to the real world. It starts with a real-life view of something and then projects 3D images onto the screen. Virtual reality (VR), on the other hand, creates an immersive simulated environment through expensive technology like headsets and motion sensors.

VR has changed the way students get medical training. It allows the creation of realistic simulation systems and safe environments where surgeons can acquire more experience without risking the life of a patient. Besides, the ability to stream operations in real-time allows students to learn, irrespective of their physical location.

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Virtual reality and augmented reality are going to revolutionize the way we train and educate a future generation of doctors and medical scientists.

In addition to learning, augmented reality plays a critical part in the efficient detection, prevention, and treatment of different diseases. With AR, a physician can look through layers of a patient's body – assess their organs, veins, and lesions without penetration. Both AR and VR can offer models for planning surgery and playing out different scenarios to maximize sequence and prepare alternative actions for any situation. Just recently, scientists at Cambridge built a VR 3D model of cancer, offering a new way to look at the disease. This system allows multiple users to examine the tumor, no matter where they are in the world.

The remarkable progress in AR/VR in the last few years is the result of decades of research and development in software, computing, graphics processing, AI, and the internet. In 2020, these technologies are widely embraced for their ability to manage pain and PTSD, motivate a healthy lifestyle, enhance medical training, improve surgery processes, and improve post-surgery recovery.

3D Printing

Different areas within the healthcare industry are benefiting from 3D printing, including dental and orthopedics. This technology is providing new and exciting ways to deliver personalized treatment and create better-performing medical devices.

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3D printing is a valuable tool to help hospitals and doctors prepare for surgery and other medical procedures with accuracy and precision.

Today, 3D printing is widely used to create personalized surgical tools and true-to-form organs, using a patient's medical imaging. Plus, with the affordability of desktop 3D printers and the accessibility of medical CAD/CAM software, more hospitals are implementing 3D printing labs. It's in these labs that doctors create accurate 3D-printed models to help in pre-surgical planning. The anatomical models assist surgeons to assess the treatment decisions better and plan operations more accurately.

3D printing is also influencing how surgical tools are created. Instruments like scalpel handles, hemostats, forceps, and clamps can be made using 3D printers. Customized tools facilitate speedy and less traumatic procedures, improve the surgeon's agility, and drive better surgery outcomes. It also creates dental products faster and cheaply and allows specialized care through customized implants and instruments

Today, 3D printing is facilitating surgical teams both outside (anatomical models) and inside (surgical tools) the theaters. Projections show that medical 3D printing will become the backbone of the industry. In 2020, top labs and hospitals are adopting the technology as part of their practices and research efforts, a validation of its value for medical applications.

Robotics 

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Robotics have been used by hospitals for decades. With emerging technological advances in AI and IoT, robotics faces a bright future in the medical field.

Healthcare robotics technologies are changing the healthcare landscape for the better. They are not only relieving healthcare providers from repetitive tasks, but they are also making medical procedures safer and affordable for patients. Robots currently work alongside surgeons during surgery, but they could also operate by themselves. The sales of surgical robots are expected to double this year to $6.4 billion.

Robotic medical assistants track patients' vital signs and statistics and notify caregivers when they need to step in. This allows nurses to care for multiple patients at one go. The assistants also automatically key data into the patient electronic medical record. Other uses of robotic technologies include disinfecting patient rooms, collecting, transporting, analyzing and storing samples, preparing and dispensing medication in labs and so on. Robots are also used in rehabs, in labs and hospitals for repetitive tasks, in physical therapy and a multitude of other areas of health care.

Although robotic technology is expensive, its use is revolutionizing healthcare in many ways and will continue to do so. Da Vinci Surgical system is the most common surgical robot today – though it was launched about 15 years ago.

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Many advances in technology are revolutionizing the healthcare industry, with new applications virtually every day. With technologies of the future, anything is possible.

Internet of Things (wearable devices)

Our list of healthcare technologies wouldn't be complete without us mentioning the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT is a network of physical devices that use the internet to allow the exchange of data. This technology has opened up a whole new world of possibilities within the medical industry. When connected online, ordinary devices can gather critical data, provide additional insight into trends and symptoms, allow virtual care and give patients more control over their medical treatment and care. This tech is also a great idea for nursing homes and senior living communities.

Real-time monitoring through connected devices can save lives in case of a medical emergency like an asthma attack, diabetes, heart failure, etc. Real-time tracking means a smart medical device being linked to a smartphone app. Connected devices gather invaluable data and use the internet to send the information to a doctor. These devices collect and send health data like blood sugar levels, blood pressure, weight, oxygen levels, and ECGs.

IoT allows medical professionals to gather an enormous amount of data about a patient's condition, which would otherwise take many years to collect manually. This data can be used for different studies that would support research and also improve service deliverability and data privacy.

What is the Future of IoT Supply Chains?

A lot has been written about the Internet of Things (IoT) and its impacts on almost all major industries, including transportation, retail, healthcare, finance, and accounting. But one of the most exciting areas of influence is the global supply chain. The Internet of Things shows its fullest potential in processes like supply chains.

Supply chain analysis requires an understanding that the production of any product is inherently dependent on a series of connections and links. When one, or more of the links are weak – whether due to outdated machinery, transport delays, or human errors – businesses end up with poorly functioning supply chains that are costly, with little returns.

The Internet of Things, through its network sensors, offers the much-needed connection in the supply chain – the link between the physical world and that of data. IoT allows companies to transmit critical data across different channels and break them down using powerful analytics engines to optimize any given supply chain component, that helps drive better decisions.

IoT Solutions in Supply Chain Management

Organization and efficiency are two main factors that tend to determine failure or success. If an enterprise can’t locate goods within its system quickly, create delivery schedules efficiently, monitor inventory effectively, or maintain equipment properly, it’s likely to suffer. But the good thing is that organization and efficiency are two areas where IoT excels.

IoT is a collection of interconnected devices that can track, report on, send, and exchange data. These devices (smart devices, chips, mobile sensors, and RFIDs) are linked to computer systems through Wi-Fi or data networks and use sensors to measure different environmental factors, including temperature, location, light levels, handling, movement, humidity, and speed movement. They also automate processes, minimizing human errors.

IoT systems allow businesses to:

IoT-enabled devices are increasingly being implemented to improve the visibility of logistic operations. For example, sensors can be installed in fleets for to offer real-time monitoring updates of transportation and delivery. They also are ideal for asset tracking and fleet management. With this technology in retail outlets and warehouses, there will be more visibility in production, inventory management, and predictive maintenance.

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When connected to the global supply chain, IoT technology can help companies to track and monitor systems in real-time, allowing them to identify and solve problems before they escalate. Such real-time data can also be helpful for businesses to proactively service client demands, reduce downtime, and increase the supply chain’s overall efficiency. And thanks to improved efficiency and visibility across the supply chain, IoT technology enables companies to optimize their assets and ROI.

The Future of IoT Supply Chains

The concept of taking all of the “things” worldwide and linking them to the internet and each other (by extension) is a technological field that’s bursting with promise. The dawning of the age of the IoT is already influencing how supply chain management is happening. Things like organization, efficiency, and relevance are enhancing operations and service quality, with almost unlimited future potential. Here’s what’s in the future of IoT supply chains:

More Companies Will Join In

From the look of things, IoT is coming of age. Studies reveal that the number of enterprises using IoT applications rose from 13% to 25% from 2014 to 2019. The IDC predicts 13.6% yearly growth through 2022. In another survey, 75% of large manufacturers wanted to update their operations using IoT and analytics-based situational awareness by the end of 2019.

There Will Be More IoT Devices

Gartner predicted that there would be a 30-fold increase in internet-connected physical devices by the end of 2020. The same report indicated that IoT would reach 26 billion installed units by the same year and influence the data available to supply chain leaders and how the supply chain works, based on the industry.   

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Will Continue to Grow

AI promises a smart new world of computers that can strategize, plan, calculate probabilities, evaluate options, and make the best decisions. Of course, IoT is the body that gives Artificial intelligence’s brain the ability to act. It also offers the information that AI requires to make smart choices. AI will serve a critical role in monitoring, analyzing IoT data, and sieving it into actionable themes. Machine learning, a type of AI that helps IoT devices to learn without someone having to program them, will then allow systems to adjust according to the company’s preferences.

IoT Will Address Vast Concerns

From what we see today, there are numerous reasons why more and more businesses are incorporating IoT into their operations. From the COVID-19 pandemic and political unrest to environmental concerns like weather conditions, fuel costs, etc. All these affect the way the shipping of goods is done globally. Not to mention today’s consumer, who is very specific about how, where, and when they get products. From consumer electronics, to their healthcare, people will turn to IoT and other technologies to navigate different situations.

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IoT supply chain management will completely revolutionize the way industries get their products and services into the marketplace.

5G Networks Will Continue to Drive IoT Growth

5G network was rolled out in 2019, but the coming years will see many companies switch to this incredibly fast network. 5G promises more ability to connect more smart devices at one go. Greater speeds mean the information gathered by the IoT will be analyzed and managed to a higher degree. It will also drive innovation in companies that create IoT devices (like sensors, identity chips, and computing devices) and boost efficiency and organization. Thanks to 5G, billions more IoT devices can be plugged into the global network, according to Ericsson.

There Will be Supply Chain Digitization 

Efforts to connect all systems as well as implement new digital technologies will still be a priority in the future. Digitization in the supply chain creates transparency, eliminates silos, and enhances responsiveness. PwC foresees a digital environment that removes manual processes and offers a single view of the company and all its supply chain operations.

There Will be Plenty of Big Data 

The growth in IoT, along with the digitization of the supply chain, will yield plenty of big data. IoT will prove valuable for supply chain and logistic managers who want to understand consumer behavior and usage patterns, enhance their inventory management and streamline eCommerce.

IoT Will Become Virtually Invisible

IoT solution will become invisible in the future. The real value of IoT lies in the automation and insights that are enabled when one has access to real-time data on all critical aspects of the business. Manual observation will become uncommon because all alerts will be sent to devices. The future of IoT is billions of cheap, small, low-powered devices that offer instant insights into every system, process, and asset that’s critical to supply chain companies. It is ubiquitous, invisible, and primarily driven by notifications.

IoT Uses for the Healthcare Industry

The healthcare industry has always been at the forefront of emerging trends. Today's healthcare solutions have been elevated to levels that were deemed impossible just a few years ago. A report by WHO revealed that the global life expectancy rose by 5.5 years between 2000 and 2016. And if you remember correctly, Electronic Medical Records (EMR) made a significant impact a decade ago, but today, telemedicine, robots, wearables, and most importantly, the Internet of Things (IoT), are setting some very positive trends.

With the 2020 outbreak of Coronavirus that has closed down borders, forced businesses and schools to close and left many under quarantine or social isolation to flatten the curve, the medical industry is just beginning to fully realize the benefits of IoT. IoT devices can alleviate some big strains on healthcare practitioners by making virtual appointments possible and ensuring high-risk patients don’t leave their homes to get their routine care.

It isn't easy to find an industry with more potential for the Internet of Things than healthcare. IoT technologies that utilize data from sensors provide lots of benefits on all levels, starting from disease prevention and early diagnosis to health monitoring and in-patient treatment.

Internet-connected devices can give healthcare providers patient medical data in real-time. This technology can literally save lives and help doctors provide their patients with best-in-class care.

A recent study published on the MarketWatch projects that the world market for IoT in healthcare will grow from $82.3 billion to $242.1 billion for 2020 and 2025. According to the report, the main factors fueling investment into IoT are; growing cloud-based infrastructure, advanced and precise results, and availability of more affordable smart devices.

The healthcare sector quickly integrated a range of IoT solutions by creating the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT). Devices like pacemakers and heart monitors gather and send patient information through different networks to medical caregivers for analysis, monitoring, and remote configuring.

Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)

IoMT describes all medical devices and applications "or things" that connect to healthcare computer systems through the internet. It is built upon several technologies, including IoT connectivity, sensors, and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Wi-Fi enabled medical devices allow machine-to-machine communication that's the basis of IoMT. These devices then connect to cloud platforms, where the collected data can be analyzed and stored.

The capabilities of IoMT result in fewer mistakes, more accurate diagnoses, all at a lower cost of care. Besides, when paired with smartphone apps, the technology can collect data from patients and process it automatically, identifying precursors of disease that can be treated, and thus preventing it from even progressing into early stages.

IoMT is not only enhancing patient experience but is also helping to cut down costs. Goldman Sachs estimates that this technology will save the healthcare sector $300 billion in yearly expenditures, mainly through improved medication adherence and remote patient monitoring.

Technology should make our lives easier. IoT use in the healthcare field will not only save precious time and money, it can also help save lives.

IoT uses for the healthcare industry

Enhances efficiency

Long duration between visits, inadequate data collection, long waiting times, and many other challenges can prevent even the best hospitals and doctors from offering the highest quality care possible. One of the most widely-applied applications of this technology is the IoT-powered sensors on healthcare devices and hospital wristbands. These sensors gather patient data and convey it through cloud-based applications that communicate it to the doctor, in real-time. Since it minimizes the need to gather and send data manually, it reduces the waiting times for patients and allows caregivers to focus on other critical aspects.

Healthcare facilities can also use IoT-powered medical equipment and devices to track patients' glucose levels, blood pressure, heart rates, and other health data. When this data is tracked and reported in real-time, it helps prevent severe medical conditions entirely or find them at the early stages.

Minimize medical errors

IoT use in the healthcare industry allows for more effective patient monitoring and helps minimize the risk for human error. As it turns out, avoidable human errors result in thousands of deaths annually. 

Traditionally, patient progress was noted on paper and depended on the judgment of a doctor to direct concerns to appropriate staff. But now, doctors can record and save patient data in the cloud. Unlike humans, machines don't make typing errors when recording data. 

So, healthcare workers can use IoT-powered devices like wristbands to verify the identity of the patient. He or she can check for allergies along with other critical information like lab findings, observations, and electronic medication charts to avoid any mix-ups. Artificial intelligence can be used along with IoMT technology to further assist in diagnosis and treatment.

Patient empowerment 

IoT, along with the immense amount of data online, gives patients more control, not just for the data collected from their body, but of the knowledge required to clarify their findings. 

When patients have diagnostic information at their disposal, they can adhere to medical plans personalized to reflect changes in their condition and it allows for some self-management. Those with heart issues, for instance, weigh themselves routinely to monitor fluid retention trends to guide treatment. But now, they can use smart scales, which relay data to a medication chart in their phones, and can adjust the recommended dosage of drugs as per the parameters pre-set by the doctor.

Reduced costs

Applications like smart building controls, surveillance systems, financial and health information analytics can help healthcare facilities to reduce costs by up to 25-30% and help them to get better ROI from their data assets. IoT solves basic operational and infrastructure problems from controlling thermostats to lower energy costs, to improving surveillance on patients, staff and properties with cameras and sensors, and so on.

Additionally, IoT offers healthcare facilities with instant access to their assets through intelligent gateways and sensors. Analytics used in the big data obtained from these assets will address challenges and help facilities to deliver value-added solutions to their patients and clients.

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Healthcare in rural areas

One of the main challenges that people in rural areas face when it comes to getting quality health is access. IoT solves this problem by making communication between patient and doctor easier, when they can’t meet physically.

With IoT devices, doctors can monitor patient data and also address a vast array of health concerns. Although this isn't a replacement for in-person visits, it can suffice, especially in cases where the patient doesn't have time or resources to travel for hours to access a healthcare provider.

Supply chain management 

By saturating the entire supply chain – from outsourcing of raw materials to production to final delivery to the end-user – with data points connecting these devices to robust analytics engines, the Internet of Things uncovers processes that were previously hidden. This makes it easier to identify inefficiency, hitches and redundancies in the supply chain.

IoT use in the healthcare industry enables leaders to make data-driven decisions when making corrections. The sensors also ensure that facilities only receive the correct inventory they ordered from the manufacturer and that they are not counterfeit.

Remote equipment diagnostics

Medical equipment OEMs have been leveraging remote diagnostic technology to track and manage the health of costly medical equipment, including MRI, X-ray, Ct-Scan, radiation therapy and ultrasound equipment. These tools are expensive to maintain, and proactive monitoring and remote diagnostics can significantly enhance downtime costs.

What Exactly is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

The world is all the rage about the Internet of Things (IoT) and its impact on almost every aspect of existence. But what is IoT, exactly? Why is it so important? And how are key industries applying IoT?

What is IoT?

IoT refers to the network of physical devices – things – that are embedded with software, sensors, and other technologies to collect and share data with other systems and devices over the internet. These “things” could be as a simple health-tracking wearable or as complex as self-driving cars whose sensors detect objects in their path.  

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The Internet of Things has the potential to revolutionize the way we communicate, work and live our lives. IoT technologies are already being implemented in daily life through industries across the globe.

Although it is still somewhat of a work in progress, IoT is set to change the way people do things, with experts suggesting that it will have the biggest technological impact since cloud computing. There are billions of IoT devices today. In fact, the number of IoT products has surpassed the human population on the planet.

Research by Statista revealed that the number of IoT connected devices is expected to reach 31 billion by the end of 2020, and grow to 75 billion globally by 2025. At this rate, IoT is set to impact all areas of life in the years to come, leading to a smart world that initially was only imaginable in science fiction.

How IoT works:

From sensors to user-interface, IoT devices collect, send, and act on data by communicating with each other in ways that allow users to obtain real-time insights. A complete IoT system features four components: sensors, connectivity, data processing, and user interface. Let’s look at these components and their roles in an IoT system.

Sensors: IoT sensors gather data – like location, images, motion, air quality, light, temperature – from their surroundings. A sensor could be used alone, or as part of multiple sensors in a device (think about GPS, a camera, or a cellular phone accelerometer). Either way, the idea is for data to be recorded from the environment by some type of device.

Connectivity: IoT devices share the sensor data by linking to an IoT gateway or other edge computing device where information is either analyzed locally or sent to the cloud. But cloud computing is an appealing option for many companies, considering the amount of data IoT applications generate.

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IoT technology connects devices across the globe, with real-time data, analysis and reporting.

Data process: Once the data reaches the cloud, the software does some form of processing on it. This could be as simple as confirming that the temperature reading is within the specified range or as complex as identifying objects using computer vision in videos and so on. In case something is not right, the user gets a notification.

User interface: Lastly, the system sends a notification to the user through text, email, etc. For instance, the user gets an email notification when the temperature is too high in the cold storage. On the other hand, the user can have an interface that enables them to monitor the system proactively. Like if they want to look at the video feeds in their house through a web browser or phone. And depending on the IoT application, one can even signal the system to do something – like raise the temperature when it falls below the optimum degree.

The Internet of Things also uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to make the data collection process easier and more dynamic.

Why is IoT so important?

When something is connected to the internet, it means that it can send and receive data. The ability to send and receive data makes things smart – and smart is good.

IoT offers individuals and companies the opportunity to be more efficient in the way they do things. All while saving time, money, and emissions in the process. It will allow governments, public authorities, and organizations to rethink how they produce goods and deliver services. The scope and quality of data across the IoT provides an opportunity for much more responsive and contextualized interactions with devices, which creates the room for change.

This is perhaps why most modern enterprises are already using IoT to simplify and automate most of their daily tasks. The world IoT market will increase from $157 in 2016 to $457 billion in 2020, achieving an AGR of 28.5%, according to Forbes. In industrial settings, IoT technology is applied not just for automation reasons but also to boost productivity, enhance business processes, generate an additional revenue stream, expand to new markets, improve customer experience, and lower operational costs. Industrial IoT is all about getting real-time data that allows leaders to make better and timely decisions.

In a nutshell, IoT allows business leaders and managers to:

How are key industries applying IoT?

IoT in healthcare

When applied in the healthcare industry, IoT could improve the efficiency and quality of treatment as well as the health of patients. IoT in hospitals allows interoperability, machine-machine communication, and data exchange, which makes service delivery effective. Again, real-time monitoring through connected devices can save lives in the event of an emergency. This can be further developed with AI (artificial intelligence) technology that can help process data instantly, assisting doctors with the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

Other uses of IoT in the healthcare field include remote medical assistance, research, tracking & alerts, and data assortment & analytics. Forbes estimates 646 million IoT devices will be used in medical offices, clinics, and hospitals by 2020. As such, healthcare facilities will prioritize finding appropriate storage and implementing IoT security measures.

IoT in senior care

Senior care, such as assisted living facilities and nursing homes can greatly benefit from the application of IoT technology in their operations. Real-time monitoring will help you offer your residents the best-in-class care. IoT technologies, like Senior Sense can also help reduce your legal liability through real-time monitoring, data detection, staff quality control and management.

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IoT devices can make healthcare management systems more streamlined. With encryption, data privacy is no longer a worry.

IoT in transport

IoT has the potential to change the transport sector by profoundly influencing how systems collect data by bringing together all major technical and business trends of automation, mobility, and data analytics. The information collected from sensors, actuators, and other devices can then be assessed by relevant bodies to: improve the traveler experience, increase safety, improve operational performance, and reduce congestion and energy use.

IoT in supply chain management 

 IoT allows logistics managers to connect their devices, equipment, and vehicles to get real-time status updates on tasks. This provides a full picture throughout the supply chain, from the warehouse to stakeholders and clients. Use cases of IoT in supply chain management include location tracking, environment sensing, and fleet management.

IoT in agriculture

IoT improves the entire agriculture system by tracking the field in real-time. Thanks to sensors and interconnectivity, IoT in agriculture saves farmers’ time and also reduces the misuse of precious resources like electricity and water. Internet of Things technology keeps aspects like temperature, humidity, and soil under check, giving farmers a precise real-time observation. Other applications of IoT in agriculture are livestock tracking and geofencing, remote control of self-driving tractors, agricultural drones, smart greenhouses, and predictive analytics for smart farming.

IoT in homes

A Smart Home is perhaps one of the most prominent examples of IoT. IoT lets one control everything, including lighting, temperature, sound, and any other object that connects to the internet, virtually. Projections show that the smart home global market will reach up to $53 billion by 2022. IoT platform not only allows homeowners to monitor and control a full range of functionality on the web or mobile apps, but also optimize spending, improve comfort, and enhance security.