‘Safe and Smart’: the impact of technology in the public sector

The seventh annual UK ‘Safe and Smart’ parliamentary reception recently took place at the House of Commons, drawing together the best minds from both the public and private sectors.

Under the theme ‘Safe and Smart’, the event saw Parliamentarians (both MPs and Peers), representatives from Government Departments and Government Agencies discuss the role technology has to play in creating more efficient, collaborative organisations.

Here, Robert Pickles, Canon UK’s head of corporate and government affairs, shares his key insights from the day.

Technology keeping people safe at work

From the use of drones in dangerous situations, to driverless quarry vehicles, technology is being used to improve safety at work in a multitude of sectors.

However, with technological advancement comes challenges for the likes of Health and Safety Executive – a Government organisation focused on reducing work-related health, safety and illness issues.

>See also: Digital transformation in the public sector

For James Anderson, chief technology officer – and one of the event’s keynote speakers – one challenge is how to interact with the data captured by such technology. First, simply by accessing it, then analysing and using the data to help businesses determine whether they’re being safe.

However, like many CTOs, Anderson’s biggest challenge comes in motivating his own workforce to embrace the journey of modernisation, namely to think in new ways, adopt new technologies and implement new ways of working.

He believes there are three groups of people within any organisation: early adopters, those that are the ardent opponents to any change and then those that are indifferent.

By spending time with the most challenging people, he has been able to persuade, educate and communicate with the workforce to ensure technology is truly embraced.

Technology keeping people healthy

Lucie Glenday, chief data officer at Pathway Ltd – a business that supports customers with technology to remain independent at home – was the reception’s second speaker.

She delivered a talk on a technology-led reinvention of our healthcare system, powered by innovation, with a focus on prevention and early intervention, rather than cure.

In the past few years, we’ve seen video conferences enable remote diagnoses while data continues to deliver greater transparency when it comes to patient behaviour.

What’s more, day-to-day healthcare has hit the headlines with wearable devices and fitness apps now driving consumer awareness.

At Pathway, Glenday and her team use information and data to assess, diagnose and support vulnerable people before their health needs escalate. Their ability to provide comprehensive care has changed beyond recognition thanks to technology.

>See also: UK public sector increases cloud use

Today, wireless sensors in the home and wearable devices find patterns in their customers’ behaviour – they then set parameters and tolerances, looking for any deviation which could be indicative of wider issues.

For example, a deterioration in trips to the kitchen could indicate mobility and nutrition concerns, an increase in trips to the bathroom could indicate continence issues.

Of course some variations to these patterns could require escalation into hospital or a doctor’s appointment but for the most part, the carer or next of kin is alerted and the problem is resolved by a phone call or a quick visit by one of their team.

Their wearable technologies monitor heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels, blood sugar, stress and peak flow and they use patch technology to monitor hydration levels, which is of significant concern to the elderly.

However, whilst health data is opening up a whole world of new opportunities, we also need to consider the implications to data ownership.

Pathway’s customers own their own data which isn’t something that sits naturally with the data model the NHS uses, where the GP’s health record is the definitive source of a patient’s wellbeing.

Whilst the Pathway data can integrate with the major records systems, as personal health technology continues to evolve, the industry will need to examine how patient-owned health records sit alongside those of a GP.

>See also: Public sector lacks the skills for long-term digital transformation

The availability of such comprehensive data sets also poses questions around the jurisdiction of GPs. At what point do data-informed individuals assume greater control over their own health choices and when should they overrule a GP’s prescribed course of action?

The future of healthcare tech is unknown but it’s clear that it will continue to disrupt.

Safe and Smart

The UK ‘Safe and Smart’ parliamentary reception brought together public and private sector professionals to learn from each other and form synergies that will have a lasting impact.

Canon has long been an advocate of tying the links between technology in both the public and private sectors.

With examples mentioned by both Pathway and Health and Safety Executive, it is clear that now is an important time for organisations to decide how to work with data advances, as well as wider digital technologies.

The concept of ‘Safe and Smart’ will continue to be a focal point at this annual event, with every year bringing new ideas and possibilities for the public sector.


Sourced by Robert Pickles, head of corporate and government affairs at Canon UK

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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