Twitter data once again shows that South Korean boy band BTS is indeed a “global phenomenon,” per Billboard . Year-end stats released by the site identify the K-Pop group as the most tweeted about celeb in the US for a second year in a row. One individual member also finds himself…
Microsoft released Win10 version 1809 — the Windows 10 September-October-November-December 2018 Update — to the unwashed masses back on Oct. 2. Four days later, in a flurry of major bugs including permanently deleted files, Microsoft yanked the bits. Then version 1809 reappeared five and a half weeks later, in build 17763.107, on Nov. 13. A few hours later, Microsoft released KB 4467708, which delivered the 1809 faithful to build 17763.134, and brought even more bugs.That’s where we sat until last night.
Enter KB 4469342, which has gone through at least five beta versions, destined to bring your 1809 build number up to 17763.168.
Microsoft is proceeding slowly. Mercifully. In particular, you’ll only receive the update if you’re a seeker — which is to say, you manually click “Check for Updates.” Before you install KB 4469342, Microsoft recommends that you install the latest Servicing Stack Update (fixes for the Windows Update installation mechanism) contained in Servicing Stack Update KB 4470788.
Moreover, Microsoft is actively blocking installation on PCs that run any of the following:
- Morphisec Protector or another application that uses the Morphisec Software Development Kit (SDK), including Cisco AMP for Endpoints.
- Certain new Intel display drivers … versions 22.214.171.12444, 126.96.36.19945. “To see if your device is affected and, if so, resolve the issue, see this Windows Forum post.”
- The F5 VPN client
- Any of these Trend Micro products: OfficeScan, OfficeScan As a Service, Worry-Free Business Security, and Worry-Free Business Security Services (hosted). As of this moment, Trend Micro says it has released new, compatible versions of some of those products, but not all of them.
- Computers with AMD Radeon HD2000 and HD4000 series graphics processors.
If your machine is on the block list, you won’t get 1809 installed on your machine in any version, no matter what you do, short of manually downloading and installing it. At least in theory.
Even with all of those hurdles cleared, I’m getting reports that invoking the seeker demon — which is to say, clicking “Check for Updates” — doesn’t always bring down the latest.
My usual advice stands: Wait. Let’s see if there are any problems, even though Microsoft’s had months to figure it all out. You’ll get bumped up to version 1809 sooner or later. Increase your “as a service” survival chances by blocking it as long as you can.
Pleased to meet you. Hope you guessed my name. Sympathy on the AskWoody Lounge.
Got Fi? Google’s unusual wireless service may have shifted its name from Project Fi to Google Fi this fall, but its core proposition remains the same: Pay only for the data you use, and avoid all the traditional carrier gotchas and nonsense.
For the right kind of person, especially among those of us on Android, Fi can be a real cost- and hassle-saver. And aside from its most prominently promoted perks — the seamless network-switching, the public Wi-Fi use, the fee-free roaming and hotspot capabilities, and so on — Fi has some pretty interesting out-of-the-way options that can really elevate your experience.
Whether you’re new to Fi or a Project Fi veteran, take a few minutes to think through these handy hidden features and see if any might be useful to you. They’re all there and just waiting to be embraced — and generally speaking, they won’t cost you an extra dime to use.
Google Fi feature #1: Free data-only SIMs
One of Google Fi’s most valuable and broadly untapped benefits is the service’s free data-only SIM program. If you open up the Fi website or app and select “Manage plan,” you’ll see an unassuming option labeled “Add data-only SIM.”
Click or tap that, and Fi will walk you through the steps to add a data-only SIM to your account. Google will create it, activate it, and even ship it to you for the oh-so-affordable price of $0.
What then? Why bother? Well, lemme tell ya, you curious caribou: With that data-only SIM, you can effectively turn any other device — be it a laptop or tablet with a SIM card slot or even just an old phone — into an extension of your main Fi service, provided it’s compatible with Fi’s networks. Just pop that sucker in wherever you want, and the device will instantly be online and ready for your use. All you’ll pay is the same standard $10 per gigabyte rate, and if you don’t use any data in a given month, you won’t pay anything; unlike with most other carriers, there are no silly surcharges or fees simply for the “privilege” of having an add-on device.
Personally, I use this to keep two old phones — a Nexus 6P and a 2014 Moto X (oh, yes) — active and available for different types of use. The 6P is something I carry with me whenever I’m traveling, basically as a backup device. If the day turns long and my battery runs low, I can use it for getting online, streaming music or videos, creating a hotspot for my laptop, or even making phone calls from my own number without having to worry about replenishing my primary phone’s power.
The Moto X, meanwhile, has become my gym phone — a device I carry with me while working out so that I can listen to music and receive texts without having to fret about dropping the device or banging it against the exceptionally heavy weights I clearly lift with great vigor. It’s delightfully empowering (words every serious “bodybuilder” says, right?): I just throw the phone down on the ground wherever and go about my business without a worry in the world. And as an additional bonus, I’ve set the device up to have minimal distractions and temptations for stealing my focus away from the task at hand.
But those are just a couple of ideas. Aside from that sort of surrogate phone situation, you could use a data-only SIM for a variety of interesting purposes — creating a functional phone for a kid (and/or parakeet) without having to pay for an extra line, creating a dedicated hotspot device that’ll beam out mobile data access anywhere without draining your main phone’s power, or even creating an always-connected backup phone that you could keep in your car in case your regular one gets lost, broken, or otherwise incapacitated.
Pretty darn spiffy, I say.
Google Fi feature #2: An always-on VPN
As part of its grand rebranding last week, Google Fi unveiled a noteworthy new option for subscribers: the ability to have all of your data encrypted via Google’s VPN, all the time — no matter where you are or what type of network you’re using — provided your phone is running Android 9 Pie.
Previously, Fi had encrypted data only when the service connected you to a public Wi-Fi network as part of its network-switching setup. This new feature lets you extend that same protection to all of your data — mobile network or Wi-Fi, automatic connection or not.
That, suffice it to say, is significant — especially for business users and anyone else concerned about optimal security. Network snooping is one of the most realistic concerns for mobile security these days — far more so than that big, bad Android malware monster we hear about so often — and having an always-on VPN is the best form of protection to make sure no one’s peeking over your virtual shoulder whilst you peck out important missives.
Unfortunately, finding a good VPN is easier said than done. Unless you work for a company that provides its own data encryption service, you’re left to fend for yourself — and mobile VPNs are notoriously difficult to evaluate and tough to maintain confidence in over time. They’re also yet another recurring expense to contend with.
So, yeah: Having a trustworthy VPN built right into your wireless service is a pretty powerful advantage. To fire up the new Google Fi feature, head into the Fi app on your phone and select the “Fi Network Tools” option, beneath the “Phone Settings” header on the main screen. Activate the toggle next to “Enhance network” — and rest easy knowing your mobile transmissions will be safe from prying eyes.
(As you can see, by the way, that same option will also allow Fi to switch between Wi-Fi and mobile networks more quickly and seamlessly — a nice extra bonus. Google does warn that the option may increase your data use by around 10%, though, so keep tabs on it for a month or so and make sure you’re okay with the tradeoff. And again, you’ll need to be running Pie in order for this to be present.)
Google Fi feature #3: Call forwarding
It’s easy to forget that Google Fi started out as an extension of Google Voice, in many ways, with a fair number of the former service’s features intact. One such feature is call forwarding — and it’s a handy option that’s still around and potentially quite useful.
The way it works is simple: You add a number into Fi’s forwarding list, and anytime you get a call, it’ll ring on both your cell phone and that second number so you can answer it wherever you want. Personally, I use this in conjunction with a free Google-associated home office “phone line” I created so that any calls coming into my main number ring the landline-style phone on my desk in addition to ringing my cell phone. The old-school desk phone is more comfy and convenient to talk on, and it doesn’t run down my main phone’s battery.
If call forwarding might make sense in some capacity for you, look for the aptly named “Call forwarding” option under “Phone settings” on the Fi app’s main screen.
Google Fi feature #4: Super-effective number blocking
Little-known fact: Google Fi has its own system for blocking annoying people from contacting you — and the way it works is meaningfully different from the similar-looking system in the Android Phone app.
When you block a number in the standard Phone app, any calls from the offending party won’t ring your phone — but instead, the caller will go directly to your voicemail. That means he or she can still leave a message (which you will receive) and thus may continue to contact you and expect a reply.
When you block a number with Google Fi, on the other hand, the person calling gets a generic recording telling them that the number “has been disconnected or is no longer in service.” For all effective purposes, you’ll appear to have vanished off the face of the earth to said pest. And whether it’s an overly aggressive salesperson, an ex, your Uncle Morty with the weird breath, or a wide-mouthed bass who won’t take a hint, that’s an excellent option to have.
(Both the Phone app blocking and the Fi blocking also prevent texts from coming through.)
To take advantage of Fi’s super-shushing power, look for the “Spam & blocked numbers” option in the Fi app, under the “Phone Settings” section on the main screen. Open it and then use the “Block a number” command to add whatever digits you want into the list. You can even add a description of the number for future reference, if you’re feeling particularly loquacious. And if you end up changing your mind later, all you’ve gotta do is go back to that same spot and tap the “x” alongside the offending number to remove it from the list.
Google Fi feature #5: Group repay
You probably know about Google Fi’s group plan option — right? It’s an easy way for you to combine accounts with anyone and save some cash on your monthly bill.
The short version is this: Every additional number on your account has a $15 flat service fee instead of the usual $20. Then you share the pool of monthly mobile data for whatever amount you need. It’s a smart way to spend less without any real downside — and while the obvious idea may be to use it with family members, the plan actually doesn’t have to be limited to those who share your name and/or DNA.
You can set up a Fi group plan with anyone you know, in fact — friends, co-workers, random rodents encountered in coffee shop basements, and so on. As long as you trust them to handle their part of the bill (I’d be careful with those rodents), you’ll save five bucks per month for every person you add into a group. And those are savings you can then all split.
The easily overlooked part of the program is something called “group repay.” It’s a simple way to set things up with a Google Fi group so that members of your group will get automatic reminders each month telling them exactly how much they owe you for their part of the service. And the best part: Each reminder is accompanied by a one-tap command that pays you back immediately via Google Pay.
If you’ve got a Google Fi group, open the Fi app, select the Billing tab at the bottom of the screen, and look for the “Group repay” option under “Payment Settings” to get started.
Figuring out Fi fees has never been finer. (Fin.)
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If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. That’s Microsoft’s new motto when it comes to browsers. The company is going to adopt the Chromium open source browser internals and replace the guts of its Edge browser with them.
Microsoft announced this engineering change Dec. 6. Earlier this week, Windows Central reported that Microsoft planned to ditch Edge and replace it with a new Chromium-based browser.
Microsoft is planning to create a new version of Edge by using Chromium combined with some components currently in Edge, all in the name of providing greater browsing compatibility across the web. (According to this recent Edge job post, Microsoft is taking a microservices/componentized approach to Edge development as it moves forward.)
Chromium is an open-source browser implementation that is used as a base by a number of browser developers, including Google (with its proprietary Chrome browser), Vivaldi, Opera, Yandex, Brave, and more. Simultaneous with the launch of Chrome in 2008, Google released the bulk of Chrome’s code as open source, birthing Chromium in the process.
As part of this work, Microsoft plans to make the new Edge browser available on Windows 7, 8.1, 10 and macOS, officials said. While Edge will continue to ship with Windows 10, Microsoft finally will be updating it independently of the operating systems on which it runs, meaning it will be updated and patched more frequently than Edge is now.
For current Edge users on Windows 10, it’s business as usual. Users don’t need to do anything to prepare for the coming change. Once Edge is updated, hopefully they will only notice that sites and apps they visit using Edge will work better and faster. Users of Edge on iOS and Android won’t be affected, as those Edge browser apps already use the WebKit and Blink rendering engines tied to those OS platforms, not EdgeHTML.
Developers will have the option of trying out the new Edge starting in early 2019 when Microsoft releases a first preview of the updated browser. One of Microsoft’s stated reasons for moving to Chromium is to make developers’ lives easier — by enabling them to build and test against Edge just like they do other cross-platform, Chromium-based browsers.
Microsoft officials haven’t said when they expect the new Edge to roll out to the mainstream, but it won’t be anytime very soon, based on this schedule.
Microsoft intends to contribute features back to the open-source implementation of Chromium in areas where the company has done some differentiating work, such as around browser accessibility, touch optimization, and work around optimizing Chromium for ARM, company officials said.
Does Microsoft’s new direction with Edge mean Edge finally will be available from the Microsoft Store? I hear the answer is no. Even though Microsoft officials have said over the years that their plan was to make Edge a Store app, it sounds like Microsoft intends to make it available as a download for non-Windows 10 platforms and not as a Store app for consistency’s sake.
And for those wondering if today’s announcement means non-Microsoft, Chromium-based browsers — including Google Chrome — may be coming to the Microsoft Store, the answer is maybe, but at least right now, it seems unlikely.
Why is Microsoft continuing to try to gain adoption for its own browser, in spite of Edge’s continued tiny market share? The most-used desktop app continues to be the browser.
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It would be a no-brainer to suggest that you pair your new iPhone XS or XS Max with a pair of Apple AirPods, but to be honest they are not my favorite earbuds.
I’ve tried a lot of earbud-type headphones, and nothing comes close to the comfort, quality, and performance of the Jabra Elite 65t. They’re great for both music and making and receiving calls, feature wind noise cancellation, and the iOS app allows for advanced features, such as allowing ambient sounds to be mixed with the audio from the iPhone.
The buds have a five-hour battery life, with the recharging case offering two more recharges. And recharging is fast, with the buds getting 1.5 hours of battery life with only a 15-minute recharge.
Towards the end of the day yesterday, I saw my colleague Adrian Kingsley-Hughes’ piece about how Apple is heavily discounting the iPhone XR due to lower than anticipated demand.
Apparently, depending on the existing phone you have, you can get up to $300 credit if you buy a new iPhone XR.
I remembered immediately that my wife was complaining that her iPhone 7 Plus was getting clunky and slow. Look, I know that I probably could have just cleaned the darn thing up and done a software reset, but as it was Hanukkah, I figured I could score a few points.
“Honey, would you like a new iPhone XR? It’s a really nice phone. Apple will give you $300 for your old phone, right now.”
The answer, of course, was “whatever you think, honey.” So after picking out a coral iPhone XR 128GB (orange! She wanted orange?) on the Apple Store website, I elected to pick up the phone at the Apple retail location at the Boca Town Center Mall. And then we would go get some dinner.
“What about all my pictures?” she asked. “Don’t worry, you have Google Photos, you have OneDrive, and you also have Acronis. You use Google Calendar and Gmail. You have more cloud backup than an average enterprise does. You’re fine. Just don’t reset the thing until we get there and they take it back. They can transfer anything else.”
So we get to the store. Being early December it is crazy busy. But the expediters are fast. A Genius came up right to the front of the store, checked us in and got Rachel’s new phone. She handed it over.
The staff at Apple retail locations are amazing. I love them. They are the unsung heroes of the tech support world. And they should probably be paid a lot better given the irate people they have to put up with.
“We have an old one to give back as part of the trade. I backed up her photos to Google. Can we transfer whatever else is needed for the new phone?
“Sure, let’s sit down over there.”
So we go sit down at the bench. This is the part where interactions with wonderful people and a positive store experience get completely wrecked by Apple being Apple.
First, the Genius checks to see if the phone had been backed up. Apparently, it hadn’t. The reason why it hadn’t is that my wife saves all her photos to three different cloud services, all her major applications are cloud-based, and I saw zero reasons to purchase additional iCloud storage when we own more cloud storage than we can ever possibly use from the above named third parties.
Her locally stored photos get cleaned out every month, and she can search and get everything she wants out of Google Photos and OneDrive. Zero worries. It was also the principle of the thing. $1 extra a month for 50GB of iCloud when I am already backing up her stuff at least three other ways? Ridiculous. I already spent over $3000 in the last year (figuring Upgrade Program lease payments over the next few years) on Apple toys between my iPhone XS Max, my iPad Pro 12.9 and an Apple Watch Series 4.
Now I gotta give them like $1 extra per device? Or go with the Family Plan? Nuts.
She did have 5GB of free iCloud storage. The problem was, according to what we observed at the store, that her text messages and a bunch of other random unimportant apps used up about 6GB of space on that phone. She doesn’t use her phone for storing music; the actual apps do not get backed up to iCloud, only the user data does. Apps are restored directly from the App Store.
But you cannot just selectively decide to back up just the text messages and omit the apps she didn’t care about, the way iCloud backup is designed. The Genius just said we could back the entire thing up, or not back it up.
[Edit: Genius was wrong. It is possible to select app data and it works universally for all apps but the setting to do this is buried. Settings > [your name] > iCloud > Manage Storage > Backups > [Device name]. You can exclude here whatever you want.]
So I made an executive decision. “Fine. Buy the upgraded iCloud storage to 50GB per month so we can get out of here. I am getting hungry.”
So the Genius begins the backup process using the in-store Wi-Fi. The old iPhone says it’s going to take 30 minutes.
30 minutes in, it says it’s going to take another 37 minutes. We both look at each other. My wife says “I’m hungry” with that look on her face which I know is a warning sign. At this point, I am beyond hungry, I’m feeling hangry as well. We need to go eat. Soon. So I jump on the Wi-Fi with my own iPhone and do a SpeedTest.
It turns out the Boca Raton Apple store has a shared 100 megabit connection with asynchronous 14 megabit uploads. And the store was absolutely filled with people trying to do the same thing competing for that bandwidth. It was iPhone XR Upgrade Day.
I did the math in my head. This was not good. “We’re gonna be stuck in here for hours,” I said to my wife. At home, I have a 1-gigabit symmetrical AT&T Fiber connection and estimated it would take ten minutes, tops.
We ended up leaving and getting dinner. At home, it took a whole three minutes to do the job. And my wife is bringing the old phone back to the store today for the credit — although we could have just waited for the return kit in the mail. However, I didn’t want to accept the risk of keeping the old phone in the house, should it get dropped or damaged in any way. I wanted it to be Apple’s responsibility, and to trade it in at the time of purchase.
There are a few ways this insanity could have been avoided. One is that Apple should give every single iOS device as much free cloud storage as it needs to carry its local storage load. If that was the case I would have never set up third-party storage, because it was the nickel and diming that pissed me off in the first place.
If you have a 128GB device, you should get 128GB of iCloud for that device, or if you have multiple iOS devices, you should have enough cloud storage to aggregate across what you own unless you downgrade and there is some kind of deficit.
But it’s not like a terabyte per family is a ton either. Storage like that in the cloud isn’t thick provisioned and companies like Google are able to offer unlimited photo storage because of that.
Just as Google does today, there are intelligent ways Apple can manage the data and prioritize backups, given that iTunes songs and content (and the apps themselves) do not have to be backed up on the device since copies of it are deduplicated on the cloud — only the inventory and other personalized metadata needs to be accounted for. Music and video content bought outside of iTunes should be the end user’s responsibility — and for the most part, that stuff is also cloud stored as well.
Also: How to download your data stored by Apple TechRepublic
It’s not a huge expense for Apple to carry, and if they don’t want to build out their own datacenters for this, they should partner with someone like Microsoft that knows what the hell they are doing in that space.
In lieu of that, Apple needs to have storage neutral backups. No, not freaking iTunes as your backup option, because that solution is horrible. Just as you can do third-party compressed file backups with Android that can back up your entire phone to whatever networked storage you have, you should be able to export the entire iOS data store to an encrypted, compressed file which any cloud service can use.
And there has to be better granularity over what can be exported by the Backup application, whether it is to iCloud or to another service. There isn’t a ton of visibility into the local data now.
Then there is the issue of the retail stores themselves. You’re telling me with Apple’s market cap and the sheer amount of business that moves through each one of those stores they cannot put at least a gigabit connection in each retail store location? I have to imagine that a large portion of the customer satisfaction issues have to be related to data transfer issues and having people sit in there and wait for their phones to get data moved from one device to another for hours at a time.
If the objective is to expedite, then get technology in there and infrastructure that enables the expediting. The people at the store are great. Apple’s store infrastructure sucks.
The stores do not appear to have any facility for doing local iTunes backups and restores, they used to do this years ago on a per-customer basis and did not offer it when we arrived. It appears to be a practice they have abandoned because it was a bad experience — because iTunes is garbage and they don’t have an easy way to set up a kiosk for this purpose and to cleanse the data between each transfer. They need to develop some sort of toolset for this purpose if yearly upgrades become a more common practice.
C’mon Apple. You can do way better when it comes to backup technology, iCloud, and in-store support technology.
Have you had similar experiences when having to transfer iOS data and trading in devices in an Apple Store? Talk Back and Let Me Know.
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Apple Watch Series 4 owners are about to gain a potentially life-saving app. On Thursday, Apple will release a software update for Apple Watch owners that adds an ECG app to the company’s latest smartwatch.
The feature was first announced by Apple back in September, alongside FDA approval for De Novo classification for the ECG app.
The new app is included in watchOS 5.1.2 and follows Wednesday’s release of iOS 12.1.1.
(Image: Apple, Inc.)
When using an ECG app, the user will need to place his or her finger on the Digital Crown, working in tandem with sensors on the bottom of the watch, and hold still for 30 seconds. After the test is complete, users can view results, complete with a chart of the heart rhythm, in the Apple Health app. The app also provides an option to export the test as a PDF to share with a physician.
(Image: Apple, Inc.)
Owners of Apple Watch Series 1 or newer aren’t left out. The same update will enable irregular rhythm notifications to the Apple Watch. Using the built-in heart rate monitor, the watch will look for signs of atrial fibrillation (AFib) and alert the wearer if an irregularity is found, with a suggestion of following up with a doctor.
CNET was given early access to the new ECG app and tested it in a doctor’s office, and the experience for Vanessa Hand Orellana is something you’ll just have to read.
As of 1:15 pm ET the update is now live for Apple Watch owners.
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Apple has long been positioning the iPhone and the Apple Watch as wellness devices — hardware that can help you track markers of fitness including exercise, step count, and even sleep and ‘mindfulness minutes’.
But now it’s taking that a step further by adding the sort of heart-monitoring technology more usually of interest to doctors — making it available to anyone with a wrist and a few hundred dollars to spare.
While previous versions of the Apple Watch have been able to measure a wearer’s heart rate, the Apple Watch 4 takes a big step up with its electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG depending on where you are) functionality — which is now live.
Thanks to the new functionality, the Apple Watch will be able to keep an eye on your heart in two ways. First, the Watch’s optical heart sensor quietly measures the wearer’s heart rhythm in the background. If it detects an irregular heartbeat, the Watch flashes up a message warning that you might have a condition known as atrial fibrillation, and so might like to consider a trip to the doctor. Secondly, electrodes in the new model’s crown and back sapphire crystal allow the Watch wearer to take an ECG themselves; again, an alert is delivered if there are signs of atrial fibrillation.
So what’s the big deal with atrial fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation, also known as AF or AFib, is a condition where the electrical signals that control the heart go awry. In a normal heart, the signal that tells the heart to beat comes from an area known as the sinoatrial node, and spreads out around the heart from there. The signal should be steady and regular, but in atrial fibrillation the signal to beat is generated outside of the sinoatrial node, and at random, giving someone with the condition an irregular pulse.
While that might not sound worrying, the irregular heart rhythm means the atrium doesn’t pump out blood as it should. The blood hangs around in the upper part of the heart for too long, and clots may form — clots that may ultimately end up in the brain, causing a stroke.
Apart from the irregular heartbeat, someone with atrial fibrillation may have no other symptoms — they may only become aware they have the condition after ending up in hospital. A study published last year found that a stroke was the first symptom of atrial fibrillation in one in five people with the condition, and that around one third of people who were at higher risk of AF had the condition, but hadn’t been diagnosed.
According to the Heart Study (Apple-sponsored research by Stanford University) the Watch was able to identify people with atrial fibrillation 98 percent of the time, and those with normal heart rhythm 99 percent.
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Atrial fibrillation is a condition that mainly affects the over-65s — although it can affect younger people too, they’re far less likely to experience the condition. One side effect of Apple’s new ECG feature may be that — as Apple Watch users are typically younger – it could lead to a wave of younger people visiting their doctor after a bout of atrial fibrillation. As atrial fibrillation largely hasn’t largely been picked up in a younger population before, because they’re not screened for it in the same way as over 65s, there’s been very little research done on how best to treat them.
“Atrial fibrillation is an important health issue that affects a lot of people, so there’s a lot of sense in trying to recognise people with atrial fibrillation. But what I think is the challenge is that we don’t know enough about the early stage of the disease to really guide people on what treatment to have,” says cardiologist and researcher Rohin Francis.
“The majority of all our information on atrial fibrillation has been in people who have been diagnosed opportunistically or who have had a stroke or mini-stroke, and often it’s something that we’ll find after they’ve had another problem, so we don’t have any real evidence on well patients — particularly younger patients — who might have a bit of atrial fibrillation from time to time.
“If we detect a short run of atrial fibrillation in someone that is otherwise fit and well and doesn’t have major risk factors for stroke otherwise, we don’t know whether they would benefit from the same treatment as someone who’s, say, elderly and has other risk factors, or who has already had a stroke,” Francis says.
Nonetheless, by bringing this sub-population of patients to medical attention, Apple is likely to inspire significant research into how to treat early stage atrial fibrillation in younger patients, particularly as the sheer number of Apple Watch users and the data they bring is likely to be many times what a conventional medical trial could generate.
There are other potential benefits from the Apple’s ECG feature too. As well as finding previously-undiagnosed people with atrial fibrillation, it could help track those already on treatment for the condition. By checking in with the ECG feature, patients with AF could keep their doctors up to date on whether starting a new treatment or swapping to a different medication has decreased the frequency of their atrial fibrillation.
There are already some caveats to the Watch’s ECG feature, however: it is not to be used by people under 22, for example. The FDA also stipulates that the ECG Watch shouldn’t be used as a replacement for normal medical workup. “The ECG data displayed by the ECG app is intended for informational use only. The user is not intended to interpret or take clinical action based on the device output without consultation of a qualified healthcare professional.. [it] not intended to replace traditional methods of diagnosis or treatment,” it said.
Also, in around 10 percent of cases, the Stanford research found the Watch was unable to read people’s rhythm at all — meaning some Watch wearers who have atrial fibrillation may still go undiagnosed.
What’s next for the Watch’s ECG?
Apple’s Watch is a one-lead ECG, making it a very blunt instrument — it’s only set up to measure the heart’s activity at one point. It can detect atrial fibrillation, but detecting atrial fibrillation isn’t actually that hard: any doctor (and even most medical students) will be able to detect it just by taking a patient’s pulse.
With just one lead, the Watch’s ECG means it won’t become a substitute for a full 12-lead workup that doctors use to diagnose cardiac problems. However, there are other conditions that it could potentially be used to diagnose in future, such as other types of supraventricular tachycardia. Thanks to Apple’s ECG functionality, we could be witnessing the beginning of an era of home diagnostics: a time when a diagnosis is handed down by a device on the wrist, not a doctor in a clinic.
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The NHS still relies on paper for many patient records. Getting rid of it could free up time, and money.
The rise of robots is inevitable in healthcare, but for now, keeping it simple is just what the doctor ordered.
Against a background of growing enterprise adoption of virtual reality, mixed reality and similar technologies are beginning to gain a foothold in the NHS.
Imagine using Face ID on your iPhone alongside a password and Touch ID on your computer in order to access highly secure websites, such as online banks, enterprise intranets and confidential online data services.
That’s a possibility as Apple begins testing a new security standard called WebAuthn.
What is WebAuthn?
WebAuthn (Web Authentication) technology lets websites/online services use hardware keys (typically USB devices) to authenticate your identity when you try to access them.
These keys are usually used alongside passcodes and other security protections (including two-factor authentication (2FA) to provide even stronger protection when you access these services.
While not based on the same technology, many online banking consumers may have been offered authentication devices by their banks, but such hardware/software keys are also used elsewhere, in government and the military, for example.w3.org
WebAuthn also supports a companion standard called FIDO2, which lets hardware keys use Bluetooth and NFC for authentication of WebAuthn sessions. In theory, this means you can use existing security devices, including fingerprint readers, cameras, and USB keys as website authentication systems.
It isn’t known if Apple will support FIDO2, but if it did, it may potentially be able to create a system in which iPhones (or even an Apple Watch) became a hardware “key” used to access secure services, leveraging its advantages in biometric security and the industry-leading security of its operating systems.
This would tie an individual user’s mobile device up to a PC, Mac, or iPad used to access the system and would replace or at least supplement password protection.
It is important to add that WebAuthn is not yet fully endorsed by the W3C, particularly in light of recent warnings from the Paragon Initiative that some of the algorithms used in the standard may be outdated and vulnerable to attack.
Why it matters
WebAuthn is also supported in Mozilla, Microsoft Edge, and Google.
Its existence confirms that security protection will become increasingly dependent on multifactor hardware/software/biometric security models.
A quick scan of the news headlines confirms that the velocity of major attacks is increasing, with huge companies (such as the Marriott hotel chain) impacted.
This means millions of customer details — including names and passwords used across multiple services — that have been stolen through this, and many other attacks are almost certainly now trading on the dark web.
The industry must recognize that the security challenges around phishing and data theft extend way beyond financial transactions and personal data security, but also threaten the political process.
With this in mind, it seems likely we’ll see it come together more tightly to develop robust security technologies for a digitally connected Internet of Things (IoT) age.
Apple’s decision to support (or at least test) the security standard confirms the growing awareness among all stakeholders of the need to address the security challenge.
A little more
To enable support, you need to download and install the latest Safari Preview, then open Develop>Experimental Features>Web Authentication.
You will also need an external hardware device, such as the Yubikey 5 or $20 Yubi Security Key. It is interesting to note that all YubiKey 5 Series (USB-A and USB-C devices) and the Security Key by Yubico support FIDO2/Webauth.
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