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What to expect from tech in 2017: TVs held hostage, personalized healthcare and more

Technology runs the world — and 2016 was the year that showed it’s full potential.

The gadgets and the internet were at the centre of numerous year’s biggest stories, most notably the U.S. presidential election.

From Facebook’s alleged fake news issue and accusations that Russian hackers have targeted the U.S. presidential election, technology was at the top of America’s political narrative.


But ordinary people were also subjected to an increasing number of cyber-attacks and hacking scandals, at least one of which drew attention to the dangers of so-called Internet of Things, which is a network of web-connected home devices.

Experts warn the future could be even more volatile when it comes to cyber attacks.

Smart Devices Could Be Kidnaped

In October, popular Domain Name Server (DNS) provider Dyn was targeted with a large-scale Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack that shut down its systems and caused widespread outages for the websites like Amazon, Twitter, Netflix, Spotify and Airbnb.

The attack was a rough awakening for consumers after it was discovered that hackers orchestrated the takedown using malware to infect “smart” devices connected to the Internet of Things.

In other words, your Wi-Fi connected coffee maker could be utilized as a “cyberweapon” by hackers.

“The bad guys realized it’s easier to enslave these devices, rather than a computer that has anti-virus software,” explained David Masson, Canada country manager for cyber security firm Darktrace.

He cautions that cyber attacks like the one that targeted Dyn’s network will probably increase over the next year. But he also warns that consumers may soon see an expansion of ransomware attacks on their smart devices.

Ransomware is a type of malicious software that encrypts files on a user’s computer and asks for payment in exchange for unlocking the data.

“Imagine you come home, and your TV is hacked, and you want to watch the game. Would you pay 50 bucks to unlock it,” asked Masson.

In Masson’s words, hackers like “easy work.” Darktrace research suggests more hackers realize they can make $50 quickly by just locking people out of these common devices.

So what can you do to help prevent hackers from targeting your smart devices? The easiest way is to change the admin password associated with the device and make sure it’s hard to guess (i.e. don’t just change it from “admin” to “password”).

Personalized healthcare

According to Telus Health, Canada’s largest health IT company, Canada’s adoption rate of digital health technology has doubled since 2009, with more doctors using digital patient information in their practice.

As electronic medical records (EMRs) — a digital chart that holds all of your healthcare history, instead of the traditional paper method — are more widely adopted by family physicians, experts believe preventative medicine will improve.

“Canada is well positioned to increase collaboration between healthcare providers to improve patient care in 2017,” said Paul Lepage, president of Telus Health.

“By ensuring data from a patient’s EMR moves seamlessly across healthcare teams, including doctors, pharmacists and insurance providers, healthcare professionals can become more proactive and focus on preventative medicine, keeping patients healthy rather than simply focusing on treatment once they are sick.”

Patient access to those EMRs has been a hot issue in Ontario this year. In November, health minister Eric Hoskins announced he plans to work on a recommendation to give patients access to their electronic medical records as the province updates the mandate of eHealth Ontario.

The Liberal government’s privatization expert recommended eHealth’s role be refocused on service delivery, and said patients should be able to interact with their own personal health information.

Dr. Sam Azer, the Family Physician in Fort Saskatchewan, AB, says giving patients access to their EMRs would eventually lead to allowing them to interact with their own healthcare data.

“This will give patients more control over their health — even inputting their own health information into their EMRs for their physicians to review,” Azer said.

More advertising, but in virtual reality

If you thought today’s ads were in your face, think again.

According to Abdullah Snobar, director of the tech startup incubator DMZ at Ryerson University, advertising in virtual reality is going to take shape in 2017.

This year the entire world became obsessed with a smartphone game Pokemon Go. Snobar said the integration of ads into this type of game would be huge next year — for example, a brand may lure players to their store, then offer a virtual coupon from within the app.

“Imagine you walk into a BMW dealership, and you get a headset and controllers that would allow you to test drive a BMW in any location you desire in the world,” he said.

Why all the fuss, you ask?

“It’s all going to be value add — what is going to make customers lives easier,” he said.

Canadian Tire is one of the retailers that had been experimenting with augmented and virtual reality. This year the company’s spring catalogue allowed users to download an app and use their smartphone or tablet to create a digital replica of what was on the page, complete with more information, product reviews, and links to online shopping.