Emerging trends: data, technology and wellness now the focus of healthtech

One of the biggest sectors in the startup ecosystem, healthtech is evolving significantly. Amid a government-backed push, the spotlight is now on innovations, including artificial intelligence (AI) and other technology.

Just off the first half of the year, India’s startup ecosystem has seen a whole lot of action on several levels. According to YourStory Research, the first half saw close to $7 billion raised in funding across 455 deals. By comparison, the first half of 2016 had over 552 deals but funding raised was far lower at $2.3 billion.

What is an interesting trend is that while the number of deals is lesser, deal sizes are larger. And this holds true for the healthcare sector as well. YourStory Research shows that there were 99 deals amounting to $161 million in 2016; this year, there have been 55 deals, which have already touched $302 million.

Srini Vudayagiri, of PE firm Peepul Capital, believes that even if Flipkart and Paytm gobbled up close to $3 billion of the $7 billion funding, sectors like healthcare and financial services stood out.

Apart from funding, healthcare has grown a big way this year. Beginning from the budget this year, there seems to be a focus on healthcare. The government’s key areas of focus were access to healthcare, amending drug rules and emphasis on data.

A government-backed push towards healthcare

The funding pumped into the healthcare sector has also seen a shift. While aggregator models for doctors, diagnostic centres and healthcare were key last year, there is a strong focus on specialisation, online pharmacy and data-driven approach this year.

In the budget in February, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced that the government has prepared an action plan for poor health. The government is also targeting elimination of tuberculosis by 2025. The budget proposal said 1.5 lakh health sub-centres will be transformed into health and wellness centres.

Stock-taking will take place towards the end of this financial year.

The renewed focus on amending drug rules comes as a relief to many. As of last year, India recorded one of the highest percentages of out-of-pocket expenditure towards medicines.

A report by NSSO stated that over 72 percent of out-of-pocket health expenses were on buying medicine in rural areas while 68 percent was spent in urban areas. For online healthcare companies, this focus on making drugs available at a reasonable price comes as a welcome move.

The online-offline tussle: push towards technology

Prashant Tandon, Co-Founder and CEO, 1mg, an online healthcare startup, says the new drugs and cosmetics rules will ensure availability of drugs at reasonable prices and believes there is a shift towards technology.

“Telemedicine using digital technologies in DigiGaon is another great thought and key to bringing healthcare access to all. We are waiting to see details of the blueprint and how we can participate,” Prashant says.

1mg, which raised additional Series C funding this year, is set to focus on data and AI. However, there still has been an online and an offline tussle. In May this year, offline pharmacies had gone on strike against online pharmacies to speak up against e-portals as mandated by the government. They also wanted to have their views on the central drug act amendment, where the government has mandated the presence of pharmacies in all stores taken into consideration.

This tussle has been on since online pharmacies grew across the country in late 2015 and early 2016.

Prashant, however, believes that over the several years there has been little technology shift in the healthcare ecosystem, but there are now several players bringing in the much-needed technological change in the healthcare space.

“We are at the cusp of a massive change. Data-based and technology-based healthcare is coming of age. I think the next year is going be exciting and the year of healthcare,” Prashant says.

Top startups that got funded in 2016
Image Credit: Avinash

A focus on wellness

By July last year, the healthtech world started seeing a push towards wellness and fitness, especially when Mukesh Bansal and Ankit Nagori’s Curefit raised $15 million in funding led by Kalaari Capital, IDG ventures and Accel partners. This was before they had launched the platform.

This year, even Practo, which started as a SaaS platform and evolved into a doctor consultancy platform, has ventured into healthcare insurance. The startup is now looking at healthcare from a more holistic perspective.

Four months shy of raising Series D funding, Practo has unveiled its brand identity and positioning as a complete health platform.

Varun Dubey, VP, Marketing, Practo, during the rebranding said,

“When we first started in 2007, we had Practo Ray, a SaaS platform for doctors. Our branding and positioning focused on that. But now with us focusing on everything to do with healthcare, whether it is consultations, discovery, record keeping and even insurance, we felt that we needed our brand to reflect that change clearly.”

Top funded startups 2017
Image credit: Avinash

Post GST impact on healthcare

The GST has started to have a strong impact on the healthcare sector, despite being exempted under GST. However, the consumer will end up spending more in terms of medical bills and hospitalisation costs.

Drugs, disposables and reagents are under the 12 percent GST bracket, and procedures and cost of surgeries are likely to rise.

Sanjay Anandaram, a well-known mentor in the startup ecosystem, believes that like the e-commerce sector, the healthcare sector too will continue to grow and have a significant impact.

“In recent years there seems to be a growing awareness towards a healthy lifestyle, rather than just preventive care. Therefore there needs to be a larger market for this,” Sanjay says.


Amazon looks to new food technology for home delivery

Developed for U.S. military, the food-prep tech obviates the need for refrigeration

Amazon.com Inc. is exploring a technology first developed for the U.S. military to produce tasty prepared meals that do not need refrigeration, as it looks for new ways to muscle into the $700 billion U.S. grocery business.

The online retailer has discussed selling ready-to-eat dishes such as beef stew and a vegetable frittata as soon as next year, officials at the start-up firm marketing the technology told Reuters.

The dishes would be easy to stockpile and ship because they do not require refrigeration and could be offered quite cheaply compared with take-out from a restaurant.

If the cutting-edge food technology comes to fruition, and Amazon implements it on a large scale, it would be a major step forward for the company as it looks to grab hold of more grocery customers shifting toward quick and easy meal options at home.

Complement groceries

Delivering meals would build on the company’s AmazonFresh service, which has been delivering groceries to customers’ homes for a decade. It could also complement Amazon’s planned $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods Market Inc. and Amazon’s checkout-free convenience store, which is in the test stage.

The pioneering food-prep tech, known as microwave assisted thermal sterilisation, or MATS, was developed by researchers at Washington State University, and is being brought to market by a venture-backed start-up called 915 Labs, based in Denver.

The method involves placing sealed packages of food in pressurized water and heating them with microwaves for several minutes, according to 915 Labs.

Unlike traditional processing methods, where packages are in pressure cookers for up to an hour until both bacteria and nutrients are largely gone, the dishes retain their natural flavour and texture, the company said. They also can sit on a shelf for a year, which would make them suitable for Amazon’s storage and delivery business model.

“They obviously see that this is a potential disruptor and an ability to get to a private brand uniqueness that they’re looking for,” said Greg Spragg, a former Wal-Mart Stores Inc. executive and now head of a start-up working with MATS technology. “They will test these products with their consumers, and get a sense of where they would go.”

Amazon declined to comment.

Mr. Spragg’s company, Solve for Food, plans to acquire a MATS machine from 915 Labs that can make 1,800 packages an hour. The company aims to use the machine at a new food innovation centre in northwest Arkansas, near the headquarters of Wal-Mart.

MATS technology grew out of efforts by the U.S. Army’s Natick laboratories more than a decade ago to improve food quality for soldiers in combat. Washington State University, a five-hour drive from Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, received U.S. funding and became the research hub for MATS.

915 Labs said it formed in 2014 and acquired the assets of a business called Food Chain Safety, which previously was working on MATS before facing financial trouble in 2013.

915 Labs also licensed the original patents from the university, its chief executive Michael Locatis said, and its MATS dishes are now pending U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.

In addition to ongoing work with the U.S. military, the company has sold machines to the Australian government and to food companies in Asia.

Hiring food people

“They have to leapfrog to MATS because they don’t have the refrigerated supply chain like we have in the U.S,” said Mr. Locatis, who was an assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security until 2013.

Amazon invited the startup to Seattle after learning about MATS technology last year at the SIAL Paris food trade show, according to Mr. Locatis.

In February, Amazon sent a team to Washington State University that met with Juming Tang, chair of the school’s biological systems engineering department and a key developer of the technology.

And in March, Amazon joined the university’s researchers and other companies in Seattle for the inaugural meeting of the Industrial Microwave Alliance.

“Amazon just started this,” Mr. Tang said in an interview. “They need to deliver meals to homes… They’re hiring food people like crazy.”


These Technology Index Funds Are Crushing It in 2017

The technology industry is a great place to find innovative stocks with the potential for huge gains, and many investors like to use index-tracking investments like exchange-traded funds to take advantage of opportunities in particular niches of the market. The most popular ETFs in the technology space are heavily weighted toward the behemoths of the industry, but for top returns, you have to drill down a bit deeper and find the most promising corners of technology. The funds below are among the top-performing index ETFs in technology in 2017, and they’ve all attracted at least $100 million in assets because of their success.

Technology Fund Assets Under Management Expense Ratio Year-to-Date Return
Guggenheim China Technology (NYSEMKT:CQQQ) $155 million 0.70% 49%
Global X Social Media Index (NASDAQ:SOCL) $155 million 0.65% 39%
PowerShares Nasdaq Internet (NASDAQ:PNQI) $467 million 0.60% 32%
iShares North American Tech-Software (NYSEMKT:IGV) $1.07 billion 0.48% 29%
iShares Global Tech (NYSEMKT:IXN) $1.26 billion 0.48% 27%
Robo Global Robotics and Automation Index (NASDAQ:ROBO) $1.01 billion  0.95% 26%


What you should know about these tech funds

Each of the funds above focuses on a different area of the technology sector, but they’ve all found ways to profit. The Guggenheim China fund concentrates its portfolio on Chinese stocks, with all of the nation’s top e-commerce and internet companies represented among the portfolio’s top holdings. The idea of the fund is to benefit from China’s goal to become a digital nation both for enterprises and for ordinary citizens, and that theme has worked extremely well so far this year as investors rediscover the growth potential of the Chinese economy.

The Global X Social Media ETF has also benefited from the rise of Chinese tech companies, with about a third of its assets in emerging markets in the Asia-Pacific region. Yet this fund isn’t afraid to tread in busier areas, with the two top social media plays in the U.S. also among its top holdings. You’ll find a variety of approaches to social media, including microblogging and video-gaming companies, as well as more traditional social networking tools. Strong performance globally in this niche has sent shares of the ETF sharply higher in 2017.

The PowerShares Internet fund offers a more domestically focused equivalent of what the Guggenheim China fund does internationally, with broad-based exposure to companies that benefit from the internet. From social networks and video-streaming services to online travel and e-commerce websites, the PowerShares fund tracks Nasdaq-listed internet stocks, so about three-quarters of its holdings are U.S. companies, with most of the remainder giving it exposure to China.

Three-dimensional graphs and charts on a blue background.


Going beyond the internet

Internet stocks have been hot, but they aren’t the only investment vehicles to make money in technology. The iShares North American Tech-Software ETF focuses on software development companies, and among its top holdings, you’ll find some of the colossuses of the tech world. The top producers of database, publishing, office, customer relationship management, and video game software are all among the fund’s top holdings, and solid performance from these stocks in general has helped lift the fund higher.

The iShares Global Tech fund goes even further, giving investors the who’s who of technology companies around the world. U.S. companies dominate the list, making up all of the top five holdings and representing more than 75% of the fund’s assets. Stocks from Japan, Korea, China, and various parts of Europe round out the portfolio, offering a well-diversified but megacap-heavy set of holdings to its investors.

Finally, the Robo Global ETF focuses on companies in the robotics and automation fields from various corners of the world. The fund has a decidedly smaller-company focus, with a third of its assets invested in small-cap stocks and another 42% in mid caps. You’ll find producers of unmanned aerial vehicles, robotic surgical equipment, and autonomous vacuum cleaners among its holdings, along with makers of enabling technology to help further robotics and automation enterprises.

Profit from tech

The technology sector is a fertile ground for high-growth companies, and there are many ways to position yourself to produce long-term gains. The six funds above have been among the most successful this year, but dozens of other tech ETFs have the potential to become the winners of tomorrow as well.


SoftBank adding technology ambitions, with ARM, robotics

In this July 20, 2017 photo, SoftBank Group Corp. Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son speaks during a SoftBank World presentation in Tokyo. SoftBank said Monday, Aug. 7, 2017 its quarterly net profit was 5.5 billion yen ($50 million), down from 254

In this July 20, 2017 photo, SoftBank Group Corp. Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son speaks during a SoftBank World presentation in Tokyo. SoftBank said Monday, Aug. 7, 2017 its quarterly net profit was 5.5 billion yen ($50 million), down from 254 billion yen the previous year. Quarterly sales added 3 percent to 2.19 trillion yen ($20 billion). (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

Photo ops of SoftBank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son sometimes show him chatting happily with his company’s humanoid robot, the childlike Pepper, or grinning as President Donald Trump heaps praise on him for creating American jobs.

It’s clear Son, Japan’s richest person, stands out in Japan Inc.

He is no “salaryman” president, those typical executives who rise gradually and quietly through the ranks, Japan-style, in a corporate culture that frowns upon mavericks and tends to squelch self-made ventures.

Since founding SoftBank in 1981, Son, a Japanese of Korean ancestry who graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, has won both criticism and accolades as a daring investor who has gathered partners in diverse technology sectors from around the world.

Sometimes those adventures cost him. But often, they have paid off.

SoftBank Group Corp. reported Monday a 98 percent drop in its April-June profit at 5.5 billion yen ($50 million) on losses stemming from investments in the Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba.

Quarterly sales rose 3 percent to 2.19 trillion yen ($20 billion), while the Tokyo-based company’s operating profit, which highlights core operations, logged a 50 percent increase year-on-year as its U.S. mobile carrier Sprint, previously a drain on the bottom line, boosted profitability.

The first telecoms carrier to offer the iPhone in Japan, SoftBank has bought British semiconductor company ARM. Its acquisition of U.S. robotics pioneer Boston Dynamics is awaiting regulatory approval. Recently, it has announced it will invest in Encored, a U.S. company specializing in IoT technology in the energy sector.

Son believes artificial intelligence combined with data gathered by billions of sensors will benefit people more than the 19th Century Industrial Revolution, helping to treat cancer, deliver accident-free driving and grow safer food.

Son also has money to invest: a private fund he set up last year for global investments in the technology sector, called the Vision Fund, with the potential to grow to as much as $100 billion. Trump has praised him for promising to invest $50 billion in U.S. startups to create 50,000 jobs.

Son stressed at a news conference Monday that his company was neither an old-style Japanese “zaibatsu,” a business conglomerate with roots dating to the 19th century Meiji Era, nor a venture capital outfit pursuing a quick payback.

SoftBank tries to influence strategy in the businesses it invests in, without exerting outright control or overhauling their management, he said, instead collaborating on a shared vision of what he called the “information revolution.”

“We don’t try to stamp our color on our group companies,” he said. “We feel a brand should be free.”

Son’s spectacular rags-to-riches story, making one big acquisition after another including an approximately 40 percent stake in Yahoo in the 1990s, has left many skeptical over what appears to be a risky way to run a business, said Satoru Kikuchi, a senior analyst at SMBC Nikko Securities Co.

But as he added stakes in one technology powerhouse after the other, names like Microsoft Corp., Novell, Cisco Systems, Ziff-Davis and Comdex, Son has shifted gears when necessary, adjusting his portfolio and often emerging a winner and winning trust from key investors, Kikuchi said.

“His goal is to become the No. 1 company in the world through expanding in the technology area,” he said. “He has the ability to gather money and information. He can act, and he can make decisions.”

In a recent, nearly three-hour presentation in Tokyo, Son presented some of the ventures he is partnering with, including OneWeb, whose founder and chairman Greg Wyler wants to use satellites instead of underground cables to provide affordable internet access for everyone.

He showed off Spot, a four-legged robot that can climb steps and dance. ARM’s chips are found in nearly all smartphones and wearables, he noted. Data gathered from such omnipresent sensors provide far more comprehensive data than what can be gathered through mobile phones or computers, Son said.

“Those who rule chips will rule the entire world. Those who rule data will rule the entire world.” Son said. “That’s what people of the future will say.”

SoftBank also runs a solar power business, which Son plunged into with fervor after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in northeastern Japan. His business empire also includes financial-technology, ride-booking services and a baseball team, the Softbank Hawks.

Takenobu Miki, who worked closely with Son in the late 1990s and early 2000s, says Son excels in bringing together partners whom he thinks will be instrumental in the future.

Big Japanese companies often hoard resources like money, facilities and employees. Son doesn’t, says Miki, who now has his own business, Japan Flagship Project Co., which provides consulting and project management, among other services.

He says those who criticize Son for chasing quick bucks misjudge him.

“What you don’t want is an unprofitable company,” said Miki. “And he has a passion, a dream.”




ust why am I reviewing $1,299 earphones? I found myself pondering this question while rolling Fender’s new FXA9s around in my hand like a pair of translucent, expensive pebbles. The number of people in the market for such things is obviously limited, and I can’t imagine many of them would be making the decision based solely on my review. But I think of it the same way that I think of cheat codes in video games: I use those to understand the game without its usual constraints, which tends to help me win when I get back to playing without cheating.

The Fender FXA9s are professional in-ear monitors (IEMs) designed to be used onstage. Their price is close to three times that of Fender’s previous flagship model, the FXA7, and it seems to have been set only after the product was developed. In other words, Fender set out to make the best possible in-ear headphones it could and let the price take care of itself. So what is there to learn from these technologically marvelous and visually mesmerizing new earphones? Quite a bit, actually.

I loved last year’s FXA7s for one simple reason: they had beautifully exaggerated bass that made me laugh and giggle at the way it turned all my music into a booming freight train ride. There was no pretense of fidelity that I could detect, just a joyous caricature of every song that was nevertheless realistic enough to be charming rather than grotesque. From among the headphones I reviewed in 2016, many of which were more accurate and had a wider soundstage, it was those Fenders that I missed the most after the review period. Forget technical performance numbers and charts, the FXA7s warmed my soul.

This year’s FXA9s reprise the 3D-printed shells and unique silicone eartips of Fender’s FXA range, so I was rather hopeful for an FXA7 with just more of the same. Nothing could be further from the truth. The FXA9 flagship is the clean-shaven, suit-and-tie Fender earphone that’s grown out of the collection of grungy, long-haired bassheads that characterize the rest of Fender’s lineup. It’s a jarring change, especially since the company’s entire expertise — derived from Aurisonics, the small Nashville boutique that Fender acquired to design and build its IEMs — is in making the earphones with the biggest and baddest bass.

While I was adapting to the FXA9s’ entirely different sound, I still appreciated the familiar comfort and fit that they carried over from the Fender FXA7s. The Aurisonics / Fender team developed the shape of its in-ear buds by studying scans of the ears of thousands of people, and the end result is said to fit 95 percent of ears. I’m among the 95 percent of satisfied users, finding the bulbous FXA9s a relaxed and easy fit that doesn’t fatigue or irritate me at all.

Fender also has the best silicone eartips in the industry: they are super malleable and ensure a solid seal that passively neutralizes a lot of exterior noise. Unlike the Beyerdynamic Xelentos that I just reviewed, Fender’s earphones are as good out on a busy road as they are when listened to in a quiet room. I really like the way they re-create the advantages of custom high-end IEMs — great noise isolation; contoured, ear-fitting shape; and multi-driver balanced armature architecture — in a design that has a universal fit. I have a couple of custom IEM sets, which I love dearly, but they do go quite deep inside the ear and are not the best for casual listening in bed, for example. Fender’s FXA9s compare favorably because of their reliable comfort and slightly lower price.

I find the FXA9s very easy to wear, handsome to look at with that big Fender “F” logo, and easy to maintain. But I could say all of these things about all of Fender’s preceding FXA models. What distinguishes the FXA9? The answer is in what’s on the inside, where Fender has moved to an array of six balanced armatures per earbud, each one covering a particular range of frequency response. The advantage of this sort of internal architecture is the advantage of specialization over general competence: each individual mini-speaker can be perfected for its specific task and thus its sound can be as pure and distortion-free as possible. So goes the theory, anyway.

What I found while listening to the FXA9s was a total absence of distortion, harshness… and excitement. Fender has tuned these with a very smooth high end and a shy low end. Putting on my favored hip-hop albums by Run the Jewels and Sage Francis, I feel none of the bass. I can hear it, but I never feel it; and I’m of the opinion that bass should be more felt than heard. The FXA9s certainly demonstrate good technical ability by extending to reproduce very deep bass notes and high treble (this wide dynamic range is what makes the multi-armature design appealing), but they don’t really do much with that ability. Where Run the Jewels 2 on the FXA7 used to make me smile with joy at the overwhelming bassline battling for primacy with Killer Mike’s rapping, the same album on the FXA9 feels dry and unemotional.

Fender will tell you that the FXA9s are neutral, authentic, and faithful to the music. I disagree. This goes beyond my own preference for a warmer sound: I know how albums like PJ Harvey’s Uh Huh Her should sound, and the FXA9s come close but fail to re-create that. Their sound feels somehow thin, artificial, and unconvincing. Playing music with these earphones is like playing basketball with a ball that’s been pumped up too much. The usual bounce, snap, and rhythm just aren’t there.

The laudable goal behind the FXA9s was to elevate the Fender IEM sound beyond the category of a mass-pleasing bass thumper and into the professional realm of accurate, precise sound reproduction. That’s possible to do, and I would argue that the Beyerdynamic Xelento are a great example of an in-ear headphone that doesn’t serve lashings of extra bass, but can still provide an engaging listen. Unfortunately, Fender just didn’t execute the plan it set out for itself. Balanced armatures have often been guilty of sounding unnatural, and the Fender FXA9s are a salient example of that. They give you lots of technical precision, but lack the subtle cues of realism that our minds register unconsciously. (Distortion, especially in the bass region, might be an aspect of that, as we’ve all grown accustomed to hearing it. Its absence, even if technically desirable, could make music feel less believable.)

It’s almost an unwritten rule in the headphones industry that as the price of a product goes up, its bass response goes down. I’ve never been a fan of that move, which would suggest that audiophiles are miserly sonic accountants instead of lovers and fans of music. Alas, Fender’s FXA9s only serve to illustrate why this trend is inadvisable, deadening the sound with a presentation that lacks dynamism and excitement. I guess the lesson we can draw from this is that not everything that has a higher price and model number is necessarily better.

I review earphones that cost unreasonable sums of money because sometimes, as with the Beyerdynamic Xelento, I find rare examples that could be justified as unreasoning, emotional purchases. I also review them just to know what the rest of us are missing out on. In the case of the Fender FXA9s, the answer is nothing. I still miss the FXA7s.




  • Easy to wear and maintain
  • Very good passive noise isolation
  • Technically precise and distortion-free sound


  • Unexciting
  • Unaffordable
  • Unimpressive
Buy for $1,999.99 from Amazon

How our addiction to digital technology is changing the way we live

Smartphone technology has become ubiquitous, and it's with us 24/7.

Smartphone technology has become ubiquitous, and it’s with us 24/7. (Eakkaluk Temwanich/Shutterstock)

Think the constant buzzing of your smartphone is just a nuisance? Think again.

The way your cellphone is set up, with notifications and alerts, is training you to treat it like your personal connection to the world. And what’s at stake is your valuable attention, says doctoral candidate James Williams, 35, whose research focuses on design ethics at the Oxford Internet Institute.

“When you pull out your smartphone, and you use a social media site, there are all sorts of persuasive design elements at play to punch just the right buttons in your brain to get you to keep using it, because the longer you use it, the more you tap, the more you click, the more you scroll, the more money these companies make,” says Williams.

The researcher is studying the growing disconnect between ad-fuelled technology and the human beings who use it.

“Fundamentally, the technology’s goals are not our goals. I don’t know anybody who has that goal for themselves — to spend as much time as they can on Facebook or watching YouTube,” he tells the CBC’s On The Money.

According to Catalyst, a digital performance marketing agency, 76 per cent of Canadians own at least one smartphone. That’s a lot of people and a large, potentially captive audience.

The key to understanding what’s happening, and the potential for tech to turn toxic, lies with the way the pendulum has swung in what is known as the “attention economy.”


According to a marketing agency, 76 per cent of Canadians own a smartphone. (Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

For most of human history, we have lived in environments where information was scarce. Now, thanks to digital technology, we live in age of information abundance. What has shrunk, however, is our attention.

With so much data made available through so many portals (smartphone, tablet, wearables, laptop, desktop), we have to make some tough decisions about what gets our precious attention.

“The challenges of the attention economy, this race for our attention … [are] making themselves felt in the realms of politics, our own personal lives,” says Williams.

Williams’s theory about how digital technology has forever altered the way we discuss politics online, and not necessarily in a positive way, has gotten a lot of attention. He recently won Oxford’s inaugural Nine Dots Prize and $100,000 to write a book on the subject.

man laptop night social media facebook

We have an almost limitless amount of information at our fingertips, but a finite amount of attention. (Dimitri Otis/Getty Images)

Williams is also the co-founder of the Time Well Spent campaign, whose website makes the bold statement, “Technology is hijacking our brains.” The campaign suggests that “we demand technology that serves us, not advertising.”

“The technologies we use every day are designed primarily to capture our attention,” Williams says. “This seems to me a big moral and political problem, maybe one of the biggest of our time.”

Time Well Spent seeks to raise awareness of these issues with the public at large, and with politicians and regulators. Williams believes that the study and discussion of the long-term effect of ad-fuelled technology are urgently needed, before the technology we may see as mildly intrusive permanently shapes the way we live our lives and view the world.


The stupidity of South African workers’ fight against technology

Image result for The stupidity of South African workers’ fight against technologyWhen Pick n Pay unveiled self-service terminals at its Ottery store in Cape Town last year, consumers praised the excellent use of technology to make their lives easier.

Cobus Barnard, Pick n Pay’s group executive for retail office and supply chain, said the self-help checkout points are aimed at making shopping more convenient.

He said the checkout points will help customers who are in a hurry, letting them go through the checkout process themselves.

Not everyone was happy, however. Cosatu and its affiliates were up in arms, saying it was not consulted regarding the self-service terminals.

According to Cosatu, Pick n Pay employees were fearful the self-service tills would impact their jobs.

Cosatu said it would oppose the self-service terminals and even threatened boycotts – as the technology was “anti-worker, and anti the objectives of South Africa”.

The same situation is now playing out in the taxi industry, where metered taxi operators are fighting against Uber in South Africa.

Instead of embracing technological advances in the transport industry, which make consumers’ lives easier, metered taxi workers are attacking Uber drivers and destroying their cars.

While aggression and violence may result in small wins against Uber and self-service terminals, progress is inevitable.

To embrace new technologies which enhance consumer experiences is always better, and more profitable, as many Uber drivers found out.

And if a local industry is concerned that an international player may eat its lunch, there is always the option to develop your own technology.

Be the technological advance

If anyone thinks it is impossible to fight against global giants like Uber, think again.

Ride-sharing company Didi Chuxing crushed Uber in China, and acquired Uber’s China unit in August 2016.

The argument that technological advances will cost jobs is also not informed.

The World Economic Forum said investments in technology create jobs and are an important enabler of innovation and development.

This is in addition to other benefits, such as contributing to GDP growth, creating new and sustainable industries, and business innovation.

Technological progress does not cost jobs, it creates jobs, and is necessary for South Africa to remain competitive in a global market.

The idea that technological advances are “anti-worker, and anti the objectives of South Africa” is misguided and should be dismissed with contempt.

Unfortunately, the ANC government continues to buckle under pressure from workers’ unions and other groups which are holding technological progress – and job creation – back. Let’s hope this changes soon, for the sake of South Africa and its citizens.


Doctors view technology as largely problematic

Image result for Doctors view technology as largely problematic

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters Health) – When an endurance runner with a history of heart failure felt under the weather, he brought his activity tracker data from a workout to his cardiologist.

Dr. Michael Blum examined the runner’s heart rate readings. The cardiologist could see when his patient was pushing to climb a hill or to increase his speed, and when he was slowing down.

“I could tell how hard he was working,” said Blum, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco. “I had this amazing data.”

Ultimately, though, he had to inform his worried patient: “This is all really interesting, but I can’t tell you what it means.”

Blum joined three other doctors who spoke last week on the promise – and the reality – of technology in a San Francisco panel discussion sponsored by Medscape and titled “Technology, Patients and the Art of Medicine.”

Technology in the form of diagnostic software helped one of the panelists, Dr. Abraham Verghese, conclude that a patient was suffering from neurosarcoidosis – a diagnosis the Stanford University professor didn’t initially consider but one a software program immediately recognized given the patient’s symptoms.

Technology offers doctors a view inside patients’ hearts, brains and bowels. And technology may speed the diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of blindness, said panelist Dr. Jessica Mega, who leads the healthcare team at Verily, formerly Google Life.

Nonetheless, 69 percent of the 100 doctors in the audience said increased reliance on technology and electronic health records only served to separate them from their patients.

As evidence of the problem, the panelists cited apps that claim to do things they don’t really do, like accurately measure blood pressure.

But the biggest problem stemming from technology for the doctors, and the bane of many doctors’ existence, is the electronic health record, also known as an EHR.

The U.S. government has touted electronic records, initially designed for billing, as a way to dramatically improve patient care and has used financial incentives to speed their adoption. The hope was that the widespread use of EHRs would reduce medical errors, inefficiencies and inappropriate care.

The effort has failed, according to Dr. Eric Topol, editor-in-chief of Medscape and the panel moderator.

American doctors continue to make 12 million diagnosis errors a year; one in four patients in U.S. hospitals continue to be harmed; and healthcare costs continue to soar, he said.

Topol called electronic health records “a complete mess.”

“Why do we just put up with pathetic technology?” he asked.

The panelists, as well as the doctors in attendance, bemoaned the time it took them to complete electronic records, time they longed to spend with patients.

Verghese credited electronic records with billing well, with reducing medical errors and with keeping him out of dusty basements in search of patient files. At the same time, he blamed EHRs for tying doctors to their computers and at least partially for his colleagues’ unprecedented suicide rates, depression, burnout and disillusionment.

“I find it pretty incredible,” he said, that with “all the wonderful, sophisticated imaging technology, we still have this dinosaur of an electronic medical record.”

Verghese, a best-selling author, is vice chair for the theory and practice of medicine at Stanford University and has championed the return of what he considers the lost art of the physical exam. He questioned how physicians allowed EHRs to take over medical practices without physician input on how to make them work.

“We allowed this to happen on our watch,” he said. “How did we let this happen?”

“My sense is that the current dysphoria in medicine revolves to a great degree around the electronic medical record but not solely. I think the other piece of it is everything moving much faster, so many more patients, so much more information per patient,” he said.

Blum had nothing good to say about electronic health records. But he refused to blame them for all medicine’s ills.

High rates of physician burnout, depression and suicide predate the government’s relatively recent push for electronic records, he said. He traced the problem back at least 10 years to increased government regulations that turned doctors’ notes into billing documents.

“Then you throw the electronic health record on top of that,” Blum said. “That just took a bad situation and made it horribly worse.”

Blum, who leads the Center for Digital Health Innovation at the University of California, San Francisco, considers electronic health records separate from technology.

He believes technology has transformed medicine in a positive way and will continue to do so.

“The office visit and the experience of the bonding has clearly been disrupted” by doctors having to type into electronic records, Blum said. On the other hand, he said, “patients can send me a note whenever they want, and within a day, I’ll get back to them.”

As further evidence of technology’s benefits, he cited a study showing that patients expressed more satisfaction following a video visit with their doctors than visits to the office.

“It’s going to explode,” he said, “when we see the next generation of technology.”


How to declutter your technology

Mother board: for work-from-home mums it's important to organise your technology. Image: Getty

If you have ‘worked’ from home with young children, you’ll understand the quotations.

Often not a great deal of work gets done.

It’s difficult to maintain your mental focus when you’re constantly being interrupted by small humans piping up about Tiny Teddies and toilet time.

But for many mums despite the struggle, spending those early years at home alongside your children and still working (a little or a lot) is a good option.

As a writer, it was an easy decision for me to work from home. I only need a screen, some ideas and a little peace.

So I pushed on, conducting interviews while children cried in the background and typing articles while breastfeeding.

And I’m really glad I did.

It kept a smidge of a career chugging along and although now I’ve headed back into the big smoke, I still work two days in my home office while the kids are at school.

One problem I discovered working from home is – there’s no IT number to call when something hi-tech and impossible to grasp happens. And there’s no one to help you set up clouds and drop boxes and all those other things.

The first step is to have your devices and software set-up properly to start with (ask an expert!). Then ensure it’s super organised. I’ve done it and you should too. Here’s how to declutter your office technologically, with tech expert Trevor Long from Officeworks …

1. Folder planning

Get your desktop icons organised and colour-code them. It will give you clarity and ensure your hard work isn’t lost.

Think of your computer folders as a family tree – start at the top with the client or project and then create additional separations within the main folder to separate in categories, such as ‘finance and admin’ and file your documents accordingly

2. Go wireless

Random cords and wires can create the illusion of clutter. The main culprits are your computer desktops, laptop chargers, keyboards and the computer mouse. Though desktops will need to be plugged into a power outlet, there are numerous Bluetooth enabled wireless keyboards and mouses which will streamline your workspace. Upgrade your keyboard and mouse with Wireless Bluetooth enabled devices to create a cord-free space.  My top pick is the Logitech MK235 Wireless Keyboard and Mouse Combo.

When it comes to your desktop and monitor cords, firstly untangle your cords, then apply cord straps to contain your cables in a tight and organised bundle – colourful straps such as these Wrapt Up Hook and Loop Cord Straps will help you organise numerous cables in the workplace.

3. Shred it

If paperwork comes and goes in your office, consider purchasing a shredder to sit under the desk or in the office to manage any unnecessary paper that lands on your desk.  Shred it, recycle it and manage the clutter as you go – simple and effective.

4. Back Up

Your digital data is often your most important tool so ensure you back up your information regularly. Some Portable Hard Drives have pre-installed ‘Back Up’ software to take the leg work out of ensuring you’re protected. Don’t leave your information at risk, try the Seagate 1TB Backup Plus Slim Portable Hard Drive.

5. Reach for the skies

The ‘cloud’ is a word often used, but many are unsure about what it is.

In its simplest form, it’s a storage system that runs over the internet rather than on a computer’s hard drive.

It provides the same levels of security as a hard drive, but the big advantages are reliability and accessibility — you can access files on the go from any device providing there is internet connection.

Regardless of the age of your computer, Cloud Storage is strongly recommended as an off-site backup. It instils confidence that if there’s a computer failure you have a back-up copy of all your important documents.

Microsoft OneDrive is a great Cloud Storage option. It comes standard with 5GB of free Cloud storage as part of the Microsoft Office Home and Business package.

6. Protect your tech

  • Keep your firewall turned on. A firewall is an internal security system that protects your device from hackers. Most operating systems incorporate firewall protection, though the key is ensuring it is switched on and stays on.
  • Install and/or update your antivirus software. This is different to firewalls. Internet Security software detects and protects against any obscure or dangerous software programs. Norton Antivirus has a range available – remember to protect all your connected devices such as phones and tablets as well as computers.
  • Be careful with what you download. It goes without saying, but it’s a common mistake for people to open all attachments, links and files. This can be dangerous and lead to a lethal virus and a system shut down. If you don’t know the person, don’t open the accompanying document.
  • Remember to investigate product insurance to protect your new portable device for 12 months from purchase from accidental damage, loss or theft.


Drivers fear new MTA bus technology will screw up traffic

Image result for Drivers fear new MTA bus technology will screw up traffic

A pilot project that uses technology to sync up MTA buses with traffic lights — turning signals green faster as the buses approach — is about to expand, much to the chagrin of other drivers.

The program has been operating along five bus routes since 2006, and the vehicles’ times have improved so much that the city is now planning to install the technology at 1,000 intersections citywide by 2020, officials said Monday.

But drivers’ advocates say the move will just make traffic even more congested than it already is.

“We know mass transit in this city is a disaster and something needs to be done, but if you do it at the expense of other vehicles, you’re serving nobody,’’ said New York Taxi Workers Alliance Executive Director Bhairavi Desai.

Uber driver Oscar Martinez agreed.

“When the light changes so quickly, everybody gets stuck,’’ he said.

The lights timed to buses are currently located along Hylan Boulevard in Staten Island, First and Second avenues in Manhattan, Nostrand and Utica avenues in Brooklyn, and Webster Avenue in The Bronx.