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HOW TECHNOLOGY IS HELPING TO REDUCE LONELINESS AMONG THE ELDERLY

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by Phil Marshman, founder and CEO of Sentai

 

In the UK, it is estimated that nearly a third of people aged 65 and over live alone, with 1.4million of those people describing themselves as often, or always, feeling lonely – that’s not even taking into account the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had this year. Two national lockdowns and ongoing social distancing measures have kept those who live alone restricted from the outside world, naturally increasing the already distressing number of people suffering with some form of loneliness.

Indeed, it is expected an additional 600,000 elderly UK residents will also suffer with loneliness by 2025, taking the overall total to over 2 million people. Another concern is the increase of people aged 50 and over falling into that category, showing that more people below the age of 60 are reporting feeling lonely.

Like most problems in today’s world, we often turn to technology to find a solution. Caring and supporting the elderly and vulnerable is no different and there has been a high and ongoing demand to offer people who live independently a product that can bring them companionship to combat loneliness, which in the worse cases can lead to depression, stress and anxiety. Family caregivers have also been calling out for a solution that can offer them peace of mind when they can’t physically be present for their elderly loved ones. The stresses around caring for vulnerable family members can also cause poor metal wellbeing for the caregivers themselves – it’s a double-edged sword.

Thankfully, we are now seeing technology being utilised for this suffering sector. Research shows that every £1 invested into tackling loneliness can save up to £3 in health costs, so it makes sense to be looking into technology that can solve the problem, save costs in the long-term, and reduce pressure on our health services.

Phil Marshman

The recent introduction of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Voice Technology has allowed developers to create agile products that not only assist and support someone who lives alone, but learns from their behaviours to interact in a more personal, meaningful manner.

Take your standard hands-free and voice-controlled smart device, for example. It speaks when spoken to and responds to the user’s commands, which is very useful. Now imagine that device is in the home of someone who lives alone with dementia or another type of memory loss illness. What good is it then? The question then becomes how can we create a two-way conversation where the device is prompting and reminding the user to take their routine medication, for example, or have a videocall with the grandkids. By using a complex algorithm that can learn from its contextual experiences with the user, then loneliness can be significantly reduced among the older population, and even eliminated in some cases.

It is remarkable that 49 per cent of elderly people in the UK state that the TV or their pets offer them their main source of company. Neither can speak back to you and sometimes that is all someone really needs; a meaningful conversation. Pioneering AI and Augmented Voice Technology can offer conversations while helping the user to sustain a healthy and quality lifestyle. Whether it’s talking to someone who lives alone about their day ahead, suggesting they should get some fresh air and exercise with a walk at 2pm, giving them a new recipe to try out, or reminding them their favourite TV programme starts at 5pm, the possibilities are endless and increase the fostering of companionship and even friendship. Furthermore, the device’s warm, friendly voice can be regionalised to suit the user, making them feel even more comfortable and less alone. It may sound unrealistic and too far into the future for a person and a device to interact in this way, but it’s already happening now, and will soon be commonplace in the homes of people across the UK.

While machine learning isn’t revolutionary, using it to reduce loneliness and support caregivers who can’t always be there for their loved ones is. And where does the caregiver fit into this new relationship between their family member and the ever-evolving smart device? Well, products are now available on the market that come equipped with sensors that can monitor the user’s movements, providing text updates on their mobility to relatives and carers, and alerting them in emergencies. Caregivers can even stay connected via a smart app, with daily performance logs and push notifications enabling them to get peace of mind – anxiety and stress is alleviated with this best-in-class independent care.

Although still a fairly new and evolving field of development, technology built to combat loneliness and improve poor mental health will soon be integrated into more typical IOT in the household, allowing it to control other smart devices around the user’s home.

Overall, as more advancements are made in the field of AI in caregiving, we can expect to see more caregiving devices popping up in the homes of people who fall into the 1.4million that feel lonely, and ultimately, that can only be a good thing.

 

Phil Marshman is the founder and CEO of Sentai, a British technology start-up using innovative artificial intelligence to help caregivers independently support the elderly from the comfort and safety of their own home, via a machine-learning smart device. Being launched to help provide a solution to the UK’s ageing population crisis and rise in loneliness – accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic – Sentai monitors and supports the elderly to help bring peace of mind to relatives who can’t always be present.

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UK Organisations turn to artificial intelligence to fight sophisticated cyberattacks

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New research by cybersecurity expert Mimecast finds that email attacks are becoming more frequent and sophisticated

More and more companies in the UK are using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to fend off increasingly sophisticated cyber-attacks, according to new research from cybersecurity specialist Mimecast. The research finds that 40% of UK organisations are already using AI or ML in their organisations’ cybersecurity programme, with 30% planning to do so within the next 12 months.

The use of advanced technologies such as AI and ML is in direct response to the growing sophistication of cyberattacks that UK businesses are experiencing. 53% believe that increasingly sophisticated attacks will be their biggest email security challenge in 2022, leading to 80% believing it is at least likely their organisation will suffer a negative business impact from an email-borne attack this year.

 

Growing threat landscape

The research shows that email remains the largest threat vector for UK businesses, with 71% of respondents reporting an increase in the volume of email threats their organisation has faced in the last 12 months. This includes phishing with malicious links or attachments (56%), impersonation fraud or Business Email Compromise (53%), and malicious insiders (43%). However, it isn’t just email attacks that are on the rise, as 90% of UK businesses experienced at least one spoofing attack that uses a lookalike web domain or a clone of their organisation’s website in the last 12 months. The average UK company has experienced 11 of these attacks.

On top of this, employees are also presenting organisations with a very real threat to their cybersecurity. The survey identifies that IT decision makers have relatively low confidence in their colleagues’ cyber awareness , believing that there is a risk of an employee making a serious security risk due to oversharing company information on social media (84%), poor password hygeine (80%), using personal email (80%), or using cloud storage and other shadow IT functionality (81%). When an employee does full victim to an attack, it frequently results in more widespread consequences. 85% of respondents say threats have spread from one infected user to other members of the organisation.

 

AI to the rescue

To overcome this growing threat landscape, more and more UK organisations are turning to advanced technologies to strengthen their cybersecurity position. The 40% of UK organisations that are already using AI as part of their cybersecurity strategy are already seeing a number of benefits, including increased accuracy in terms of threat detection (54%), reduced human error within cybersecurity team (51%), and reduced workload/working hours for cybersecurity team (45%).

Despite these very real benefits, there is the very real danger that many UK organisations will miss out due to a lack of budget dedicated to cybersecurity. The research highlights a clear discrepancy between the amount IT decision makers believe should be spent on cyber resilience and how much budget is actually allocated by business leaders. IT decision makers in the UK believe that 16% of their IT budget should be allocated to cyber, but at the moment they see less than 12% allocated. Missing out on new technology innovations such as AI is identified as the most likely consequence (49%) for organisations where the cybersecurity budget is not as high as respondents believe it should be.

Elaine Lee, AI expert at Mimecast, said: “There is no doubt that cyberattacks are becoming more frequent, as UK businesses adjust to the world of hybrid work. On top of this increase in frequency, we are also seeing a rise in the sophistication of attacks. This is creating a perfect storm and making it more difficult than ever for organisations to keep their businesses secure. With this in mind, it is no surprise to see so many organisations turn to advanced technologies such as AI to bolster their cybersecurity defences. AI solutions can help businesses to automate security processes, ensuring they are better able to fend off attacks, as well as providing their security experts with more time to focus on high-level analyses that require human interaction.”

Lee continued: “Organisations that have yet to invest in AI technologies as part of their cybersecurity strategy should do so. Cyberattacks are going to continue to be a major threat to UK businesses and these businesses need to respond accordingly with sufficient budget. A successful cyberattack has the potential to cause serious ramifications for a business, including both financial and reputational damage. Now is the time to take this threat seriously and get prepared.”

 

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Addressing the talent gap within cybersecurity

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By Merlin Piscitelli, Chief Revenue Officer, EMEA at Datasite

 

Rising geopolitical tensions and increasingly sophisticated cyberwarfare tactics have meant that cybersecurity threats are now more prevalent than ever. In current times, the number of cybersecurity attacks are increasing in volume and intensity on a global scale and if a company is not properly equipped to deal with this reality, it could directly impact their survival.

Recently, some sections of businesses were compromised, taken offline, and employee accounts within key microchip and electronic powerhouses were exposed due to cyber-attacks. Most alarmingly, some of these attacks were perpetrated by the same hacking extortion group.

As digitalisation continues to increase throughout the world, and events like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine take place, it is now more important than ever to focus on combatting cyber-crime. The industry understands this, as record levels of investments have been pouring into the sector to advance our capabilities within the field.

The cybersecurity surge

Within the last 12 months, the cybersecurity sector has seen major growth with now almost 2,000 firms active within the UK providing cyber security products and services. In 2021 the UK cybersecurity industry contributed £5.3 billion to the economy, an increase of about a third from 2020, and cybersecurity firms have raised more than £1 billion external investments in 84 deals. It’s therefore fair to say that the acceleration towards digitalisation caused by the pandemic has meant businesses have had to increase their cybersecurity efforts, leading to increasing demands within the sector.

Merlin Piscitelli

As the industry finds new solutions to combat cyber-attacks, cybercriminals are continuing to explore new tactics to ensnare victims. This has resulted in higher demands for those skilled within the industry. Now, with over 2.5 million cybersecurity jobs available and the war for talent rapidly gaining momentum, it’s clear that pressure is increasing.

Cybersecurity and data protection is a strategic investment and a highly specialised endeavor. It can be more cost-effective (especially for small and medium size firms) to outsource this responsibility and partner with a vendor to design and implement solutions. Business leaders will need to ensure they are working with a reputable partner that can offer the best level of protection and technical expertise to fit organisational needs.

The talent gap

While demands are currently high, the supply isn’t there to match. In the UK, the cybersecurity talent pool has fallen short by around 10,000 people a year, and in the previous 12 months, the UK’s cyber skills shortage rose by more than a third. As a result, cybersecurity is now the most sought-after tech skill in the UK.

With more than half, 54%, of UK CEOs believing cybersecurity presents the best opportunity for TMT dealmaking over the next year, demand will rapidly outstrip supply of expertise unless there is a rapid change within the industry.

Championing the workforce

Businesses have had various strategies when looking into combatting this issue. When asked what the main drivers of recent and future cross-border technology acquisitions are, one-third of UK M&A professionals surveyed cited access to skilled/specialised talent.

Investing in your workforce is the tried and tested way of mitigating against cyber-attacks and managing risk. Having access to the necessary resources to protect your digital ecosystem and build momentum by upskilling individuals already working in the tech space, along with attracting new talent, will be crucial to tackling the current professional shortfall.

Furthermore, bringing diversity and inclusivity into the process will help truly overcome the war for talent, as businesses will need to acknowledge the correlation between the skills shortage and the lack of inclusivity needed to diversify the sector.

Ultimately, addressing the current skills gap within cybersecurity will require combined efforts from businesses, academia and governments. Championing students to take an active interest cybersecurity and go through the necessary training to develop the skills needed in the industry will go long way in evening out the playing field.

It is only by investing in developing cybersecurity talent that will we have enough people with the expertise required to protect organisations digital ecosystems as the threat landscape becomes more diverse.

 

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