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Smart Devices in Healthcare: Where Technology and Ethics Meet

As the Internet of Things (IoT) industry explodes, the possibilities for what can be accomplished through technology is endless. For those in the dark, the Internet of Things is a catch-all term for smart devices, or objects that connect to the Internet to transmit data. It seems as if every day, a new IoT technology is hitting the market and transforming the way we do everything: from buying groceries to locking doors to watering the lawn. One of the most exciting industries for IoT is healthcare, as the technology is churning out all sorts of devices and inventions that will change the way patients and doctors track and manage their health and wellbeing. Here are just a few.

Smart Tattoos: Taking FitBit to the next level Researchers at Harvard and MIT have developed biosensitive tattoo ink that changes color according to changes within the body such as pH, dehydration or blood sugar. This would be particularly helpful to diabetics. The researches say the ink is just the beginning, and they are setting their sights on biosensitive henna or even makeup.

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Smart Hearing Aid: Language barriers be gone The traditional hearing aid has gotten a serious upgrade, thanks to Starkey Hearing Technologies. Their newest hearing aid not only fulfills the device’s original purpose: it also uses artificial intelligence to translate speech into 27 different languages. The device can translate words spoken in a foreign language in real time for the user. It additionally serves as a health tracker with the typical step counting and activity measurement, along with other unique measurements such as social engagement. Soon, the company says the aid will give its older users peace of mind by being able to sense if the user has fallen and immediately contacting emergency responders.

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Smart pills: A breach of privacy? The FDA has approved “smart pills,” containing sensors that notify your doctor through an app when you take a pill. The system was created for patients suffering from mental illness. However, the invention has stirred controversy as critics question whether health insurance companies could purchase access to this data and then discriminate against patients regarding their uses of medicine.

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Smart Cancer Detection: The most scientific selfies Although skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, accounting for almost half of all cancer cases, the disease is almost always treatable if detected early enough. An app called SkinVision hopes to change this. The user can take pictures of skin lesions and the app uses a mathematical theory called ‘fractal geometry’ to analyze them. A published study that tested 195 different photos found the app to be 81% accurate in detecting melanoma—not enough to avoid seeing a dermatologist, but surely a step in a promising direction.

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Smart Inhalers: Bluetooth for better breathing A study has found that two-thirds of the 1,200 deaths from asthma attacks in the UK each year can be prevented with better routine care. However, smart inhalers are transforming the way patients and doctors treat the disease. The inhalers use Bluetooth technology to track use, remind patients to take medication and gather and analyze data to further customize and improve treatment.

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Smart Glasses: You, too, can give the gift of vision Aira glasses lend a helping hand to the blind in difficult situations whether it be crossing a busy street or navigating the grocery store shelves. The smart glasses connect to an agent in real time, supplying them with live video footage and Google Maps location. The video is so clear, it can even read items on a menu. The agent can then be the user’s eyes and talk them through the particular situation. You can even apply to become an agent and help others accomplish the things we often take for granted such as color-matching clothes, locating a stadium seat, going for a hike and more.

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Even more incredible than this progress is potential for the future. Scientists predict that by the end of 2020, 25% of patient health data will be BYOD—that is, ‘bring your own data.’ As more and more health-tracking smart technology is created and interconnected with our daily devices like our phones, patients will be much more in tune with their own health. This has the potential to transform the patient-doctor relationship and the healthcare field as a whole. However, with such a massive quantity of sensitive personal data at our fingertips, questions of privacy and ethics rise. Companies have suggested implanting chips in humans to track their location in the case of them getting lost or even track their vital signs. Where do we draw the line between safety and privacy? Just as Facebook data breaches happen all the time, it is more than possible that individual’s personal health information could be hacked as well.









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