Education

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June 30, 2016

How Mobile Technology Is Providing Food Security Data in DRC

 

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In many rural places of the world that have shortages of food, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where one in 10 people do not have enough to eat, the Word Food Programme (WFP) relies on food monitoring systems operated via mobile technology. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is the second-largest country in Africa and a land filled with fertile soil and abundant rivers, food insecurity or “the availability and adequate access at all times to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food” remains a concern and a crisis.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has been involved in wars and rebellions for the last 20 years or more. Like countries in similar circumstances, it has had its entire food system disrupted and much of its population displaced. The WFP is using new mobile technology to monitor, and provide, food in these vulnerable communities. It has been using smartphones and voice recognition software to collect food security information on a regular basis since 2014.

 

Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (mVAM)

Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (mVAM) is a project that 15 countries throughout the world have implemented to monitor food security. The first pilot for the program took place in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and its successfully been replicated in Mugunga III, which is a site that hosts more than 4,600 people near Goma. These early mobile data collection projects in DRC will likely be copied in other areas of the province, in the months ahead, and food price collection information will be introduced throughout the nation. 

The primary goal of mVAM is to gather data on food access, price, consumption and coping mechanisms (per household level) remotely. This allows the WFP to access food security in a specific zone in a better way, and it lets the organization provide emergency help if possible. Each month, WFP employees Jean-Marie Kaseku and Mireille Hangi call nearly 300 respondents who live in Mugunga II, and they ask them several targeted and specific questions. They want to know exactly how many days out of the last seven they ate protein, fats, and cereals. They inquire about what coping mechanisms they used if they did not have enough food to eat. They hope to find out if individuals had to borrow money to eat, reduce rations so all family members could eat, or decrease daily meal intake.

 

Remote Data Collection Proves Easier

In countries where infrastructure, like roads, has been damaged, it’s often difficult to know if populations are eating and thriving. Without a means to meet face to face for interviews, remote data collection proves more flexible. This method for gathering data is also more cost effective and quicker. Compare a phone call and technological analysis of data to other methods, such as in-person interviews that cost $20 to $40 per family or transcription of those meetings that might take four to six weeks.

The WFP project is particularly useful in areas of extreme vulnerability and illiteracy. With the mobile food security data collection project, the WFP is able to understand at a more effective level what people need and how to get it to them.

June 23, 2016

SMS Can Help Smokers Kick the Habit

 

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Data collected from multiple recent studies show that SMS messages can help smokers kick their habits. Research focused on smokers receiving encouraging messages like “Be strong” and “You can do it!” revealed that these text interventions are helpful in getting smokers to abstain.

The researchers behind the study used meta analysis, a technique that combines findings from many independent studies, to arrive at their conclusion. The scientific team analyzed 20 manuscripts that documented 22 SMS messaging interventions dealing with curbing smoking in 20 countries. It sought out information about how mHealth text messaging – with a specific health issue in mind – could directly impact decisions made by individuals that could positively impact their states of wellness.

 

mHealth Via SMS Service to Meet People Where They Are

Receiving a personalized message regarding a health issue might be what it takes to get an individual to finally make the connection that choices are contributing to sickness. This is the focus of the mHealth text messages that are delivered straight to those who have agreed to participate in the trial. The SMS messages are short, direct, and supportive comments that remind receives about poor health choices and offer education. They’re messages a friend might send, and more.

The SMS interventions ideally will be adapted to suit the participants’ lives and natural environments. They’ll be on-point, regularly scheduled, convenient reminders to take immediate action toward smoking cessation (and hopefully other bad lifestyle choices in the future).

 

More Research and Trials are Needed

 

The study’s lead researcher, Lori Scott-Sheldon from Brown University, says that the evidence revealed in the trials provides inarguable support for the effectiveness of SMS messaging interventions. She offers that these messages have absolutely reduced smoking behavior, but more research is necessary to understand exactly how the interventions work, why they work, and under what conditions they’re most effective.

The Journal of Medical Internet Research published the study. Scott-Sheldon added that tobacco use is a preventable health issue and one of the leading preventable concerns. This is why, she purports, text messaging shows such promise. The SMS services are low cost, they’re able to reach a wide audience, and they don’t take many resources to implement. The mHealth messages, Sheldon-Scott says, should be a “public health priority” so that smokers can get the intervention they desperately need. 

Since SMS messaging has reached near-market saturation, it makes sense that the technology be used as an easy, cost-effective, and direct means to get health information out to the public – and to hopefully influence individuals in a way that creates immediate positive changes in their lifestyles. 

There are not many groups in the United States, or in the world, who do not have access to text messaging, and therefore the potential for an SMS service like the stop-smoking texts is great. A senior research scientist at The Mirian Hospitals Centres for Behavioural and Preventative Medicine, Beth Bock says that widespread availability of a good stop-smoking program can make a powerful statement – and impact – on public health.

June 04, 2016

mHealth is Set to Explode by 2021

 

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According to a recent study, worldwide shipments of healthcare wearables will nudge 100 million by 2021, increasing the market’s value to $17.6 billion. If the forecast proves accurate, it will represent a staggering 135% annual growth rate.

Wearable technology is finding the perfect home in hospitals, clinics and doctor’s surgeries the world over. It’s a relatively recent shift in emphasis for healthcare providers, and many are still finding their feet within the digital landscape. But those who have grasped the potential of wearables, mobile technology and other digital health solutions have found it’s helped them make care more efficient, expansive and affordable.

The most penetrating breakthrough has been in the form of monitoring and controlling patient outcomes - often with technology as simple as mobile messaging. Diabetes, heart problems, asthma - countless common medical conditions can be managed with the help of mobile messaging.

Despite the promising growth forecast, the wearable device market still faces a number of challenges. Many cash-strapped healthcare providers are reluctant to invest until they can be more certain of the long term benefits - an understandable misgiving in an age when so much ‘new’ technology is rendered obsolete within a couple of years of being launched. Some healthcare providers are also concerned about the task of aggregating and analyzing huge volumes of data in a way that will give them valuable insights into patient behavior. Mobile healthcare analysts believe this attitude will change as platforms become more widespread and user friendly. 

Then there are the patients themselves. The report found that there were issues regarding the cultivation of consumer trust in wearable technology, with a significant number of respondents saying they didn’t believe in the accuracy of the sensors, or that a device could truly deliver medically relevant information. There are concerns too about elderly patients’ reticence to use smartphone technology, or to get behind the concept of ‘remote treatment’ at all.

Nevertheless, as the market grows, so too will the competition. The more developers get into mHealth, the better it will become, and as more data is gathered, public confidence in wearable technology will grow.

May 14, 2016

Mobile Technology Is Helping Science Understand More About Parkinson's Disease

 

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A new iPhone app called mPower is giving scientists more insight than ever into the capacities and challenges of people living with Parkinson’s. Nonprofit Sage Bionetworks is a biomedical research organization that collected an unparalleled amount of data through its mPower app, which included a dataset comprised of the daily experiences of more than 9,500 Parkinson’s sufferers. This dataset offers more valuable information than any other study on Parkinson’s has provided, as it takes into consideration millions of data points that were collected on an almost continuous basis through the mhealth (mPower) platform.

 

Unprecedented Data

Sage Bionetworks says that its researchers, through the use of the mobile technology marvel mPower, have received an unprecedented look into the activities and day-to-day changes that Parkinson’s sufferers experience as they deal with their condition.

In the past, Parkinson’s researchers typically relied on small-group studies and data, which included participants in only about the 100-person range. With mPower, scientists are able to view and study data on a larger scale, and the scope of the research is giving more clues as to how Parkinson’s sufferers deal with challenges and treatment pertaining to speech, dexterity, memory, gait, and balance.

 

How Does mPower Collect Data?

The mPower app collects data on the abilities or disabilities of Parkinson’s sufferers in a variety of ways, all with the intent of helping the estimated seven-plus million people living with the disease improve speech, put an end to tremors, strengthen memory, and help other degenerative conditions. 

The app evaluates dexterity by asking users to do a speed-tapping exercise, which the iPhone’s touchscreen turns into data for researchers. To measure speech ability, users talk into their iPhone’s microphone and record their pronunciation of vowels (and other difficult parts of speech) for 10 seconds. They also use mPower to track their medication intake and to see if abilities improve after taking the drugs.

The mPower app gathers data, and scientists and doctors use it to research Parkinson’s on an ongoing basis. Participants using the app are able to control who sees their data, and intended data researchers include mPower-affiliated doctors and scientists, as well as specified researchers worldwide. 

The data collected has already helped researchers view symptom variations that could assist them in intervening in ways never before considered. The mPower app, along with additional text messaging health services that encourage people to stay in communication with doctors regarding their health, has the potential to offer big breakthroughs in Parkinson’s treatment and the treatment of other diseases. 

 

May 03, 2016

Staying on the Right Side of the Law with Mass Texting Service

 

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Own a business and think you might want to add text ads to your marketing campaign? Make sure you know the rules before you play the game, or you may land yourself in court.

Retailers from clothing stores to vitamin companies are figuring out that the best way to reach consumers is through their mobile devices. So, they’re putting ad campaigns together that will land their companies’ names, and their messages, directly in the public’s text message applications. 

Whether these companies have read TechCrunch’s report that stated consumers spent more time on their phones than watching TV in the second quarter of 2015, or they did their own research to show society’s reliance on mobile devices, these businesses want to cash in on behavior that doesn't seem to be changing.

However, in order to stay lawsuit free, companies need to approach text advertising in the right way. 

 

Mobile Advertising and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 states that anyone dialing a person’s mobile phone or sending a text message must have consent. This federal law prohibits unsolicited mass calls and text advertisements, and it gives recipients of those unsolicited calls the right to collect up to $1,500 in statutory damages for each violation (or each phone call or text message). Individuals who receive unsolicited messages to their cell phones do not have to prove any harm was done when they seek damages, either.  

 

Don't Take a Chance – Get Permission for Text Advertisements

Imagine the potential damage to a business from one unsolicited text message sent out to thousands of customers or potential customers. A single mass text could ruin a small company financially, and it could have owners or executives of the company slapped with a lawsuit that they’ll need to spend time and PR resources fighting.

If you’re considering a mass texting service for your business, stop and make sure you’re clear on the laws pertaining to text messaging before you press that send button. If you don’t, you might be setting yourself up for a multi-million dollar settlement to avoid litigation, when you could have simply asked for consent. If you remember one thing when it comes to a mobile marketing campaign, it’s that consent matters.

 

What Does the Law Say?

It’s critical with any text messaging campaign to get consent to send messages to an individual’s cell phone. InfoLawGroup LLC, a boutique law group focusing on data security and media matters, emphasizes that the FCC’s (Federal Communications Commission) Telephone Consumer Protection Act reigns supreme in matters of mobile phone mass advertising, and it specifically spells out what rules must be followed if any company uses what’s considered to be an autodialer (automatic dialing system) to reach out to multiple consumers.

The law is specific, but lengthy, and it’s a must-read if you’re thinking about adding mass text service to your marketing campaign. It describes exactly what the law considers to be an autodialer, and it offers clarity in terms of procedures and penalties involved in sending text messages to multiple individuals at once.

To protect your business, familiarize yourself with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act before you send any text messages as part of your company’s marketing campaign.

April 30, 2016

Beware of the Latest iPhone Text Message Scam

 

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iPhone users beware! The latest text messaging scam may be easy to fall for, and if you do, you risk scammers gaining access to your Apple ID and any information you have associated with it.

 

iPhone Text Message Asks for Your Apple ID and Password

If you own an iPhone and you receive a text asking you to confirm your Apple ID, and password, be very leery of it. Don’t act without researching, no matter how legit it appears, because it might be the latest text message scam targeted specifically at iPhone users. 

The text message goes something like this (and it’s personalized, to make it look even more legitimate):

“Dear Vitty your Apple ID is due to expire today. To prevent termination, confirm your details at http://appleidlogin.com.uk - Apple Support.”

 

Repeat! This text message is a scam so don’t click on it! 

The goal of the fake text message is to gain access to users’ private information, not to employ any malicious code on the iPhone. Tech-savvy users might spot right away that this message is phony, but it can seem completely plausible to those less in-the-know, for instance mom or dad. So, protect yourself, and share this text messaging scam with your friends and family. 

The phishing scam directs iPhone users to a web page that asks for their Apple ID and password. Upon close examination of the circumstances, many iPhone users will realize that their Apple account should not be in jeopardy of being closed. But, sometimes people react without thinking upon receiving a message like this.

 

Don’t Be Tricked Into Revealing Personal and Important Information

It’s critical that technology users stay on top of their IDs, passwords, account expiration dates, and user agreements with various companies. That way, risk of trickery and loss are reduced. Don’t be tricked into believing something a text message tells you will, or will not, happen or you could end up sorry.

This latest iPhone text messaging scam not only urges users to offer up Apple IDs and passwords, but it also asks for credit card information. This should be another clue that the messages are fake.

What is particularly dangerous about this latest text message scam is that it looks rather professional compared to other messages sent by hackers and scammers. There are no spelling mistakes, and there is no awkward language. It’s a simple request that appears quite like actual messages Apple would send.

If you receive this message, or anything like it, give careful consideration to its legitimacy. Don’t give out personal information to any site that you arrived at via text message link. Instead, go directly to a company’s website, log in with your ID and password, and see if there are actions you must take regarding your account from there. 

April 29, 2016

Mobile Shopping Poised for Growth in Kenya

 

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Kenyan retailers might not have fully adopted mobile communications to fuel their business activity, but they are embracing it, and technology is on the rise when it comes to their marketing campaigns. A recent Nielson study conducted on Kenyan retailers and their use of technology reveals that mobile usage in the past has been significant. Moreover, companies are slowly turning to mobile marketing concepts.

 

The Study

The Neilson research group conducted face-to-face interviews with 300 retailers across many spectrums and service channels throughout Kenya. The results show that, right now, most retail business is done in the country through direct communication and transactions. In fact, 96 percent of consumers in Kenya prefer to pay retailers with cash, and 88 percent of them prefer in-person communication. They also like to see new products firsthand. 

 

The Promise of the Mobile Market

Even though retail businesses in Kenya today seem to under-utilize mobile technology—just 12 percent of customers use mobile money to pay for goods—Nielson East Africa MD Jacqueline Nyanjom, says, “In a country with 96 percent mobile penetration, the findings are somewhat surprising – but they do point to enormous potential for growth.”

Kenya’s mobile money market is perfect for growth because of how easy it is for people already utilizing mobile technology to make the jump to purchasing goods online. In other parts of the world, mobile money has already been embraced or made great strides. In Kenya, Safaricom’s M-Pesa currently dominates the mobile money market, as small as it is. M-Pesa launched in 2007 and has more than 25-million subscribers, and about 130,000 retail agents use the technology. Countrywide, 43 percent of the Gross National Product flowed through this channel in 2013.

 

The Future of Mobile Shopping

One of the main reasons that Kenyans rely on cash for purchases is that it doesn’t carry transaction fees. Some shoppers and retailers, however, have expressed concern about the safety of using cash for purchases. Aside from fees, there are few reasons not to convert to the use of mobile money in the retail sector. About 25 percent of retail businesses say that they have not been approached with an offer to use mobile money for purchases, a fact that implies that there is an untapped group of business owners in this market.

Additionally, it seems that the time is ripe to encourage both businesses and consumers to accept mobile advertising and marketing as part of the mix. Companies need to focus on adopting retail apps, mobile coupons, promotions, geo-location deals and ads, and other mobile marketing tools in order to bring exciting new growth to the industry.

 

April 03, 2016

Pinnacle Bank SMS Scam Hits Nebraska

 

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The people of Columbus, Nebraska, and nearby areas have been targeted by a text message scam. The local police department used social media to issue a warning, asking people to be especially weary of text messages requesting users to reply with personal banking information. 

 

What Is Text Fraud?

Text fraud, or phishing, has become increasingly popular among online criminals. This particular scammer targeted random phone numbers in and around Columbus and posed as local Pinnacle Bank. The text asked users to tap a link that would prompt them to verify their account information (even if they weren’t a bank customer), which gave the criminals access to users’ personal information. 

This isn’t the first time bad SMS news has hit the mainstream. Text fraud in particular is increasingly invasive on our mobile phones, and a serious problem for financial institutions around the world. Just last month, several banks in Australia were pawns in an SMS scam; 9 banks in total were part of an elaborate and sophisticated ploy that asked bank customers to check or verify private account information. 

The text messages alone don’t do any damage, but they’re designed to look and sound like the real deal. The Federal Trade Commission advises anyone who receives these types of text messages to delete them immediately. According to the FTC website, “Legitimate businesses don’t ask you to send sensitive information through insecure channels.”

Needless to say, text messaging is not a secure form of communication, even though 80 percent of text-savvy consumers use text for business. Working with banks or other private institutions via text isn’t the problem, and people shouldn’t be afraid to engage in SMS activity if they prefer that form of communication. However, everyone should be aware that the service businesses are able to provide via text are very limited, and they should never ask for private account information via text.

Online criminals commonly request things like usernames, passwords, and social security numbers; even something as simple as your address, phone number, or date of birth could compromises your identity. They’ll often use aggressive tactics to urge you to action, threatening to close accounts or discontinue service if the user does not respond. 

 

Protecting Yourself

The best thing to do if you ever suspect text fraud or a phishing scam is ignore the communication and notify the business the text claims to be coming from. The FTC also recommends that you protect yourself with security software, and keep your phone as updated as possible. Keep an eye on your credit reports and financial information. If you see anything that looks suspicious, catching it early can save you a lot of time and grief. And finally, report text fraud to the proper authorities, like The Anti-Phishing Working Group, which includes ISPs, security vendors, financial institutions, and law enforcement agencies. 

April 01, 2016

How User Behavior Causes Common Mobile Device Issues

 

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It’s increasingly evident within the mobile device industry that many of the operating issues are due to user behavior. What’s more, customer service representatives, IT support staff, and repair specialists are frequently without mobile device-specific knowledge, as well as diagnostic tools indicating whether the issue is user or hardware based. This has resulted in the return of “un-repairable” devices, making it imperative for device manufacturers and network operators to gain a deeper understanding of which issues can actually be rectified and which can’t, and to further train employees so they may resolve problems quickly and efficiently. 

 

Asia: The Highest Failure Rate

According to the State of Mobile Device Performance and Health trend report for Q4 of 2015 by Blancco Technology Group, device failure rates are highest in Asian countries. The fourth quarter of 2015 saw 50 percent of iOS and Android device issues coming from Asia, resulting in a 50 percent ‘No Trouble Found’ return rate. Social networking apps are among the most popular in apps in Australia, Indonesia, and India, while messenger apps are frequently used in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore. News, search, and weather apps are heavily used in Korea and Japan. 

Social networking and messenger apps are thought to cause the most issues with mobile devices in Asia rather than hardware. For example, Asian citizens who use numerous social media apps per day, and fail to close them properly, are “eating away” at their devices’ resources, including device memory, battery, and overall performance. Texting services such as messaging apps also devour device resources, particularly in terms of group chats. Such text services usually involve sending messages every few minutes, an action which injures device performance in addition to draining battery power. 

 

Europe: Device Failures Increasing Dramatically

Mobile device issues with users residing on the North American continent lowered from 27 percent in Q3 2015 to 26 percent in Q4. Europe did not fare as well, with device issues rising from 14 percent in Q3 2015 to 29 percent in Q4. App usage increased 58 percent in Europe in 2015, thanks mainly to emoji and productivity apps. For example, teens and college students favor Google Docs, Slack, Quip, and the Microsoft productivity suite. Emoji and productivity apps are considered the two app categories causing mobile device issues in Europe as well as North America, with emoji apps frequently slowing mobile devices, if not causing them to crash. 

Productivity apps such as Outlook may result in easier access to mobile email, however they often interfere with device performance due to the accessing, creating, and sharing of sizeable files. 

 

Avoidable Returns

More than 50 percent of the devices returned in 2015 were “avoidable” and subsequently placed in the No Trouble Found category. NTF devices cost manufacturers and mobile network operators about $50 to $100 per device to return them to the market as “used.” The Blancco Technology Group report noted that NTF returns cost organizations millions in 2015. 

Blancco offers numerous tips for reducing NTF return rates, including refraining from overcharging the battery, avoiding installation of numerous anti-virus apps, and “power cycling,” or shutting the device off and restarting it, at least twice a week. Turning application notifications off and avoiding unnecessary Wi-Fi use are also recommended, as is manufacturers, enterprise organizations, and carriers focusing more on customer service and proper issue diagnosis. 

March 31, 2016

Diabetes Treatment Finds Ally in Texting Services

 

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Texting services are increasingly being utilized by the healthcare industry, as they provide a number of helpful applications, such as reminding patients about appointments and sending tips that contribute to health. Text service health applications now include those relating to diabetes, with Arkansas-based nonprofit corporation ARcare using text messaging to improve its treatment services. 

 

A Valuable Educational Tool

ARcare added SMS texting services to its treatment program for diabetes patients, resulting in a cost-effective way to educate patients about the disease. “Interactive SMS” is utilized to provide patients with vital diabetes information. ARcare CIO Greg Wolverton recommends healthcare organizations focused on population health management recognize messaging tools’ role with regard to electronic health records and care coordination across numerous facilities. He also emphasizes the supreme scalability and efficiency texting services present. 

 

Increased Revenue Options

Implementing text services has been shown to help both the patient and the provider, as it offers an increase in operational revenue. For example, texting diabetic patients about their next appointments significantly reduces chances of no-shows, as most people have their phones with them constantly and look at text messages much sooner than emails. The reduction in no-shows and the ability to easily reschedule should a patient not be able to make the appointment are some of the ways text services are helping the healthcare industry financially. 

 

More Helpful Applications

In addition to its use among diabetic patients and their healthcare providers, text messaging is also increasingly used to treat smoking addiction and pregnancy issues. A recent Swedish study suggested text services make it easier to quit smoking, as the implemented text messaging program “doubled the rate” of self-reported smoking abstinence “with occasional lapses.” It also encouraged quitting cigarettes entirely, though not to the same degree. 

In regard to pregnancy issues, texting was found to help maternal and child mortality problems in Rwanda. The African country’s health workers use text services to keep track of pregnancies, report related health issues, and provide emergency alerts. The latter helps pregnant women obtain emergency care when needed. Health workers also text information about their pregnant patients’ histories for database storage purposes, let women know when it’s time to come in for checkups, and provide doctors with information about any complications. 

 

Part of the Mobile Health Movement

Diabetes, smoking, pregnancy, weight loss, HIV….texting services are part of the mHealth, or mobile health, movement for all of these, according to David Finitsis, a Ph.D. candidate in clinical psychology and author of the February 2014 article Text Message Intervention Designs to Promote Adherence to Antiretroviral Therapy (ART). The article was published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE. Finitisis found text messaging of great assistance to HIV patients, as it improved “adherence to drug regimens” among other benefits. The author remarked that the possibilities connected to text messaging and healthcare are endless, and that smartphones, tablet computers, and social media platforms provide many more avenues for treating the chronically ill. 

Is text service a huge part of the healthcare industry’s future? It certainly seems so.