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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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Technology

BIOMETRICS: BALANCING SECURITY WITH CONVENIENCE

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Jean Fang, Authentication Product Manager and Joël Di Manno, Authentication and Biometrics Laboratory Service Line Manager at Fime

 

From a person’s face to their iris, voice or fingerprint, biometric solutions are giving us new ways to authenticate ourselves when using a device or making a payment. Research suggests that the global facial recognition market alone will be worth up to $13.87 billion by 2028, with other modes of authentication following a similar growth pattern.

The trend towards biometric authentication has been further accelerated by the global pandemic. Hygienic touchless identification solutions have become critically important. And, with customers already familiar with using biometric solutions on their phones, the growth of this industry only looks to continue. In this blog we will evaluate this growth and discuss some of the potential opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.

 

Addressing fragmentation

Biometric authentication is an innovative and rapidly evolving technology. However, the speed with which it has developed brings with it unique challenges. The technology operates within a largely non-standardized ecosystem, meaning that it is fragmented on many fundamental issues. Little regulates how manufacturers and developers create and implement solutions.

The fragmentation that currently exists means that developers and manufacturers face three main challenges:

  • Increasing interoperability and adaptability.
  • Looking for a standardized certification process.
  • Formulating uniform benchmarking practices to allow developers to compare key performance metrics.

Addressing these three concerns will help create a simpler, more standardized biometrics ecosystem, allowing innovations to reach the market quicker and cheaper.

 

Security vs UX

The most notable emerging use cases for biometrics are payment authentication, access control and government administrative projects. All three require access to extremely personal data, and therefore it is essential for them to have very strong security.

Perhaps the major selling point of biometric solutions is their ability to provide the necessary security while enhancing the user experience (UX). However, overly-stringent security can negatively impact the UX. Therefore, there must be a trade-off between the two.

The best way to understand this balance is by comparing the False Acceptance Rate (FAR) with the False Rejection Rate (FRR). A low FAR gives a good indication that a solution is secure, as it only accepts the right user. Meanwhile, a high FRR provides a very high level of security, but creates friction – and potentially damages the UX – as it prevents genuine individuals from authenticating. Striking the right balance between these two is crucial to maintaining high security standards without creating a poor UX.

 

Multiple modalities for multiple solutions

The adaptability of biometric solutions means that original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) must constantly evaluate the available solutions and determine which is the best for their device. OEMs must develop a clear strategy to determine which biometric modality is best suited, factoring in cost, UX, speed and security.

However, there are also situations where device manufacturers may want to utilize multiple modalities. This can benefit both the UX and security of their solution, as it can address numerous concerns:

  • It can account for environmental concerns. For example, if a user is wearing gloves due to cold weather, making fingerprint scanning impossible, authentication can be achieved another way.
  • For high-risk authentications, multiple modalities can be utilized at once to achieve heightened security.
  • It also allows for adaptability regarding any future changes to the industry or regulatory requirements.

Determining which modalities will best serve a device and its deployment is one of the major challenges OEMs and developers face. The current lack of standardization only further complicates this. However, as the field grows and becomes less fragmented, the multimodality of biometric solutions will facilitate innovation and security for years to come.

 

Just the beginning

Biometrics have become a fixture of consumers’ everyday lives, but the huge successes seen in mobile technologies have not yet translated to other sectors. Innovations continue to push the boundaries of how we use biometrics, as they are rolled out in workplaces, homes and transportation. To reach widespread adoption, companies need to provide customers with assurance that their products are secure. Standardized testing and certification lay the foundations for this.

Biometric technologies continue to evolve daily, which means that the regulations and requirements that govern them need to do likewise. Standardizing the entire ecosystem would allow developers and OEMs to regularly test their products against uniform benchmarks, ensuring they are secure while keeping costs down and launching quicker.

 

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HOW CAN THE PAYMENTS INDUSTRY PREPARE FOR SCA WITH BIOMETRICS?

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By Vince Graziani, CEO, IDEX Biometrics ASA

 

Significant developments are afoot in the retail and payments industry, with vendors needing to prepare for Strong Customer Authentication (SCA). It’s set to be the most significant change to how people pay for things, not only online but also for card-present retailers across Europe. The deadline for compliance with the regulation has recently been extended again, this time to March 2022.

This is now the third time the deadline for retailer compliance has been pushed back, with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) worried vendors are not prepared for the new payment security approach. Which raises the question, will SCA every really take off?  Well, for retailers the extended deadline can be viewed in a positive light. The fact that there are now a further ten months to pilot and then launch their response gives retailers more time to adapt their authentication and verification tools. But it’s also a benefit for banks and payment providers too.

The ongoing delay to the SCA will give the payments industry extra time to prepare for the rollout of the directive so they can deliver a secure SCA payment option to consumers. If the payment ecosystem fails to use this time to prepare or implement the right technology to comply with this new ruling, it will open consumers up to a significant threat of card fraud.

 

Vince Graziani

The challenges faced within the retail space

There has been a large amount of focus on the implications of SCA when shopping online; however, face to face purchases will also need to be revisited. Even when using a card physically, SCA will require two-factor authentication for every purchase made over the contactless limit. This additional layer of protection provides a more stringent authentication process that will help to keep millions of accounts safe from both traditional fraudsters and cybercriminals.

Two-factor authentication means that not only will the user need to provide their details when making a purchase, they’ll also have to confirm their identity with:

  • something they know (a PIN or password),
  • something they have (such as a smartphone),
  • or something they are (biometric face or voice features or a fingerprint).

Once implemented, this will be beneficial in protecting consumers, however, getting to this stage will be a challenge. The requirements are set to cause widespread disruption to the retail space. The introduction of SCA will require in person merchants and card issuers as well as online Payment Service Providers (PSPs), such as PayPal and WorldPay, to have in place the technical enhancements and testing needed by the deadline.

 

Educating the shopping public on SCA

This presents a significant logistical challenge; maintaining effective fraud prevention while keeping an optimised customer experience is not easy. But perhaps the biggest challenge of all is that consumers themselves still aren’t entirely aware of SCA or what will be expected of them come March.

The introduction of SCA demands collaboration within the industry to educate consumers, but ultimately it is up to payment providers to provide a reliable, secure and SCA-approved method of payment to consumers. Providers must also ensure that the method they choose is not only up to standard but is affordable and accessible to all.

 

Preparing for the future of secure payments with biometrics

Biometric payment cards offer the answer for payment providers to help prepare for SCA. Not only will these cards – with inbuilt fingerprint sensors to verify ownership – provide strong customer authentication, but they also come with the added benefit of convenience. Validating your payment with a fingerprint speeds up the transaction process and removes the requirement of PINs or the use of a smartphone.

Biometric fingerprint payment cards offer banks and payment providers, an opportunity to embrace payment innovation that will help them meet these new secure forms of authentication with confidence and ease.

It is worth noting that some payment card manufacturers, such as IDEMIA, are already preparing biometric payment card solutions. These will be ready for banks and card issuers to adopt so they have the time they need to pilot and roll out the new payment method before the new SCA deadline is imposed.

The FCA has also outlined previously that long-term authentication through biometrics and mobile app-based solutions is the future of secure payments. The use of biometric payment cards to authenticate online payments will offer an important way for retailers to balance security measures that comply with the SCA regulation whilst also delivering ease of use for the consumer.

 

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