More of the Same for BlackBerry

Carl Weinschenk
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Five Policies to Ensure Secure Medical Mobile Apps

The holiday break beckons, and things finally are slowing down a bit. But slowing down does not mean stopping. Despite people’s desire to wrap things up for 2013, a good bit of noteworthy news and commentary was available this week. Here are some highlights:

Telemedicine Prospers

It is safe to assume, and has been proven, that many sectors are benefiting from modern telecommunications technology. Few, however, have needs that are better suited to the new technology than medicine.

It, therefore, is not surprising that Research and Markets has found that the telemedicine market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.5 percent from 2012 to 2018. The reasons for the rise are clear:

This widespread deployment of services will continue at a rapid pace for the foreseeable future; the increase in telemedicine applications are increasing due to the high prevalence of chronic diseases, consistent need for improved quality services and rising elderly population across countries which demand telemedicine to deliver improved products with higher patient satisfaction.

The Healthcare Informatics story noted that Kalorama Information reported earlier this year that the telemedicine market had grown 237 percent in the period from 2007 to 2012.

The Smartphones/NFC Move Ahead but Not as Tightly as Before

ABI Research said the ties between near-field communications (NFC) and smartphones, which were tight in 2013, will begin to loosen next year. It says that NFC will find homes on a more diverse set of platforms. These will include vehicles, domestic appliances, computing products, digital cameras and speakers, the company said.

This year, 80 percent of NFC shipments were embedded in smartphones. That percentage will recede to less than 60 percent in 2017.

Google Glass Facial Recognition Without Google

One of the problematic things about technology is that the inventor loses total control the moment the product hits the market. PCWorld reports that augmented reality is coming to Google Glass, but not from Google.

Independent developer Stephen Balaban said that between Christmas and New Year’s he will release the FaceRec facial recognition app. It will be limited due to the need to be rooted, the requirement for a separate battery, and its own image database. It also appears to violate Google’s terms of service. The story downplays its significance for the app:

For now, it sounds like the facial recognition being talked about by Balaban doesn’t sound too worrying, even for privacy wonks. Balaban’s challenge, if he accepts it, will be to build out the technology in a way that’s both useful and, hopefully, respectful of the issues.

Despite the limitations, however, the app raises the important question of what will happen once developers really get serious about products that straddle or cross the lines of legality and decency. It seems that there is no way for society or, for that matter, Google, to directly confront the issue.

More Bad News for BlackBerry

Sites are reporting that BlackBerry’s third quarter results were worse than anticipated. Indeed, The Street was apocalyptic. Gary Krakow reported that the loss was “a massive $4.4 billion” that was “much wider” than anticipated:

BlackBerry said it sold only 1.9 million smartphones in the third quarter most of those running on Blackberry's older BB7 operating system. Paltry sales of its newer Z10 and Q10 devices with the BB10 OS accounted for $2.9 billion of its total loss.

A glimmer of good news remains. The company announced a manufacturing arrangement with Foxconn Technology Group, a Chinese firm. The company will manufacture in Indonesia and Mexico and target developing economies. BlackBerry was also able to cite acceptance of the BlackBerry Messaging apps for Apple and Android. The story says that the app has 20 million new users and that 80 million people use the service each month.

Good News You Can Eat

And, finally, comes a tasty story about batteries. The story posted at the MIT Technology Review doesn’t actually deal directly with telecommunications or IT, yet. But it certainly treads the line and most likely soon will be merged with both wearable computing and telemedicine.

Christopher Bettinger and other researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are working to make batteries from edible pigments found in cuttlefish. The idea is fairly straightforward:

Conventional battery materials are not safe inside the body unless they’re encased in bulky protective cases that must eventually be surgically removed. Electronics that can either be swallowed or implanted in the body without causing harm could monitor wound healing and disease progression, release drugs, and enable more sensitive neural and cardiovascular sensors and stimulators.

Technology moves quickly. Today, wearable computing gear enables medical personnel to remotely monitor a patient’s vital signs. The research at CMU shows no reason that the idea can’t be extended to organs itself. Today, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications enables refrigerators, automobiles and other machines to sound an alert when they are operating outside of parameters and is about to stop working. There is no reason that all these technologies can’t be combined to do the same thing for livers, hearts and kidneys, from inside the organ itself.

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