IoT – Opportunity or Disruption? How Can You Benefit?

Layers of Disruption, and Opportunity
Opportunity or Disruption? Up to You

An interesting study I’d like to commission is the correlation of earnings with Internet connections. I.e. Do those with more connected devices earn more. Anecdotally at least it seems there is a very high correlation.¬†Most of those I know earning 6 figures or more seem to be constantly connected with at least 3 devices.

Also consider how the vast majority of people connect to the Internet. Currently this is via the smartphone.

In a recent project where the City of Melbourne gave every tree an email address they learned that over 60% of the homeless have a smartphone. And it is well documented that the poor in developing nations have a far higher penetration of smarphones than Internet connected computers. Of the almost 3B connections to the Internet, almost 2B are via mobile devices.

This makes some sense, as computers automate more and more processes, scale the amount of information for decision inputs, and connect to lower cost or higher value labour, we amplify the return.

IoT Scales Connections

If this is the case, what does this mean for the Internet of Things? Of rather what does IoT mean for you? Personally?

Personal assets – wearable and mobile technologyThere are a number of areas of opportunity anyone can pursue right now:

  • Household assets – automated home & the connected car
  • Smart Buildings – office, campus, and residential
  • Industrial Internet – machinery, environmental and asset optimisation
  • Travel and transport – fleet management and logistics
  • Smart city – Traffic flow, lighting, safety and policing, waste disposal, event management
  • Utilities and Energy – Energy metering and usage, utility arbitrage
  • National – Environmental analysis, population management, migration challenges

There are opportunities throughout every sector from personal to national. Opportunities for connecting devices to the IoT that benefit you directly and for business.

This isn’t just true for technologists.

We need funding models that benefit from these connections, we need to establish legal frameworks. We need educators to teach users and practitioners how to use this technology. Marketers, sales people, recruiters.

The Internet of Things changes the very fabric of society. And that affects every job.

Whatever field you’re in there is a direct correlation to understanding and becoming a practitioner in IoT and financial success.

Could Uber Resolve Transport Crises – Outpatients

Patient Transport Vehicles

Patient Transport Today

I was recently working with a Health Service envisioning the future of a Digital Health System. During the course of the workshops one of the delegates brought up a perennial, and somewhat controversial issue: Patient Transport.

Patients, mostly chronically ill, with little or no means to transport themselves to Outpatients appointments require this service, provided in the most part by Ambulance Services. But the service is not a smooth ride (pun intended).

Scheduling

For one thing there’s scheduling. Often there is little, or no, scheduling between the clinical staff and the transport service. Whiteboards don’t reflect clipboards nor rosters. Patient appointment times consider a clinician’s schedule, rarely transport windows.

This results in patients waiting either for their appointment or their lift home, sometimes for hours. Sometimes the driver has to wait for a consultation or treatment to conclude, delaying other patients in the bus. Sometimes, admittedly rarely, patients miss treatment windows entirely and have to return the following day.

For most of us, waiting for a couple of hours is a minor annoyance. One we kind’ve expect and plan for anyway when we have so much as a dental visit.

But imagine you needed dialysis 4 times per week. Or chemotherapy.

And this gets worse when a patient has more than one co-morbidity and need to see more than one specialist.

Cost

Then there’s the cost. Have you ever seen the bill for an Ambulance Service? It’s more than a taxi, and falls into a convoluted system of claims and gaps. Often this racks up bills you simply cannot avoid putting strain on cashflow even if you can claim it back later.

And that’s not looking at the cost to the Health Service. Wages, vehicle maintenance, insurance.

Rostering

I learned that Ambulance Services often use part-time, contract, and even volunteer drivers for these transport services. Which adds additional burdens of payroll and rostering systems.

Haven’t We Solved That?

My initial thought was “Imagine we had an app that an outpatient could use to summon an available transport?” And of course, we have that app. It’s called Uber.

So my question is,

“Could Uber improve the patient transport service?”

Think about it:

  • We remove the burden and cost from a stretched ambulance service.
  • We provide more employment opportunities in the community
  • The community (Uber drivers tend to live in areas they service) works together for the common good
  • Hospital staff could literally see where patients are in transit and when they’ll arrive
  • You could negotiate “frequent flyer” discounts
  • There’s the granular, GPS tagged, time-stamped record of every trip that would drive down costs
  • Uber would be providing a service for government, rather than disrupting government monopolies. This has to improve their governmental relationships.

And that is all entirely besides the “get transport when you need it, and only then” benefit that would go a long way to easing waiting times, scheduling and patient satisfaction.

As the payment account is registered on the system, Uber could easily build in an approval workflow whereby you can only order transport when you have an appointment. Cancelled or rescheduled appointments (by the clinic) automatically cancel or change the pick-up.

Another Tier of Service

Transporting a chronically ill patient is certainly not the same as a harried businessman. Some patients will need vehicles that can support wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, potentially IV’s. And many will need personal assistance into and out of the vehicle.

But so what?

There could be an UberHealth [(c) Roger Lawrence 2016 :-)] service that has higher criteria for vehicles and drivers. Perhaps even a tier that requires a driver and assistant.

Why Uber?

The next question is,

“Why wouldn’t an Ambulance Service just write their own app?”

Which, as an idea is entirely reasonable.

Except it’s not.

Uber already have most of the technology available. They could literally turn on the service. Today. In fact for many, if not most out-patients, they could use one of their current tiers and just make a deal for the payment account.

Developing the technology is not trivial. In fact only a handful of companies have done this successfully. Because this is more than merely an electronic “ride hail” and payment system. It’s a real-time logistics service.

Another benefit is that Uber is global. So whilst outpatients visits tend to hub within a community, an Ambulance Service developed application would be local, regional at best. Uber could turn this on for an entire state, or country.

Inhibitors

There are two that I can see:

1. Available Vehicles

Uber relies on serendipity. They offer their drivers maximum flexibility, and increasingly I ride with drivers that literally turn on the app twice a day. During their commute.

But after 10:30pm at Wellington Airport there are no cars available. (Ironically at 4am there are – go figure)

With something as critical as Patient Transport, you simply cannot have the system tell you “No cars available.”

2. No Pre-booking

I’ve mentioned this frustration before. It would be nice to be able to book my ride at the same time I book my flights. I can only imagine the anxiety of someone needing treatment having to wait until they leave to order their transport.

So Pre-Book With Data

Both of these are resolved by Uber simply knowing the demand (from the appointments system) and publishing this to their verified UberHealth(tm) drivers beforehand. Yes, pre-booking. But determined by the clinic rather than the passenger.

Out of the Box

Ok. I don’t think Local, State, or Federal Governments are going to approach Uber any time soon. Rather they’ll probably try to legislate waiting times and penalties for the already stretched services.

Services that are staffed by awesome people who do a great job with limited resources.

But what about licencing the technology? An Uber White Label?

Smart Cities

The value of this is not simply reduced waiting times, better patient experience, reduced cost, and more employment. Over time Health Departments and Governments would be able to derive rich insights from the Uber data.

Everything from environmental impacts on chronic illness, to real-time congestion and traffic analysis.

Of course eventually this will all be driverless. Transport on demand. But we don’t have to wait for the vehicles, not to mention the legislation hurdles, to get to Transport-as-a-Service. Especially for the most vulnerable in our communities.

What do you reckon?