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How to stop your smart tv (and outsiders) from spying on you

(TECH NEWS) What to do if you buy a Smart TV but don’t want outsiders using it to spy on you.

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Wolf in sheep’s clothing

So, there’s probably a spy in your house. I mean, I’m not certain. I don’t have, like, a personal army of silverfish up in your pad, feeding me your secrets… that you know of.

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No, I’m afraid, as is so often the case among spies, a friend has turned on you.

Your home television; that big warm rectangle of post-work bliss is also probably the biggest, most emphatically unlocked door in your digital house.

Feels like a betrayal, doesn’t it? That shiny plastic jerk has been the centerpiece of American home life since Howdy Doody and Milton Berle. Seriously. The first successful American television, this sexy beast, hit the market in 1946, a good 70 years ago. People are dying of old age who have never lived in a house without a TV.

Why now? Why this treachery, old friend?

Because, it says, as it tears one of those plastic-like Mission Impossible Tom Cruise masks off, it’s not your friend at all. That’s no television!

It’s a very big, very dumb smartphone.

Not completely screwed

Not always, of course. If your set still looks a pizza oven rather than a pizza box, feel free to go about your business. You’re done here. CRT is the way to be.

But for most of us televising in the current century, our TVs are at least a little “smart.” In this context, that just means they send and receive digital information.

Short of digitally or physically disabling that functionality, you are not in control of what information your TV is or is not sharing, or with whom.

At the risk of editorializing, that sucks.

Thankfully, some worthy geeks have addressed themselves to the problem. Their results boil down to two solutions, both slightly less demanding than your previous best option, which was tearing every single thing out of your TV that was engineered later than Sputnik and resigning yourself to a Netflix-less life.

1. The Gentle Lobotomy

This one’s a bit of a cheat, because it does involve turning off the smart features of your Smart TV. It’s only a bit of a cheat, though, because then you just replace those features with another thing that provides most of the same features through a different service: one built by people who both (a) know and (b) care about data security.

My own Amazon Fire stick has served me nobly in that respect for years, but several other solutions exist.

As a datasec solution, a properly branded dongle is particularly useful to people already invested in compatible services.

For example, if you use Chrome and/or Drive and/or Gmail, at the risk of simultaneously bumming you out and stating the obvious, Google already knows everything about you worth knowing.

Good news, though! Google’s good at security, and they have a serious, market-driven reason to guarantee yours: no point knowing all your darkest secrets if everyone else does too. Get yourself a Chromecast and app yourself silly. Likewise, if you’re a Think Different type of techie, silhouette-dance yourself up an Apple TV. The cost isn’t egregious, and the comfort factor is substantial.

2. The “Daisy, Daisy” approach

This is for the hands-on crowd. If you’ve made your smart TV a serious part of your life, one of the aforementioned preloaded dongles may present too many compatibility or processing issues to serve. If that’s the case, your best option is to dig down into Settings (or your TV’s equivalent), work through the apps that have any information you’d rather not share with Putin, 4chan, or both, and deactivate their information sharing protocols.

That will cut into their usability, but at least your info will be safe.

The ugly fact is that “smart” TVs are the perfect instance of what smart people were warning consumers about back when we all got into always-on connectivity and the Internet of Things. At best, they’re machines possessed of enormous power and no responsibility. That breaks the Uncle Ben rule, and whenever you break the Uncle Ben rule, Spider-Man sheds a single tear.

At worst?

This. This is at worst. This is your TV literally peering into your house and sharing what it sees and hears with whomever has the functionality to make it do so. It was the CIA that time.

Next time?

Be skeptical

There are still some commonsense solutions, as listed above. That said, this was an unbelievable failure of responsibility on the part of the makers and sellers of the tech, and a culpable act of ignorance on the part of, well, us. The above should, if you’re lucky, keep the entire Internet from looking on in wonder as you down a half gallon of butter pecan without a spoon, six episodes deep into Great British Bake-Off.

But it’s all short term. These exploits exist because people want them, and the only way they get closed is if other people want them harder.

If it has a camera or a microphone or gets to know anything you’d rather every single other person didn’t, you need to buy on the basis that it secures that information.

That’s the Internet of Things the hard way. It’s incredibly convenient. It’s also things, and at the risk of getting unduly dark, things don’t care who they hurt.

#smarttviswatchingyou

Matt Salter is a writer and former fundraising and communications officer for nonprofit organizations, including Volunteers of America and PICO National Network. He’s excited to put his knowledge of fundraising, marketing, and all things digital to work for your reading enjoyment. When not writing about himself in the third person, Matt enjoys horror movies and tabletop gaming, and can usually be found somewhere in the DFW Metroplex with WiFi and a good all-day breakfast.

Tech News

The fascinating future of technology in healthcare

(TECH NEWS) Technology in the world of healthcare has been lagging but things are changing, and quickly.

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Tech in healthcare has been lagging

It’s undeniable that technology is playing a huge role in how we get around, how we interact with each other, and how we do business. But what about how healthcare is delivered and managed?

For many patients, interactions with the healthcare world can feel jarringly slow and disconnected, especially when it comes to communication between doctors and patients or between different healthcare providers.

Doctors and tech entrepreneurs acknowledge that in many ways, technology in healthcare has been lagging – but that’s about to change, and quickly. From the way hospitals are built to the way we visit doctors, get ready for some huge technology disruptions in the world of healthcare.

How patient data is shared

It may not seem like the sexiest part of the healthcare world, but it’s a critical aspect of how care is delivered: patient data.

“If you’re a patient, it’s difficult to track down your medical records,” says Kevin Grassi, MD, Chief Medical Officer and Co-Founder of PatientBank. “95% of medical info is exchanged by fax or by hand. In 2016 it’s ridiculous for faxing to be the main communication method, but faxing is HIPAA compliant, and it’s been the backbone of medical information exchange.”

Today, online fax services are the only easy way for patients to receive digital copies of their medical records.

There are health information exchanges in certain geographic areas, but they are limited to information like immunizations and prescriptions, Grassi says, and systems in different parts of the country aren’t set up to communicate with each other.

So if you’re a resident of New York who is seeing an oncologist in Texas, you’re on your own finding and conveying all the pertinent medical details, and you will likely have to navigate through several isolated patient portals.

That’s where Grassi hopes PatientBank will change things. PatientBank is a HIPAA-compliant service that can request medical records for you from multiple providers, and combines the information you choose to store into a summary that can be shared with doctors and family members.

Grassi hopes the technology will not only make it easier to safely share information, it will also increase patient engagement. That’s a crucial issue for doctors as well, since reimbursement models for physicians will change in 2017, from a fee-for-care model to a value-based system.

In an effort to improve patient outcomes, doctors will be required to do much more follow up care than they currently do.

“If a patient can give medical record access to their doctor, they’re empowered to look at that information, maybe even see where it isn’t correct – which is a big issue particularly in medication records,” Grassi says. “Engaged patients are healthier patients.”

It’s not just transmitting patient data that is difficult – sometimes just getting it in the first place is nearly impossible. That’s something Fahad Aziz, Co-Founder and CTO of CareMerge, learned firsthand when he got into a bicycle accident. He was treated in Seattle, then went back to San Francisco, where his doctor wanted to learn what had happened and how he’d been treated in order to give Aziz follow up care.

“I couldn’t get my medical records from the operation in Seattle. They put me in an endless loop of trying to get my records, and after two weeks I just gave up,” Aziz says. “That started me thinking differently about my company, and what we are doing.”

CareMerge builds coordination and communications technology specific to geriatric care that lets doctors share information with nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

If a doctor sends a patient from a hospital to a nursing care facility, for instance, that physician can use CareMerge to keep tabs on the patient’s progress and get alerts if there’s a change so that a doctor can visit at the nursing home.

That cuts down on patients being readmitted to hospitals, and improves patient outcomes, Aziz says. That’s a direction he sees a lot of healthcare technology going.

“There are close to 100,000 apps that area healthcare-related, but they are all isolated, none of them talk to each other,” Aziz says. “There’s been a lot of talk around building care coordination systems that talk to each other, but there wasn’t a driver to really make that take off until the shift to value-based reimbursements was finalized. All the entities responsible for providing patient care will have to talk to each other, and for the first time these systems are starting to get traction.”

Make way for AI

Aziz predicts that artificial intelligence (AI) is also going to lead to major changes in the healthcare industry.

“A lot of startups are working on technology that will read notes from your doctors, and based on intelligence like your own labs, or viral incidents in the area, will give you recommendations,” Aziz says. “That’s where the future is going to be. Five years from now, there is no doubt you and I will have an app that will give information about an episode happening to me, and what it means not just for me but for my whole family.”

That kind of machine learning will eventually replace many routine doctor’s visits, Aziz predicts.

AI will be able to coordinate data in a way that is currently not possible, he says, which could mean better, more coordinated treatment plans for complex health problems.

Smarter hospitals

That same unified coordination will also become a factor in the new hospitals being built.

Auron Priestley, MD, says that hospitals are under duress trying to solve the issues around patient handoff.

“Physicians today have no secure and efficient collaborative tool to share information at the end of shift changes,” Priestley says. “Believe it or not, they use Word documents to share information between each other at the end of shifts. Often written in short code and when physicians are exhausted, some information may be missed. Miscommunication in hospitals currently results in 80% of preventable patient deaths in the U.S. 250,000 preventable patient deaths occur each year.”

To combat this, Priestley worked with the American College of Surgeons (ACS) to create Kolkin SOS, a HIPAA-compliant app that makes it easy for doctors to collaborate on clinical workflow in real-time. It can work with or without Internet connectivity, and allows physicians to share clinical protocols and best practices. The ACS is working on getting the app integrated into hospital IT systems.

Grassi also thinks that technology in hospitals will change around the customer experience: remote checking in that can eliminate waiting rooms, or kiosks that will help shorten wait time.

In Austin, Texas, the new Dell Seton Medical Center is under construction, and will include smart screens in each patient room so that healthcare teams can access patients’ medical history and monitor their condition in real time. Because it is a teaching hospital, there will also be cameras in operating rooms, which will allow medical students to observe procedures from offsite.

Whether it’s sharing notes between doctors or more efficiently monitoring patients, technology in hospitals will streamline communications, something physicians hope will save time and improve safety and patient outcomes.

Conclusion:

Cutting edge technology has already led to huge advances in how our health care is delivered, from robotic surgery to advances in prosthetics. Now physicians and tech entrepreneurs are making inroads in how medical data is shared, both between patients and their providers and between physicians.

For physicians involved in piloting new technology, the hope is that those innovations could mean more efficient doctor’s visits, fewer medical errors, and greater patient satisfaction. With evolving challenges in the U.S. like aging and disease, that’s certainly welcome news to healthcare providers and patients alike.

#MedTech

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Tech News

For meetings that should be an email? There’s an app for that

(TECH NEWS) If you’re tired of having your precious work time taken up by useless meetings, there may be a solution.

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Have you ever attended a meeting that turned out to be a waste of time and set you back on your work? I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that every person reading this article is nodding in agreement.

Meetings, if executed appropriately (and sporadically,) can be effective. However, having weekly (or even daily) meetings that are designed to catch-up or give reports can add up to a ton of wasted time.

Across the board, meetings are generally geared towards productivity, and oftentimes they are counterproductive. So, how can you still get that need for touching-base with employees while still being productive? StandupMeet might just have the answer for that.

StandupMeet is a tool designed to make meetings more productive and agile. According to their statistics, more than $37 billion per year are being spent on unproductive meetings.

The main features include: the digitization of meetings, the instantaneous sharing of minutes, and the ability to assign actions and keep track of progress.

By making the meetings digital, you organize meeting points in one place. Decisions, actions, and key points can be logged in real time and accessed before the meeting.

This makes projects more agile and helps to increase critical success factors.

With instantaneous sharing of minutes, you can collaborate and share minutes of the meeting, key result areas, and action points. This is also done in real time and is shared with colleagues to make sure that each person is on the same page.

Finally, by assigning actions and keeping track of projects helps to ensure data integrity and provides accountability to each team member. Automated reminders are available so that you can spend your time on the more valuable tasks first.

In addition, StandupMeet also offers: project wised meeting, customized meeting types, organized agendas, shareable meeting minutes, accountability, reminders to ensure time is being appropriately applied, recurring meetings, conflict-free meeting scheduling, locations, automated follow ups, automatically tracked action points, and flexibility across time zones.

This can save time and increase productivity for on-site workers and can also be beneficial for teams that are remote.

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Business Finance

Personal finance steps every freelancer must take to avoid ruin

(FINANCE) The government shutdown showcased financial instability, but what do people that have no paycheck guarantee need to do to be secure?

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In light of the recent government shutdown, there has been a lot of attention in regards to how missing paychecks impacts the average American. Most Americans don’t have a regular savings account and could not handle a $1,000 emergency, let alone miss practically a month of pay.

While things look positive for the backpay of those government workers, we all could benefit from some careful reflection about the precarious nature of our personal finances.

Particularly those of us who don’t receive a regular paycheck.

Entrepreneurs and those invested in the gig economy have volatile incomes, and literally no promise of a paycheck ever – that can impact your personal finances in a number of ways.

Variable incomes are normal for this group and can impact entrepreneurs in ways as simple as handling debt.

If this is you – here a few things to keep in mind that can help you deal with the volatility of living on a variable income and handling your personal finances.  

  • Set up an emergency fund. Start with 500 if you have too, and remember this an emergency fund for your personal expenses, not your business. If you have an emergency fund, make sure you identify what an emergency is and also be prepared to put money back when it comes out. If you have a hard time not spending money in front of you, put your money in a local bank or CU that you don’t have immediate access too.
  • Stick to a budget. when you can’t forecast your income appropriately, controlling expenses is so critical it’s the few things that are in your control.
  • Don’t mix business with personal. While you may be pouring your personal energy and time into your start up or gig, be careful about mixing expenses for two reasons: First, it messes up your budget. You need to have separate budgets for personal and business. Second, there could be tax challenges – consult a tax professional for more information. Here’s a little primer to get you started.
  • Save for retirement. There are tax benefits and come on, don’t wait till you can’t work anymore. Also, an IRA IS NOT AN EMERGENCY FUND.
  • Practice good financial behaviors. Automate bill pay. Online statements. Digital receipt tracking. The more you can automate your life, the better you are. You already have so many demands on your time, reduce that so you can spend more time doing what you love and what matters.
  • Consider diversifying your income. Either ensure you have multiple strings or a backup gig (even if it’s just uber driving); or be prepared to do temporary or contract labor during your slow seasons.

The path to entrepreneurship is rough. What we can learn from the very struggles of the federal employees and the government shutdown is that if the government can be unstable, those of you who work in the world of startups, gigs, and entrepreneurship, need to be even more on our toes. The “normal recommendation” for saving is 10% of your income, but normal may not be enough for you. Be prepared and save (more).

Disclaimer: I am neither a tax or investment professional. This is personal financial advice and I encourage you to visit a professional if you need more specific plans of action.

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