Storage Informer
Storage Informer

Tag: Washington

It was the Roomba in the Conservatory with the Lead Pipe

by on Oct.15, 2009, under Storage

It was the Roomba in the Conservatory with the Lead Pipe

A study conducted at the University of Washington has found that home robots may be a security and privacy leak for their owners. The authors of the study point out that it is not the case where intelligent robots will throw off their shackles and attack their owners. It&aposs a situation that some robots on the market can be hacked through the home&aposs wireless network or the robot&aposs wireless connection.

One specific problem pointed out in the press release for the study was the interception of a robot&aposs video and audio streams. If an attacker could also move the robot, I can well imagine compromising photos being shot and posted on the web or the robot could "case the joint" and discover what valuables are in the house and how the home security system might be overcome.

Depending on the model and features, it would seem conceivable to have the robot actually harm a person within the home. This could be the basis for a "locked room" murder mystery plot. The robot is controlled by an external agent to kill, clean up after itself, and then return to a resting state to await the arrival of the baffled detectives.

One would hope that such studies will alert consumers to be more cautious or mindful of the electronics that will be brought into their private lives. Simple things like changing the default passwords and encrypting home wireless networks will go a long way to give the consumer more security and privacy.


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This Too Shall Pass

by on Oct.12, 2009, under Storage

On Hype and Healthcare Reform: This Too Shall Pass

Ah, here we go again: more lobbing of scary statistics into the healthcare debate and more lobbying of the American people through sensationalizing headlines. We’ve got all the makings of another high political drama in front of us: Republicans Versus Democrats, Insurance Companies Versus Everyday People, Good Versus Evil. If only life were so simple. I’ve been somewhat surprised by more than 100 people emailing me today asking some version of: “Will that study everyone’s talking about kill the healthcare reform bill?”  To answer simply: I don’t think so, and I certainly hope not. And I believe that, like all of the other manufactured controversies provided for our viewing pleasure, this too shall pass.


That study everyone’s talking about–or at least that the media is using as a means to turn otherwise boring policy debates into the latest conflict of the American Partisan Wars reality TV show–is a report put out by America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) that was prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers. I just read the whole thing. No, I didn’t understand it all. And, no, the world didn’t end. But I got the gist of it.


On the one hand, the timing of this report from AHIP is suspicious on the eve of the Senate finance vote.  On the other hand, there are also some very valid concerns and issues in the report about the weak individual mandate in the Senate finance bill that would likely lead many people to game the system. There is a very real risk of many folks just paying the small fine for not being insured until they get really sick, and then at the last minute, buying into insurance only when they need it. This flies in the face of the whole purpose of insurance, messes up the risk pool and economics, and is unfair to everyone else who plays by the rules.


It’s not the report that bothers me so much as the reporting of the report by the media and politicians who are using it to elevate the national blood pressure, but not the level of discourse and understanding of these complex issues. I’ve seen headline after headline claiming that families would face “dire” and “dangerous” rising healthcare premiums. This is the argument being used as an emotional cudgel by many Republican Senators to beat back healthcare reform. But the report shows an average of $400 per family per year higher costs because of the legislation, assuming you believe their numbers, which, while challenging for some, is hardly potentially bankrupting for the masses. Still, many Democratic Senators are using this report to play on the too-easy anti-insurance-company sentiment that most Americans already have. Come on, this is just too easy of a target–vilifying insurance companies as all bad and greedy is hardly fair, accurate, or productive.


But it’s the war language that appears in these articles and political speeches–”Opens Fire” and “Fire Back” and “Defends” and “Battles Lines” and even “Go To War”–that concerns me the most. This language just ratchets up the emotions and partisan fighting that keeps us from finding consensus and common sense. It’s no wonder that a few people are erupting at town halls when we’re living in a media soup of extremist rhetoric and emotion-laden language that makes us feel as if we are at war with one another. Can we declare “peace” and start acting as a country instead of a war between the parties? Is it possible to move healthcare reform forward without pitting citizen against citizen, party against party, industry against individual, and playing to our basest fears and emotions?


So on the eve of the Senate finance committee vote, I am trying to cut through the emotional ploys and war mongering mindset that surrounds us. And I am trying to keep the following three things in mind:


1) Read and Think For Ourselves: The partisan political climate is so toxic in Washington right now that you have to read everything with some suspicion. Many Republicans seem only to want to kill healthcare reform–and anything else that might make President Obama and the Dems look good–at any cost. Many Democrats seem only to want to pass a healthcare reform bill–literally at any cost, financially–just so they can declare “mission accomplished” and victory over the GOP. I’m new to this whole politics thing, so I don’t know whether the current partisanship is worse than usual or about par for the course. But regardless, it’s a shameful waste of human energy, intellect, and time. Each party now acts in perpetual “election battle mode” with polling, pundits, and political calculus driving decisions instead of finding consensus and common sense ideas that are good for the whole country. So…be wary…and beware what you read and hear…since the truth is most often somewhere between two hyped up extremes. We have to try to find, read, and interpret these reports and bills for ourselves, instead of relying upon pundits and politicians to tell us how to feel. Perhaps the high drama of politics is best treated as “reality TV”–entertaining fictional conflicts, if you are into that kind of thing, or else just change the channel.


2) Costs Will Likely Rise: It’s hard to imagine that healthcare costs won’t rise for most individuals and institutions, at least for the next several years. I don’t see how you add all or many of the uninsured to the system and continue to deal with the economic impacts of the age wave without healthcare costs continuing to rise. These bills, if successful, will help to “bend the cost curve,” as they say in Washington–which is to say, over time they will help reduce the rate at which healthcare costs go up. But the costs will still go up, and it’s unlikely that costs will actually go down (they almost never do). It’s unlikely we can achieve meaningful reform without many individuals and institutions having to pay more in the near term (and perhaps the long term). The ROI for healthcare reform will be measured in decades, not quarters, and will only begin to impact the national bottom line when we’ve truly adopted more preventive care, payment reform for quality over quantity, and more personal responsibility for health and wellness in our culture. These are long term investments with hopefully long term gains….which isn’t very satisfactory for our instant gratification culture.


3) This Too Shall Pass: Today’s brouhaha (what a fun word to write!) about the AHIP report is just another variation on a theme that has played out throughout this healthcare reform debate. This controversy, like all the others, shall pass. As the Senate finance committee votes tomorrow…and as the five versions of healthcare reform bills in Congress start to get mashed together over the next few weeks…there will be many more distractions planted and emotional buttons pushed. They, too, shall pass. And I believe that, in the end, so too, shall some version of healthcare reform pass. Even though it is hard to realize in the midst of the war mongering rhetoric that pits us against one another–that makes this reform effort feel like a battle–there is far more commonality and consensus underneath all of this hype. After all, we’re all mortal, we’re all aging, and we’re all in need of quality healthcare. Since we, too, shall pass, it would behoove us to spend our energies leaving something meaningful behind–like a quality healthcare system–for those who come after us.


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Healthcare Reform Should Launch Our Next Global “Space Race”

by on Sep.03, 2009, under Storage

Healthcare Reform Should Launch Our Next Global “Space Race”

I wasn’t even born until 11 years afterwards, but I grew up fully aware of the launch of Sputnik I in 1957, the dog “Laika” sent up by the USSR the next year, and the whole “space race” between the Americans and the Russians. Those historical moments gave us a global–even galactic–perspective and a global competition for innovation. Yes, for many people, it was tinged with an element of fear and potential military catastrophe. But for me as a child through to this very day, it captured my imagination and felt like a collective sense of purpose for where America should be headed. It was that generation’s manifest destiny to own the skies, and it generated enormous advances in other fields and industries as a side effect of focusing on those grand challenges.


As we are bogged down in this healthcare reform debate (and for those of you who missed the intended parody of my last blog post, I want to assure you that, while tired of the silly headlines and partisan posturing, I am okay and that it was meant entirely as a humorous critique of our healthcare paradigm!), it occurs to me that the President and Congress have missed an enormous opportunity to show how healthcare reform–what we really ought to call “healthcare innovation” instead–could and should be the context for the equivalent of our next global space race. 


We should be taking a global, competitive perspective towards healthcare reform, realizing that some country is going to develop new infrastructure and industries to deliver care in fundamentally new ways for our swiftly aging planet. Some nation will see this global age wave not only as an economic threat but as an opportunity to generate new technologies, services, and jobs to deliver personal healthcare. Back in the year 2000, there were 600 million people over the age of 60 on our planet. By 2025, in just fifteen more years, the World Health Organization says there will be 1.2 billion…with more than 2 billion by the mid century point. This demographic horizon is where we should be aiming. The United States ought to be at the forefront of innovation to meet the needs of this global age wave.


How do we pay for the uninsured and our voracious healthcare appetite in America? One answer would be to become a global leader of delivering new healthcare services and technologies not only here at home but also to many other parts of the world. Someone is going to use the advances of the Internet, genetic testing, personalized medicine, home diagnostics, health coaching and disease management software, and social networking sites to deliver care differently. Some country is going to tap into the “Boomer Phenomena” to foster and ride a cultural movement of consumer empowerment, self-care, personal responsibility, and patient proactivity with new services that allow people to pilot their own bodies and healthcare experiences from their own homes, laptops, cell phones, and personal health records. The question is: are we in the United States prepared to compete in this global race to deliver personal health care to the planet?


I get to spend some time in Europe when visiting our Technology Research for Independent Living, or TRIL Centre, in Dublin, Ireland (check out My friends and colleagues there tell me that the European Union is investing with clear intent to develop a 21st century healthcare services infrastructure for themselves (they are ahead of us on the age wave curve so already need advances in aging-in-place and disease management technologies) and for other countries. They have invested more than one billion Euros in independent living technology research. They have made home and community based care an international priority. They are exploring the trans-national licensure of doctors and nurses who could then deliver care to their patients virtually or in locations across Europe. They are in the early stages of training and credentialing new kinds of home care and other “care concierge” workers. They are investing in broadband and other computing infrastructure to the home–even in rural areas–to help people be “e-citizens,” which very much includes getting health care at home. So perhaps the United States is already well behind in the “space race” to innovate for global aging?


As the President addresses Congress and the nation next week on healthcare reform, I hope he brings his innovation message forward.  He has reinvested in science and technology research and education. He has hired the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer. He has invested in health information technologies and electronic health records as infrastructure for healthcare reform. He has shown how innovation to meet the needs of Global Warming can generate new jobs and industries across America. Now he needs to show how the same results can come from a focus on Global Aging.


Mr. President, let Wednesday’s speech be your call for a Sputnik launch for healthcare reform…start the next space race…throw down the innovation gauntlet to the American people to make healthcare reform not only a means of healing our sick care system but also a means of generating new jobs, new kinds of healthcare jobs, new technologies, and new services for providing care which could extend globally. Show the American people and the rest of the world that healthcare innovation–for a global marketplace–can be a stimulus to our economy. Let us begin the race that others have already started. It is our generation’s challenge to own the future of healthcare–the largest segment of the economy in almost every nation on the planet. Healthcare reform and policies in Washington D.C. should focus on helping us to compete fairly, vigorously, and internationally…and to win.


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