January 23, 2019

Blockchain, Robotics, and Healthtech: Observations from CES 2019

Me and my mom attending
the final day of CES 2019
This post is the third and final one reflecting on my experience of attending CES®2019. The first post focused on a report published by AIG, an American insurer, that presents key questions Chief Information Security Officers and risk managers should be asking regarding IoT and cybersecurity and the second post explores a report produced by GfK, a market research firm, on how "Smart Lifers" are increasingly using connected devices and services, but worry about privacy and security. This post looks at some of the companies and products that I saw during the annual consumer electronics show in Las Vegas, Nev.

I appreciate how CES attracts industry attendees, exhibitor personnel, and media from around the world (over 63,000 individuals from outside the United States attended CES in 2018, according to the Consumer Technology Association, an Arlington, Va.-based trade organization that owns and produces CES). During this year's exhibition, I spent time visiting with startups from Qatar, an oil-rich Middle East country with a population of 2.6 million people.

Among the several Qatari companies exhibiting their products or services, I enjoyed talking with Hesham Elfeshawy and learning about At Home Doc, a digital health platform supporting on-demand home doctor and other healthcare services. The application also provides virtual consultation and telemedicine enabled by voice transcription.

The Eureka Park™ marketplace at CES provides startups with a unique opportunity to showcase their ingenuity. Walking around the startup exhibits, I met Tammy Dorsey, the founder and chief executive of Prenatal Hope, a Kansas-based company that created the VivO2, a utero testing device that instantly and effectively reads fetus oxygen levels. Ms. Dorsey said that by measuring a baby's pH level, VivO2 provides attending doctors the crucial data necessary to make confident decisions and accurately detect fetal distress. She added that her company "exists to provide hope for families through reducing infant mortality with our biomedical innovations." (Wichita State University, where Ms. Dorsey received her undergraduate degree and is currently pursuing a graduate degree in  published an article on Nov. 6, 2018 that provides a good overview of the goals Ms. Dorsey is trying to achieve through her company.)

Ellie Smart Pill Box
Regina Vatterott serves as the co-founder of EllieGrid. Her company in Texas created the Ellie Smart Pill Box, a Bluetooth-enabled pillbox for families and individuals with healthy lifestyles that organizes pills by type instead of time. As a result, you can refill Ellie in seconds by simply pouring your pills straight from the bottle into one of the seven appropriate compartments.

In the demo provided by Ms. Vatterott, I was intrigued to hear an alarm and lights simultaneously flash when it is time to take the pills. After opening the device, specific lights were illuminated indicating which pills to take and how many. For those who need to take some pills more than once a day, the user can set multiple alarms through the EllieGrid app.

As an avid walker (and I certainly walked several miles throughout my time at CES), I can appreciate any product that will bring comfort to my feet. The French company Digisole designed the PODOSmart, which is a connected insole that provides gait analysis, facilitates walking balance, 3D motion analysis, and monitors stride pattern, and evolution tracking. For walking in cold climates, Digisole's Warm Series are designed to keep your feet warm.

QTrobot designed for children
with autism spectrum disorder 
Since a close friend and her husband have a daughter with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), I am mindful of products or services tailored to helping people that encounter challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. Designed by LuxAI in Luxembourg, the QTrobot, an expressive humanoid social robot that is a friend, tutor and teacher for children with ASD. According to a marketing brochure, "With QTrobot, children can learn emotional and social skills in a simplified and engaging manner."

Moreover, "QTrobot comes with multiple educational programs for autism. Each of these programs focuses on one set of skills which is necessary for children to learn in order to be more independent and socially more interactive." It is also worth noting that the LuxAI booth was distributing copies of the findings of a study, More Attention and Less Repetitive and Stereotyped Behaviors Using a Robot with Children with Autism, which is aimed "to access the usefulness of QTrobot, a socially assistive robot, in interventions with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by assessing children's attention, limitation, and presence of repetitive and stereotyped behaviors."

While I still hold some skepticism about the long-term global adoption of cryptocurrency, I do support the underlying blockchain technology as a distributed ledger, or database, shared across a public or private computing network. As such, I found my visit to Pundi X's booth to see their blockchain-based solution for digitalizing any store quite interesting. Zac Cheah, co-founder and chief executive of the Singapore-based company, said customers can conduct cryptocurrency transactions using traditional fiat currency, bank cards, mobile wallets or the Pundi X PASS Card.

SecuX Technology, Inc. is a blockchain security company devoted to developing comprehensive solutions to secure people's valuable digital assets in blockchain. The Taiwanese company lists the following security features for its SecuX Crypto Hardware Wallet: A CC EAL 5 certified SE to secure private key and device PIN from attacks; tamper proof firmware pre-load and upgrade mechanism; a personalized PIN code or one-time-password to control the access to device or wallet applications; randomized digital keypad to avoid following keystrokes; physical confirmation for each transaction to avoid man-in-the-middle attacks; and anti-tamper packaging. Howard Liao, Managing Director of SecuX's European office in Germany, said the SecuX wallets support cryptocurrencies such as BTC, BCH, ETH, LTC, XRP and ERC-20 for the time being.

I had a wonderful conversation with Alex Mashinsky, the founder and chief executive of Celsius Network, a blockchain-based borrowing and lending platform, founded in the U.K., whose goal is to bring the next 100 million people into cryptocurrency. Mr. Mashinsky said his company is providing "a new way to earn, borrow, and pay on the blockchain."

Based in France, Billal Chouli, founder and chief technology officer of NeuroChain, said his company "is the next-generation of blockchain technology that improves the security, reliability, and scalability of current blockchain protocols." Dr. Chouli added that NeuroChain "is the first genuinely decentralized, energy-efficient blockchain, powered by machine learning and artificial applications."

Mark Mueller-Eberstein and Phil Klein
talking with attendees from their book talk
One more item to mention is my attendance of a book talk featuring Mark Mueller-Eberstein and Phil Klein, co-authors of The Trust Technology: How Blockchain is changing your world. You can watch the discussion in its entirety through this link or the video embedded below. (I will publish a review of the book in a future post on this blog.)

If you attended CES 2019, what did you see that captured your attention or imagination?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

January 22, 2019

Smart Lifers Increasingly Use Connected Devices and Services, but Worry About Privacy and Security

The previous post on this blog focused a conference session, "Getting Hacked: IoT and Beyond," I attended at CES®2019 in Las Vegas, Nev. where AIG, an American insurer, released a report that presents key questions Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) and risk managers should be asking regarding the relationship between IoT and cybersecurity. In addition to this session, I attended one entitled "Living the Smart Life: The Evolution of Today's Consumer" where representatives of GfK, a multinational market research firm based in German, shared their latest research on consumers and the "smart life."

During the conference session, which an archived video may be viewed through this link, Karen Ramspacher and Kathy Sheehan, GfK's Senior Vice President of Innovation & Insights and Executive Vice President of Consumer Life, respectively, co-presented "The Promise of the Smart Life: Opportunities and barriers that will impact adoption."

A point made early in the presentation is how the global smartphone market has reached saturation. Voice technologies, however, is growing by 21 percent of the worldwide population have used the emerging technology. Interestingly, the median age of adults using voice assistants 42.7 with 58 percent using them for streaming music, 48 percent for weather updates, and 37 percent to set a timer or alarm. What is more, as reflected in the slide to the right, the global use of voice technologies is high in Argentina, Brazil, India, Russia, Spain, and the United States.

Whether it is voice assistants or the smart home, the presentation crucially says the "demand for simplicity" where "if a new technology product is not simple to use, I lose interest in it." The presentation notes the smart home is hitting a tipping point in leading markets with 49 percent of Americans owns at least one smart home product or device. And there is still room for growth with 58 percent of Americans, an increase of seven percentage points since 2015, "feel smart home technology will impact their life over the next few years."

Where will the growth continue? Americans interested in having the following types of smart home features: Optimize energy usage, remote home monitoring, appliances communicate with each other, self-diagnose problems, remote via mobile devices, real-time energy tracking, further automate household chores, and share health data with healthcare providers.

And more sophisticated applications are emerging with communication between appliances becoming the fastest growing emerging technology and smart home benefit. Furthermore, new apps and interfaces are making it easier for consumers to monitor their homes for safety, which include receiving alerts when something unusual happens at home (e.g., smoke/gas, security alarm, door/window opening or water leak), monitor your home with a video camera, control lights inside or outside your home, and grant access to home when you cannot be there with a scheduled code to let housekeeper/guest in.

With respect to detection opportunities, the presenters explained 57 percent of Americans, up from 49 percent in 2012, are interested in smart home products that reduce allergens in the home. Globally, 41 percent of people want a car that protects from health threats (allergens, pollution, and other environmental hazards), and 58 percent worry about getting sick from contaminated food or drink.

On the topic of mobility (auto), 55 percent of Americans said their vehicle selection has been influenced by in-vehicle technology and 58 percent of Americans attest that they definitely or probably will consider a vehicle with personal assistant capabilities.

When it comes to using mobile applications for health and wellness, 69 percent of U.S. consumers, up four percentage points from 2009, focus on preventative healthcare measures as opposed to treating current issues. In providing reasons for tracking or monitoring their health or fitness, 52 percent say they do so to motivate themselves to exercise, 52 percent do so to maintain or improve their physical condition, 51 percent do so to lose weight, 45 percent do so to motivate themselves to eat or drink healthy, and 30 percent do so to improve sleep.

Regarding mobile payments, online banking and shopping are two areas consumers overwhelmingly see the benefits far outweighing any negatives. While mobile wallets have lower acceptance rates in the U.S., growth globally suggests further opportunity in the American market.

The presenters then discussed the demographics of the Smart Lifer. Six percent or 16 million Americans are considered a Smart Lifer with 59 percent being female, 51 percent having children, and 60 percent being married. Importantly, Smart Lifers say privacy concern is the primary barrier for adoption of digital home assistants in the U.S.

More Smart Lifers are saying no to always-on connectivity with 37 percent of global consumers responding they regularly take a break from technology or unplug/disconnect to maintain health (an increase of 14 points since 2014). Among Americans aged 18-24, 25 percent say they feel disconnected without the internet (down seven points since 2013), 25 percent say it is important to always be reachable wherever they are (down six points since 2013), and 22 percent like to be connected, either by phone or the internet, at all times (down six points since 2013).

The presenters also noted that 2018 was the year when the danger of social media becomes apparent with 82 percent saying they were concerned about their social media footprint. And 17 percent citing personal information falling into the wrong hands as a top concern.

Lastly, on the topic of brand trust, 44 percent of global consumers strongly agree with "I only buy products or services from a trusted brand."

As more global consumers purchase internet-connected devices and services, cybersecurity will have a direct correlation in establishing brand trust. And as noted in the previous blog post, creating strong cybersecurity standards to protect consumer data will involved the collaboration of CISOs and risk managers. The GfK presentation demonstrates the large global market opportunity for connected hardware manufacturers and service companies. However, companies should understand that incorporating strong data protection processes will serve an important value proposition in selling products and services to Smart Lifers.

Which findings from the presentation will your company incorporate in its operational or product development strategy?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

January 21, 2019

IoT and Cybersecurity: Key Questions CISOs and Risk Managers Should Be Asking

In what has become a regular experience over the past two decades, I had the privilege of attending CES®2019 in Las Vegas, Nev. As presented in a press release by the Consumer Technology Association, an Arlington, Va.-based trade organization that owns and produces CES, this year's event covered a wide-array of topics including 5G, artificial intelligence, digital health (MedCity News provides four takeaways from the 2019 Digital Health Summit), and autonomous vehicles. Cybersecurity was also a dominant theme during this year's event.

The "Getting Hacked: IoT and Beyond" was one of several conference sessions at this year's CES, which focused on cybersecurity. The description for this particular session notes that "smarter homes, cars, buildings and networks powered by the Internet of Things change the risk landscape for companies and consumers." While I recommend watching an archived video through this link of representatives from American International Group, Inc. (AIG), an American insurer, and other risk experts exploring how devices meant to improve lives and business operations make us vulnerable to attacks, this blog post focuses on a report that is aimed to provide Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs), "Risk Managers and other decision-makers with questions they can ask each other to help establish and strengthen relationships and ultimately lead to stronger protections for their organizations."

The report importantly notes: "There's no question that cyber risk represents one of the top threats facing enterprises today, and addressing the challenge will require a coordinated effort among leaders at all levels of the organization."

Furthermore, "As enterprises seek to address rapidly evolving cyber risks, they may discover a common challenge: a yawning gap between the person responsible for ensuring the organization is protected from cyber attacks -- usually a Chief Information Security Officer or similar position -- and the person responsible for ensuring the organization is protected from the risk of financial loss that inevitably results from those attacks -- typically a Risk Manager, Treasurer or General Counsel. Boards of Directors are increasingly responsible for oversight of both."

The report also crucially explains that "cyber threats are rarely contained within a clearly defined box. They combine characteristics of multiple kinds of threats, and can create a wide range of impacts depending on the attacker’s motives and the unintended consequences inherent to a viral attack."

What is more, "Attackers will take the path of least resistance. IoT devices usually ship with insecure configurations. Without vast improvement in consumer adoption of security best practices, they will create substantial risk for the foreseeable future. Even individuals and enterprises who practice good security basics aren't guaranteed to be safe without massive support from vendors to keep IoT updated with the latest security patches.

"The fluidity and complexity of cyber threats highlight the critical need to align prevention and remediation efforts. The individuals working to prevent cyber attacks from occurring ultimately share the same goal as the individuals working to protect the organization from the fallout of a breach, and they will be most effective in meeting their shared goal when they work together."

Having followed the interconnected relationship between IoT and cybersecurity by reading various reports and attending multiple conferences on the topic, I concur that "Risk Managers can and should communicate closely with CISOs to better understand not only where cyber vulnerabilities exist for their enterprise, but also what is being done to prevent them, as well as the likelihood and potential impact of a cyber event, should those prevention efforts be circumvented. Similarly, CISOs can and should communicate closely with Risk Managers to better understand how cyber risk transfer can complement the CISO’s efforts to prevent cyber attacks."

The report presents the following three questions for Risk Managers to ask:
  1. What are our unique vulnerabilities?
  2. How do we already protect ourselves?
  3. What could those vulnerabilities cost us?
Questions for CISOs to ask include:
  1. Why should we consider cyber insurance?
  2. What does cyber insurance cover?
  3. How is the legal landscape going to change the IoT?
AIG's report concludes that "connectivity enabled by the Internet of Things is creating new risks for enterprises. It is critical for those enterprises to close the gap between the person responsible for ensuring the organization is protected from cyber attacks and the person responsible for ensuring the organization is protected from the risk of financial loss stemming from attacks that do occur.

"The collaboration between Risk Managers and CISOs, and among them and other business leaders from across the company, should mirror the complexity and interconnectedness of attacks themselves. Only when leaders work together will businesses be well positioned to prevent attacks that can be prevented, respond as quickly as possible to attacks that do occur, and achieve restoration in a timely manner that minimizes long-term fallout.

"It all starts with a conversation."

What conversations are you having with your colleagues about IoT and cybersecurity?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

January 15, 2019

Report Says the Rising Incidence of Cardiovascular Diseases Poses a Substantial Challenge to Asia-Pacific Markets

"Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), disorders of the heart and blood vessels, are the leading global cause of death annually," says a published by The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU) and EIU Healthcare, its healthcare subsidiary. Commissioned by Amgen, an American biopharmaceutical company, Protecting the heart: Preventing cardiovascular disease in Asia further explains CVDs "levy a substantial financial toll on individuals, their households and the public finances. These include the costs of hospital treatment, long-term disease management and recurring incidence of heart attacks and stroke. They also include the costs of functional impairment and knock-on costs as families may lose breadwinners or have to withdraw other family members from the workforce to care for a CVD patient. Governments also lose tax revenue due to early retirement and mortality, and can be forced to reallocate public finances from other budgets to maintain an accessible healthcare system in the face of rising costs."

The report provides a study of the economic impact of CVD risk factors on the following Asian markets: Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. Below are its key takeaways:

"The rising incidence of CVD poses a substantial challenge to Asia-Pacific markets. The rising incidence and expected treatment costs of CVDs challenge the sustainability of many healthcare financing models in the region. Early retirement and functional disability from rising CVD incidence also erode the tax base and put pressure on social service budgets. This can lead to fiscal constraints that have a regressive impact on citizens. Reducing risk factor incidence, which could reduce and even prevent CVDs, is a more preferable strategy.

"The four main modifiable cardiovascular risk factors pose a communications challenge for governments and health agencies. Because the effects of the four risk factors on cardiovascular health—smoking, hypertension, obesity and high cholesterol— can accumulate over many years, individuals have little to no knowledge that they have increased their risk for CVD until symptoms occur. This makes preventing these risk factors all the more challenging.

"Hypertension is the risk factor that contributes the highest cost. Hypertension is exerting the greatest population attributable cost across the eight markets with an estimated total of US$18bn annually, according to Economist Intelligence Unit estimates. Across the other estimated annual risk factor costs, high cholesterol contributes US$15bn, smoking US$11bn, and obesity $8bn.

"The costs of CVDs are not fixed. Greater awareness and policymaker attention can substantially reduce CVD costs as many obstacles and corresponding solutions have been identified as effective. For example, the World Heart Federation provides a number of roadmaps to manage CVD risks brought on by hypertension, high cholesterol and smoking. For the two “silent” risk factors, the pathways are similar: improve patient and physician awareness of key risk factors, increase access to diagnostic testing, empower patients with knowledge, and provide professional support and affordable drug access to manage their risks.

"Policy options for primary prevention include choice 'nudges.' Policy options for primary prevention of all risk factors include 'nudges' to positively influence dietary choices, such as improved food labeling or partnerships with companies to encourage food reformulation to remove unhealthy ingredients. Investment in green spaces in urban areas and subsidized access to health facilities can also encourage physical activity.

"Effective secondary prevention can also significantly affect costs and outcomes. The recurrence rates for people suffering from a CVD event are high. For instance, in Australia, the risk of a subsequent stroke is 43% in the ten years following the first event, and the mortality rates for known sufferers of CVDs are substantially higher than those not at high risk. Across the span of a first CVD event and one’s death, the cost for disease management and the treatment of secondary events can be significant. Prioritizing at-risk groups can also drive positive impacts on CVD cost management."

Based on my experience, I agree that "[t]he Asia-Pacifc's CVD burden sits within the broader context of a rise in NCDs (noncommunicable diseases), due partly to ageing populations and partly to economic transition. It is a threat to the health and financial security of citizens and a burden on the public finances. Efforts to increase access to healthcare over recent decades will be undermined if cost-cutting measures are required to balance the books."

The report encouragingly concludes that "many risk factors for CVDs are modifiable through primary and secondary preventions, across behavior, lifestyle and medical domains. Looking forward, a powerful CVD action plan is one that targets multiple points along the 'continuum' from primary prevention to cost-effective treatment methods and secondary prevention. Innovation in service delivery and greater leveraging of data, digital technology and wearable devices can also help optimize CVD detection and management in cost-effective ways."

What solutions are you seeing that are reducing the incidence of CVDs?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.