A Look to the Future
By E.M. Wollof from SLN More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the The Cold Boot Blog Series
As is common with most technological sectors, the first few months of the year are dedicated more to projections than they are to invention. That being said, let's take a look at what may lay ahead for health tech sector in 2012.
1.) Computers that are "smarter" than you...
Last year saw the advent of IBM's Watson and Apple's Siri. The more impressive of the two, Watson, completely annihilated contestants on Jeopardy and is already helping medical professionals make diagnosis based purely on visual cues. Siri is much less impressive in my book, seeing as how the technology existed long before Apple decided to put it into a retail monolith.
The combination of the two could lead to some amazingly helpful medical technologies though. For those of you out there who tend to question even the smallest burn or legion, imagine taking a picture with your "phone," sending it to the cloud, and getting an answer in minutes. This type of technology, or a certain iteration of it, will most definitely be seen in 2012 (barring the end of the world, of course). That being said, I am sure that there will be some crafty fiscal politics that come into play when the development of these technologies is happening. I say this because a phone that can tell you you're ok is much much easier than a trip to the clinic.
2.) Data Collection
I have mentioned in previous blogs, the rise of data collection technology that is available across the internet. Sites like Foldit, 23andMe, and many more are basically just data farming sites that give the data gathered to higher ups that know what to do with it. The key to these sites, and many others like them, is the ability to tap into the computing power of the human mind (and the power of the machine that the human mind is communicating through).
The popularity and success of these sites is already at a high point, but projections for the new year point to even higher numbers.
3.) Social Health Network
Professional observers have begun using social networks as a way to track the spread of disease. For instance, if little Billy posts that he has the flu and then little Susy posts the same thing and they are located in the same geographic area, a flag is raised and "higher ups" begin to watch the spread of disease very intently.
There is no doubt that this type of observation will allow for more vaccines and treatments to be allocated to population centers that need them the most, we just have to hope that cyber-chondria doesn't throw a massive monkey wrench into this rather enlightened idea.
4.) Communication with Doctors
Similar to the cloud idea, in that a fairly instant answer/interaction with your doctor is becoming more of a reality than a wish. Using platforms like Skype or FaceTime with doctors that have the time to sit in front of their computer is a fast approaching medical treatment option. For those that are familiar with these platforms, you know that there can be some "issues" with them, but I'm sure that when they start to get used for more than simple interaction, you will see a bump in production quality.
Money is definitely something I see getting in the way of this. How is it that you charge your insurance when you only spoke to the doctor for a couple minutes over Skype? While most may look at that as a free consultation, when this platform takes off free may just be another dream phrase.
5.) Electronic Medical Records
I must admit to being a little nervous about this "advancement." As 2011 made very evident, there isn't much that is online that is actually safe. If we begin to store all of our medical information in the cloud, there is a distinct possibility that the information will become a hackers paradise, insurance fraud will hit all time highs, and valuable medical information will be lost to the deep abyss of the internet. In the end though, we may not have that much of a choice in the matter.
I must admit to being slightly disappointed by this list. When I was doing my research I didn't run across any graphene laced medical tech, bandages that heal entire wounds in a few hours or prosthetics that tailor themselves to your needs. I get the feeling, after looking at the projections, there is a whole lot of modesty going on and we are going to see some amazing things happen to our world in 2012. Here's to a year full of wonder!
See you next week...