How new applications aim to save lives

How new applications aim to save lives

More than 250,000 people in the United States die each year due to medical mishaps, making it the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer, according to a recent study by Johns Hopkins.

Meanwhile, nearly 40,000 Americans die each year in traffic accidents, according to the IIHS. While many can be attributed to driver errors, most of these can be prevented or at least reduced by better technology.

The pattern is similar in other industries: Both consumers and employees face unacceptable security risks from outdated or inadequate technology. Often the old ways of doing things are simply too dangerous for modern standards.

Fortunately, a new generation of new technologies is reshaping the landscape. They improve safety conditions not only in transport and healthcare, but also in sports, construction and a number of other industries. Some are available for download in major app stores. Others are more specialized but still freely available to people and companies who seek them out. Still others are still in development but look set to hit the market soon.

Here’s how they’re making workplaces – and the rest of the world – safer for everyone.

1. Sports

The sports industry is fun, entertaining, exciting – and often dangerous. Most people who have played competitive sports, even at the high school or collegiate level, know firsthand what it’s like to be injured during practice or a game.

We are unlikely to eliminate them completely, at least not anytime soon. But new technologies make it possible to reduce the frequency and severity of more serious sports injuries and illnesses, such as concussions and heat strokes.

Smart helmets are now on the verge of commercialization. The top prize at the Yahoo Sports Technology Awards 2019 went to a sensor-loaded riding helmet. The sensors measure and report constant pressure and impact force. The helmet can also be equipped with communication technology to notify the emergency services of a potential injury to the user. It is likely that we will see similar technology in helmets worn by cyclists, climbers and American football players in the years to come.

Meanwhile, apps that track weather conditions on the field are being used to protect athletes who train and play outdoors. For example, the Zelus WBGT app measures real-time outdoor wet-ball temperature within geographic parameters that are accurate enough to be relevant to specific competitions. Coaches, managers and players themselves can use the results to determine the amount of heat stress on a person and give players rest when necessary.

2. Health services

Health systems and insurance companies have thrown billions at improving technology and care delivery processes and will no doubt continue to do so. But the most cost-effective improvements are happening closer to home, via readily available (often free) consumer technologies with the power to save lives.

You may already have one on your iPhone. Apple Health Medical ID displays critical medical information, including allergies, known medical conditions and emergency contact details, to first responders without bypassing the lock screen. In a true emergency, it could save your life.

Day-to-day health care may not be so dramatic, but it also has the potential to save (or at least prolong) life. Apps like the Heartify Heart Health Monitor track and interpret vital signs in real time. Their results reinforce healthy habits and can help detect danger signs early before a medical emergency occurs.

3. Transportation

The federal government has had a hand in some of the most impactful traffic safety technologies and applications to debut in recent years. For example, the FCC has recently designated LTE mobile car-to-everything as the standard technology for new traffic safety applications. Although testing continues, the potential applications are extensive, covering everything from preventing traffic lights for emergency vehicles and public transport to alerting road users of crashes and other hazards in the area.

Similarly, NHTSA’s SaferCar app delivers potentially life-saving vehicle safety information to registered users, including safety recall notices. These alerts add another warning point to the patchwork ‘recall network’, reducing the risk that drivers will continue to use unsafe vehicles because they missed a letter, email or local news story.

Better technology for a safer world

A functioning, dynamic society and economy seems to bear high human costs: rampant medical errors, an epidemic of traffic accidents, so many preventable injuries and deaths in sports.

It is tempting to see this as ‘just the way things are’. But there’s no reason it has to be. And it seems the tide is finally turning, thanks to this new collection of security-focused applications and technologies.

These technologies will not prevent every injury or death that would have occurred without them. Nevertheless, they will make conditions safer and more comfortable for all of us, and they will do so without requiring a comprehensive reimagining of these industry business models.

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