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How AI Robotics are Transforming the Health Care Industry – ReadWrite

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Abeer Raza


Two of the most futuristic technologies that the world is leveraging today are AI and Robotics. Implementing these two technologies can lead to innovations in several industry verticals, including the healthcare industry.

AI Robotics are Transforming the Health Care Industry

AI and Robotics are already working in several healthcare establishments. They’re carrying out tasks such as genetic testing, robotic surgery, cancer research, data collection, and more.

Additionally, in the dermatology sector, AI is detecting skin cancer. The process of detecting skin cancer involves a technology, “MelaFind,” that uses infrared light to evaluate the skin condition. Afterward, with its sophisticated algorithms, AI evaluates the scanned data to determine skin cancer’s seriousness.

When it comes to the healthcare industry, there are several disciplines that AI and Robotics need to cover.

AI and Robotics require more unveiling and continued experimentation to become an integral part of the industry and bring innovations through these emerging technologies.

AI and Robotics can fill in the medical and healthcare industry gaps.

Numerous Innovations and discoveries are going out there due to the implementation of AI and robotics, and the positive experience from these implementations predicts the viability and benefits of deploying and utilizing AI and Robotics in the healthcare sector.

However, the most important question still remains unanswered; “are we ready to hand over the life and death decisions to the machines?”, “can machines decisively indicate whether the care being provided to a patient is enough or not?”

Answering the questions mentioned above may not be easy because there are numerous challenges and difficulties that the application of AI and Robotics may give rise to. However, one thing’s for sure: AI and Robotics are destined to become an integral part of the healthcare industry.

The implementations of AI and Robotics in the healthcare industry.

We’ll be covering several parts of the healthcare industry where this technology could alleviate the overstraining processes in healthcare delivery.

Below are some of the existing examples of implementation of AI and Robotics in the healthcare domain:

  • Determining the patient’s priority assessments in emergency service.
  • Automated health tracking of patients.
  • Quick and continuous supply of medicine and equipment throughout the hospital floors via intelligent robots.
  • Interacting with patients via vocals or facial recognition.
  • Programming personalized health programs in robots enable users to leverage them for multifunctional purposes.

The benefits mentioned above/implementations are a reality today. After having an overview of the viability, performance, and features of the technology, let’s discuss how AI and Robotics are improving the healthcare sector.

Intro to AI & Robotics in Healthcare Sector

AI and Robotics have already proved to be prevalent in the healthcare industry. The ubiquitous growth of these two technologies has the potential to transform numerous aspects of healthcare.

From providing personal care to patients to automating the drug production process, AI and Robotics can ensure a faster roll-out date and an efficient and accurate operation.

Moreover, there are several big tech firms out there that are capitalizing on AI and Robotics to improve the healthcare infrastructure. For example, Google is collaborating with the healthcare delivery network to build prediction models.

These prediction models by Google are based on big data and machine learning technology. They can warn the clinicians of high-risk conditions of the patient, such as heart failure or sepsis.

Furthermore, Microsoft is also focusing on transforming the healthcare industry by building and fostering a culture of intelligent health through AI and Cloud in healthcare organizations.

With so many tech-savvy companies involved in the fray, the AI and Robotics implementation is destined to prosper and revolutionize how the healthcare industry provides health care. Moreover, here are some way in which AI and Robotics are improving the healthcare industry currently:

1.   Supplementary Robots

These robots are generally aimed towards distributing stocks all around the hospital or wherever they’re needed. We’ve discussed these types of robots above as well; however, their importance and viability need to be explained furthermore.

In hospitals, there are times when multiple patients require instant medication or assistance. In such situations, the staff is usually in a hurry to assist the patient instead of carrying out other tasks. Hence, supplementary robots today are quickly taking care of tasks such as restocking, taking out the trash, and cleaning while the humans are spending more time with the patient.

A great example of a supplementary robot would be the automated UV Light Disinfectant Robot that goes into each hospital room and delivers a measured dose of UVC light to disinfect the targeted area. This robot also reduces significant pathogens in direct and shadowed areas.

2.   Exceptional Precision

Multiple robotic systems used in the world’s top hospitals today provide immense feasibility in carrying out more complex tasks at a rapid and accurate pace.

Robot’s concrete focus and attentive robots further strengthen their core functionality and enable them to perform tasks with extreme precision. These robots are backed by AI that allows them to learn while performing tasks. Due to such traits of robots, their importance in a health care organization cannot be denied.

As long as the software is correctly programmed within the robots, there are no chances of failure; however, human supervision is necessary. It’s a fact that robots need continual checkups and maintenance to work properly; hence, human intervention is crucial for now.

Moreover, some robots are also tasked to reallocate supplies throughout the hospital using specially designed routes and elevators within a hospital.

Another fine example of excellent precision would be the micro-robots used to perform micro-surgeries such as unclogging blood vessels. However, human intervention or supervision may be required to overlook the entire process or continually maintain the robotic systems.

3.   Remote Treatment

The idea of remote treatment has been there for more than a decade now. The technology was initially halted due to the poor network connectivity at the time of its implementation. However, further developments and experiments were conducted after the invention of 4G and 5G networks.

Today, although human intervention is required in the remote treatment sector, machines can perform several complex tasks independently.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Defense-funded the research at Carnegie Mellon University and Pittsburgh’s University to create a robotic trauma care system for treating soldiers.

Another impressive technological marvel is the bot-pill that performs an endoscopy in a very comfortable way compared to other options. Generally, the bot takes pictures of your intestines as it travels through them, and you can eliminate it naturally.

4.   Accurate Diagnostics

The precise and accurate diagnostics of human health conditions is where AI truly shines. The AI detects patterns that are leading the patient towards various health conditions. It determines the patient’s current state by analyzing and studying the healthcare records and data.

Tests so far have concluded that AI is capable of accurately diagnosing diseases in 87% of the cases. In contrast, health condition detection by humans had an 86% accuracy rate. This accuracy is further supported by the fact that Robots and AI can skim through thousands of cases instantly, looking for correlations between hundreds of variables.

Moreover, IBM Watson, healthcare technology, has hit the 99% mark in diagnosing cancer. Hence, considering the percentages mentioned above, I pretty much assume that AI and Robotics can rival even the finest doctors of the world when it comes to diagnostics.

5.   Performing Daily Tasks

Robots can perform daily tasks and carry out several functions that were being performed by humans. For example, a robot can make a sick or elderly person/patient feel attended all the time, minimizing the need for human presence. These robots are programmed to act as personal assistance.

Moreover, robots can also engage patients in conversations, help them take their medicine on time by reminding them, and even perform a basic checkup on them to analyze their health condition from time to time. Some simple routine checkups may include evaluating the patient’s blood pressure, sugar levels, and temperature.

Additionally, the technology of robots engaged in the task mentioned above is based on AI and machine learning; hence, they continuously learn from their patients’ experience. This learning further modifies their personality and sentiment analysis capabilities.

6.   Assisting Patients & Medical Practitioners

Some specific robots are designed to help the medical staff focus on other essential aspects of the hospital. These robots are helping patients by assisting them in walking or monitoring their health status.

Before the dawn of AI and Robots, tasks such as helping a patient walk, assisting the patient for his/her checkup, taking the history of the patient’s illness were manual and time-consuming. However, today these tasks can be easily automated and quickly carried out by machines.

Moreover, today, robots are helping humans with everything from minimally invasive procedures to complex open-heart surgeries. The technologies integrated within the machines like a built-in camera, mechanical arms, and surgical equipment provide more precision, flexibility, and control beyond human capabilities.

Another excellent example of these robots can be the prosthetic legs designed by Hugh Herr. The biomechatronic feet allow the user to walk independently without human intervention.

The sensors in these bionic feet connect with the person’s muscles and allow more mobility and stability. These sensors perfectly replicate human feet’ functioning and give the user more advantage over the original feet.

The Promising Future of AI & Robotics in Healthcare

Many experts agree that the future of AI and Robotics seems promising. However, AI or robots will not be taking full control over the healthcare industry anytime soon. Human intervention and supervision would still be an essential factor in ensuring 100% accuracy in the overall process.

Also, the patients are known to develop a closer relationship with their doctors, nurses, or other medical staff. This specific relationship gives patients a feeling of not being alone. This feeling can never be replicated by machines or robots. Hence, humans will always be there with AI and robotics to cure patients and deliver a comforting and soothing experience together.

Moreover, the viability of AI and robotics is destined to prosper in upcoming years. The healthcare advantages that machine learning and robotics are unparallel to what we could accomplish manually.

From improving the clinical workflow to pinpointing the exact cause of a patient’s particular medical condition, AI and robotics benefit the healthcare domain. Hence, it is quite apparent that AI will ultimately master the healthcare domain in the future.

Abeer Raza

Founding Partner

A Serial Entrepreneur, Author, Growth Hacker, Business Consultant and Keynote Speaker.
I’m on a mission to revolutionize the world by helping other entrepreneurs disrupt their domains using emerging technology solutions. I enjoy guiding today’s leaders and revolutionary thinkers by making sure their visions are brought to life in the most effective way possible.

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The Future of Mobile Payments in a Post-COVID-19 World – ReadWrite

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The Future of Mobile Payments in a Post-COVID-19 World - ReadWrite


The payments sector has been remarkably dynamic for some years now: dizzying valuations, double-digit growth rates, and an ever-increasing speed of technology advancement on a scale barely experienced in any other industry. We have seen the coronavirus fully transform consumers’ shopping habits, drive retailers to the verge of bankruptcy, and shine a spotlight on the value of digital capabilities, all of which have served as an enormous catalyst in an already fast-moving payment industry.

The Future of Mobile Payments in a Post-COVID-19 World

Many people think that everything is now changed — but we have no reason to think that this new normal is here to stay. However, the changes will only advance further, with far-reaching implications on business strategy for players along the entire payments value chain.

Consumer payment methods are evolving at a rapid pace, reshaping payments all over the world.

This has been particularly evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, as transactions have gradually moved online as stores have been forced to close. Overall, the ways we pay are affected by our cultures, habits, innovations, and the technology available to us.

Digital Payments

In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the digital payment industry is booming and fundamentally changing. The crisis has changed people’s views of payments and financial services, with cash use decreasing and contactless adoption promoted by several countries. This shift to a cashless society affects all aspects: retailers, merchants, consumers, governments, financial institutions, and service providers.

As per Market Research Future (MRFR), the global mobile payments market is anticipated to reach USD 3,300 billion at a CAGR of 32% from 2017 to 2023 (forecast period). In today’s market, the mobile payments market is predicted to have a high growth potential.

For day-to-day transactions, mobile payments are a cashless medium.

A technology that allows users to make instant cashless payments using their smartphones. According to the study, the significant driving factor for the mobile payments market is the technological advancements that are occurring in today’s world. The adoption of advanced technologies such as near field communications (NFC) is increasing its popularity.

NFC allows users to connect two electronic devices, such as smartphones, by simply bringing them close to each other. Furthermore, other driving factors include the ease of use, secure approach, speed, and offers associated with it.

According to the Worldpay Global Payments Study, the growth of mobile payments will continue to be the biggest factor in consumer payment in 2020, making shopping simpler than ever and already leading e-commerce payment preferences with 42% of spending in 2019—up from 36% in 2018.

Personalized Service for Customers

As we all know, in addition to innovation, the commerce and banking industries are working hard to have a plethora of payment methods that are customized based on the needs of the consumers, both online and in-store.

Will cash continue?

Although Deutsche Bank assumes that cash will continue, the next decade will see rapid growth in mobile payments, leading to a decrease in the use of plastic cards. Over the next five years, mobile payments are projected to account for two-fifths of in-store transactions in the United States, quadrupling the current amount.

Mobile payments, which range from retailer-specific applications to wallets provided by financial institutions, device manufacturers, and technology platforms, deliver convenience and protection to customers and businesses worldwide. In 2020 alone, over one billion shoppers used mobile payments.

Similar growth is anticipated in other developing countries; however, different countries will experience varying cash and plastic card shrinkage levels. In emerging markets, the impact can be felt much earlier. Many consumers in these countries are making the switch from cash to mobile payments without ever having used a plastic card.

Generation-Z – today’s children and young adults – would also have a huge effect on the future of payments.

This technology-savvy generation, born and brought up in a mobile-first world, accounts for nearly 26% of the global population. Learning how to navigate the world in the age of “fake news” and getting their digital lives bombarded with messages of dubious quality and authenticity, Gen-Z wants more personalization, better quality, and greater performance from businesses.

Brands that want to win over Gen-Z must also appeal to their digital, flexible, and mobile-focused payment preferences. The ubiquitous smartphone is quickly becoming the new wallet of choice for this generation. Many customers opt to store their favorite cards in their phones rather than carrying physical cards. This is causing major shifts in global point-of-sale payment acceptance, which has risen from 16% in 2018 to 22% in 2019.

 China is the Market Leader in Digital Wallets

We can learn a lot about the future of payments (particularly during the pandemic) from developments in China, which is building a world-class mobile payment infrastructure. There, the value of online payments accounts for nearly three-quarters of GDP (71%), nearly double the proportion in 2012. Today, just under half of all in-store transactions in China are made using a mobile phone, far above levels seen in other developed markets (25% in Germany and 24% in the U.S.).

Mobile payments now account for 22% of global point-of-sale spend in 2019 and are predicted to account for nearly a third (30%) of customer payments over the next five years. The increasing share of mobile payments adoption will be driven primarily by the steady decline in the physical usage of credit cards, debit cards, and charge/deferred debit.

 Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 is projected to have a major impact on the mobile payments industry. Contactless payments are thought to be more hygienic and safer. This trend is being driven by players in the commerce ecosystem who claim that contactless transactions improve safety and health. Compared to pre-COVID-19 projections, global contactless adoption was expected to rise by 6% to 8%, with an additional 110 million contactless payment cards expected to be released in 2020.

Mastercard’s global transactional data

Furthermore, Mastercard’s global transaction data and market analysis show a substantial rise in the use of mobile payments. As per the poll results, the number of mobile payments at supermarkets, groceries, and pharmacies during the March 2020 lockdown as a proportion of all face-to-face card payments rose by 25% compared to the previous year.

It’s cleaner to use contactless — that’s evident

Mobile payments are now used by 79% of people worldwide and 91% in the Asia Pacific, citing protection and cleanliness. The data reinforces how people search for alternatives in stores, choosing a secure and fast tap to check out over dealing with cash, pens, and keypads.

Even now that the coronavirus pandemic is beginning to abate — contactless cards and mobile payments are increasing in the United States and Canada, according to the results of an April 2020 survey.

During the pandemic, almost one-third of US customers used mobile payments for the first time, and the majority intend to continue using mobile payments after COVID-19. Mobile payments in the United States are predicted to more than double between 2020 and 2024, and contactless card payments are also rising.

Conclusion

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge effect on our social and economic well-being. Nevertheless, it is also true that it has been one of the most powerful forces of global digitalization.

Digital payments, particularly mobile payments, have risen as a reliable way for businesses and enterprises to operate in the post-COVID-19 new normal.

After discussing the effect of COVID-19 on all payment industries, one thing is clear: if any company wants to survive the pandemic — and all of the other “things” that may come down on “human-existence-pipeline —  it must use mobile payment methods.

All companies must provide their customers with easy, convenient, and socially distancing-friendly forms of payments.

Image Credit: tim doublas; pexels; thank you!

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How Blockchain Is Being Used With Smart Buildings – ReadWrite

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Saul Bowden


Whether you realize it or not, many of us live in buildings with some smart capacity. You probably have at least one smart device in your home.

With the smart device industry set to grow by $65 billion by 2024, the odds are, you’ll add more of these devices. The true potential of smart homes lies in the ability of smart devices to communicate together — and that’s where blockchain technology comes in.

How Blockchain is Being Used With Smart Buildings

On the surface, smart technologies make individual tasks easier, but the potential is much larger than that. A smart device is effectively a sensor able to collect significant amounts of data about everything, from your energy use to how well-stocked your fridge is.

Smart Technology Works Better in Swarms

On its own, this data is valuable; when combined with data from other devices, its usability becomes game-changing. A properly connected smart home would be able to automatically adjust the heating to your preferences while minimizing bills, ordering your favorite groceries, monitoring and adjusting energy usage, sending repair notifications if something breaks, and much more.

Internet of Things (IoT) technologies are already used extensively in supply chain management. They help efficiently manage products passed through multiple stakeholders and verify that products are what the label says they are.

Catching Slave Labor in Fishing Supply Chains

One example where smart technology has been useful is in tracking fishing supply chains. The World Wildlife Federation (WWF) has used IoT to track sustainable tuna fishing.

The Western and Central Pacific tuna trade is rife with illegal fisheries — and, in some cases, slave labor — because tracking is either done via an easily-forged paper trail or not at all. However, savvy consumers and brands are demanding more accountability from the tuna industry.

The WWF’s branches in New Zealand, Australia, and Fiji have combined forces with blockchain software studio ConsenSys to implement secure traceability and track to address the problem.

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) or QR codes capture information as a fish moves through the supply chain from the boat to grocers. Tracking information is automatically saved in blockchain, making it nearly impossible to forge.

Privacy and Compatibility Remain a Concern

Although smart technology has many uses in enterprise settings, it becomes a thornier prospect for individuals. IoT devices collect huge amounts of data which can reveal a lot about their owners. Additionally, they are often poorly secured, creating significant security challenges.

Most smart devices must run on centralized platforms controlled by major tech companies, notably Amazon and Google.

There have been significant privacy concerns about both companies due to their access to an extraordinary amount of personal data.

Amazon Alexa’s Vulnerabilities

Setting aside concerns about microphones, Amazon’s voice-activated assistant Alexa also presents other significant security concerns.

Although Amazon provides some privacy protections, with 100 – 200 million Alexa devices and over 100,000 skills already deployed, there is a significant concern about malicious developers taking advantage of security holes.

For example, developer names aren’t verified, allowing a malicious developer to stage a phishing attack posing as a different company. This risk is especially high with some skills that link to email, banking, or social media accounts.

After a skill has been approved and added to the marketplace, a malicious developer can change its coding without getting Amazon’s approval or notifying the customer. Many developers also have misleading privacy policies — or none at all, meaning that customers will have no idea how their personally identifiable information will be used.

Lack of Device Compatibility

The second challenge is compatibility. Early adopters are painfully familiar with the concept of device divorce, where two smart devices cannot speak with another. Part of the problem is that Amazon and Google are used as primary smart home controllers, and there isn’t a platform-agnostic solution widely available to most consumers.

Blockchain Technology is the Missing Piece of the Puzzle

Blockchain technologies are working to provide the solution to these challenges and others since they can enable P2P connections without the need for a centralized validator.

With blockchain, it would be possible to connect numerous smart devices without being forced to hand that data directly over to the device manufacturer, mitigating privacy and security concerns. It can also provide increased transparency over how data is used, helping users understand what data their smart home is collecting and what it’s used for.

Blockchain technology is also hardware agnostic. Thus, it would be possible for users to pair together devices from different manufacturers without worrying about compatibility.

IOTA’s Tangle vs. Traditional Blockchain

One of the best examples of this vision is the IoT-focused blockchain IOTA.

It is important to understand that we are not talking about financial blockchain technology like Bitcoin. Blockchains based on traditional Proof of Work (PoW), like Bitcoin, lack the speed and scalability necessary to process the millions of data points produced by smart devices.

Instead, we are looking at smart device-focused technologies, most notably IOTA. IOTA uses a Tangle specifically designed for data and value transfer.

Blockchains like Bitcoin are essentially long chains of blocks containing transactions. The Tangle, on the other hand, is constructed as a directed acyclic graph (DAG), which is a collection of vertices connected by edges.

Eliminating Validators

IOTA’s implementation is designed in such a way that each new transaction (vertice) must approve two previous transactions when it enters the Tangle. This eliminates the need for Proof of Stake (PoS) or PoW consensus methods.

Because these transactions don’t require always-online validators, they are feeless and contain metadata that makes them suitable for micropayments and data transfer.

IOTA’s Partnerships

IOTA is interesting because the technology is more mature than many other IoT-focused blockchain solutions. The project has experienced past problems, but the roll-out of its improved Tangle has allowed it to secure some important partnerships, primarily in areas designed to improve transparency.

Properly Validating Smart Device Data Is The First Step

IOTA’s most important partnership for smart homes is undoubtedly Project Alvarium. The biggest challenge posed by IoT — and smart devices in general — is the sheer volume of data collected. The vastness of information makes assessing what data is trustworthy and useful difficult, especially in an automated environment.

To solve this problem, Dell and IOTA teamed up to create Project Alvarium, designed to provide a simple way to assess the trustworthiness of data gathered.

Project Alvarium’s system logs every datapoint as it travels across the system. Each interaction is given a trust rating, which is logged on the IOTA Tangle to prevent tampering. This provides a simple way to find problems or deliberate tampering within a network of data.

Blockchain Can Help Resolve Security Concerns About Smart Security

When smart home users are certain that they can trust the data being generated by their devices, it opens up a world of opportunities that could transform our daily lives.

The most immediate use of blockchain technology is in improving building security. The most high-profile problem is undoubtedly Amazon’s Ring. In late 2020, dozens of people sued Amazon over accusations that their Ring doorbells had been breached.

The breach enabled hackers to watch people inside their homes and talk to individuals in the house over the Ring speakers.

Additionally, the product’s privacy policy is porous and allows Amazon to share video and microphone data with numerous third parties, removing any expectation of privacy.

The Blockchain Difference

Blockchain has been shown to resolve both the problem of data breaches as well as hacking takeovers. Capturing a blockchain-powered device would require compromising the entire blockchain itself compromised.

But proper validation, such as that proposed by IOTA, allows malicious devices to be pruned from the network, significantly improving security.

Additionally, blockchain could enable consumers to understand how their data is being used, helping to make smart devices more privacy-focused.

Smart Building Management Solutions are Already Being Tested

The value of blockchain technology becomes even bigger at scale. One of the most impactful uses of IoT and blockchain technology is in building management. Whether for an apartment building or an office building, it’s often difficult to effectively manage a building’s heating, lighting, and security in a way that minimizes waste.

Example: How Blockchain Could Manage Heating Bills

In a traditional setting, most buildings are managed centrally. If there is a unified heating system, it is often controlled by the local administration. Although this system is more efficient than individually-heated buildings, there is significant room for human error. That’s because the system is not optimized to account for more efficient heating higher up in the building as heat rises.

A network of heating sensors could be used to automatically measure the temperature in each apartment or office in a building. If the different thermostats could communicate with each other, it should be possible to input all the data into a blockchain solution.

A scheme like this would allow the building operators to create a proper heat map of the building and understand the most efficient usage of energy. It would also enable residents to access the data and understand why the system works the way it does.

Theoretically, it could also enable a user to select a target temperature for their apartment by leveraging rising heat from lower apartments.

Solutions on the Horizon

This kind of project is already being tested. For example, Brickschain offers several products that minimize difficulties with building management and handover on sale. There are also an increasing number of studies looking at how blockchain can be positively implemented into the building management process.

The Future of IoT: Many-to-Many Marketplaces

When buildings are utilizing IoT devices and blockchains, a bigger opportunity opens up: decentralized marketplaces.

Currently, it can be difficult to get the best deal on energy or heating bills because it is a marketplace with many customers but only a few providers. Switching providers can be difficult and doesn’t guarantee a competitive rate.

However, with blockchain, it would be possible to change providers based on real-time pricing data. This setup would create a competitive many-to-many environment where many providers are looking to sell energy to many customers. The competition among providers would drive down energy prices and improve overall efficiency in energy markets.

Swedish District Heating Study

Sweden has conducted studies to investigate the utility of blockchain for a district heating market. The setup allows apartment blocks already utilizing blockchain to automatically select the most affordable provider at any given moment, minimizing bills without requiring micromanagement.

The same concept could be applied to many aspects of building management.

Decentralized Governance

One interesting idea is the concept of decentralized governance. This type of network could empower tenants and apartment owners to vote on changes to their apartment block’s management proceedings.

For example, renters could vote in favor of using only green energy sources or for changes to living space regulations. Building administrators could then better understand their occupants’ needs and create a better living environment for all involved.

Blockchain Will be Needed to do IoT Correctly

Adoption of IoT and smart technologies will likely increase. Governments like the UK are already pushing hard on smart meters and many of us have already adopted some form of smart technology in our homes.

This rush to adopt new technology will undoubtedly come with significant scaling problems as well as security concerns and significant privacy issues.

Additionally, a market dominated by a handful of major tech companies like Amazon and Google could prove damaging to the consumer in the long term.

To counter these eventualities, we’ll need a platform-agnostic solution that allows a more diverse field of producers to create new IoT devices.

Blockchain technology still represents the best way to utilize IoT for everyone’s benefit. If solutions like IOTA are implemented into existing smart homes, then we could build a new decentralized marketplace that will give us better control of our data, while improving the efficiency of our homes.

Image Credit: pixabay; thank you!

Saul Bowden

Saul writes about tech & business, he’s covered everything from cryptocurrency to the oil & gas industry. He spends time working with start-ups and writes for commodity.com.

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Social Sign-on: Sure, it’s convenient. But is it really safe? – ReadWrite

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Remembering passwords is always a hassle, especially when you have innumerable websites that require logging in to view or interact with their content. To make the process simpler (as little as a couple of clicks), webmasters worldwide have accepted and implemented social logins on their websites.

Social Sign-on: Sure, it’s convenient. But is it really safe?

So, what exactly is social login? How different is it compared to the traditional method of inputting your credentials such as username, email address and password manually? More importantly, is it safe enough for use on all kinds of browsing activities?

Disadvantages of Social Sign-On

In this article, we answer all the above questions and more, helping you understand what social sign-on is, and what the disadvantages of this convenient method are.

The history of social logins

Social sign-on as a method of hassle-free authentication has been around for over a decade now. Back in the nascent days of the modern internet in 2008, Facebook launched Facebook Connect, a service aimed at simplifying registrations on websites.

Once webmasters enabled FB Connect on their websites, visitors to the site would no longer need to fill up lengthy registration forms to sign up for the website’s offerings.

All they needed to do was connect their existing Facebook account to the website, enabling direct access to the site with a click of a button.

In 2009 and 2010, Twitter and LinkedIn respectively enabled their users to socially login to other sites using their existing social network credentials.

Google+ followed suit in 2011, and although no longer active as Google+, it still supports social sign-on using a Google account.

While it all sounds very convenient, social sign-on has many drawbacks and challenges that impact both website visitors and website owners.

Social Sign-on: The challenges and disadvantages

The Trust Factor

Most internet users do not trust the websites they browse to store and utilize their personal information safely and responsibly. Often, website visitors are concerned about how the information they have shared will be used.

In a June 2020 survey conducted by Insider Intelligence, 32% of US Facebook users felt that they somewhat disagreed that the platform could keep their data and privacy secure.

Not everyone has the time or patience to read the data handling and privacy policy put forth by a website, so they simply choose to be cynical of the data they share on such sites.

Data Accuracy

People tend to be wary of the private information they share online; they often resort to uploading falsified or inaccurate information about themselves on social media.

Considering that these social media sites do not verify or vouch for the authenticity of their user’s information, this could be less than ideal for a website looking for accurate data while accepting new user registrations.

In 2019, Facebook released data that said that 16% of the accounts on its platform are fake/duplicate accounts created by individuals or companies. What’s more worrisome are the findings of the research team at NATO StratCom that suggest 95% of the reported fake accounts still continued to remain active, with no action taken by the social media website.

With no checks on the actual profile that’s being used to socially sign-on to your website, you could soon have an imposter, Donald Trump or Joe Biden signing up for your global warming newsletter or purchasing a bag of your freshly powdered Mexican coffee.

Not everyone’s social — nor on social

While we talk about social media, we need to understand that although it is a global phenomenon with an insanely large number (read 3.6 billion) of people using it, there is still a sizeable chunk (>50%) of the population that is not on social media.

Using a restrictive method, you risk alienating a section of society that could be your potential target audience.

Transfer of Power

Enabling social sign-on seems pretty enticing at first, considering it would cut down your authentication work significantly. But this very ‘benefit’ could end up costing you dearly, as you lose control over your visitors’ data to a third-party service provider, i.e., the social media network.

Should there be any downtime at the social media service’s end, your website visitors would be stranded, unable to login to your site or access their data?

Access Control Issues

Many internet access places tend to have controls in place when it comes to accessing social media. For example, corporate and educational networks generally block access to social websites. Certain countries like Iran, China, Syria, and North Korea have blanket bans on the most popular social websites.

Social sign-on still depends on an API call-back to the social networking site to authenticate the user. Thus, by having social sign-on set up on your website, visitors authenticating on your site through these networks would end up facing a website with broken functionality.

Security concerns

Social media accounts are often the target of several hacking and phishing attempts. Thus, if your user’s social media account is hacked, it could lead to their account on your site being compromised as a result.

A University of Maryland study revealed a hacking attempt every 39 seconds on average, affecting a third of Americans every year.

Hacked social accounts could have an adverse impact on your website as well, by performing activities that might eat up your server resources or corrupt your files, if your security is not up to the mark. Secure authentication is the need of the hour, and knowledge of the security practices will help solve these concerns.

Too much to choose

People use many social media websites, so keeping a single social login can be counterproductive. However, providing multiple methods to login could likely confuse or overwhelm your visitor, leading to lower conversion or sign-up rates.

Lesser data to work with

Using a social sign-on for your website would mean limited access to user data, especially email. Not every social media network allows websites to access the customer’s email address. For businesses that rely on customer information for lead generation, this would be a major deal-breaker.

Awareness of all the security practices and malpractices (sawolabs dotcom) will help educate users as well as the website owners.

If not social sign-on, then what?

All the above drawbacks would make webmasters question the efficacy of social sign-on. But then, is there a better alternative that does not include such shortcomings?

Say hello to passwordless authentication powered by SAWO Labs. A new-age solution designed to address all concerns of security, compatibility and functionality.

Image Credit: yellow graphic — from author; thank you!

 Top Image Credit: karolina grabowska; pexels; thank you!

Akshay Shetye

Akshay Shetye

“SAWO – Secure Authentication Without OTP – is a B2B2C service-based company whose API Integration enables one-tap authentication on your app (Android, iOS) and web to provide a passwordless and OTP-less authentication experience. We are a secure, sustainable, and cost-effective solution to making a business passwordless and OTP-less.”

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