Last week, Barcelona played host to the world’s ‘largest technology event’, the annual Mobile World Congress.
Headlining at the five-day event was Mark Zuckerberg, the influential founder of Facebook. The main topic of discussion during his airtime was Facebook’s latest mission to enable those in the developing world to get online via its new project, internet.org.
The mission to provide an affordable internet to connect the two-thirds of the world who do not currently have internet access seems altruistic on the surface. Greater connectivity could open up life-changing possibilities, and even enrich our own knowledge of those in developing countries. But critics are already asking questions.
Who decides which sites mobile phone users in Kenya or India can access for free? Should net neutrality (the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications without favouring or blocking particular products or websites) be preserved at all costs?
Other items on show have included announcements of new devices from Samsung, not to mention a plethora of wearable tech. Attendees have also been delving into the all-important issues of privacy and encryption in response to concerns over personal privacy and mobile security.
Microsoft has also sported a strong presence, with the unveiling of two new and modestly priced Lumia smartphones and the debut of its Universal Foldable Keyboard, designed for compatibility with Android, iOS and Microsoft.
Another area which received a great deal of attention was the potential for technology to revolutionise healthcare. ‘Toilet chips’ that can monitor urine from ordinary bathrooms are one example of the new and emerging digital healthcare we can expect to see installed in coming years. One day, we might even be able to use scanners in our smart phones to carry out blood tests without having to break the skin – the results could be sent to GP’s straight away for examination, allowing for speedier diagnosis. Last year, Google announced that it was working on contact lenses that can track blood sugar levels in real time.
But it’s not just our physical health that could benefit from the new digital healthcare; a British start-up, Biobeats, has received a great deal of interest for its work with Bupa on a stress reduction plan aiming to support those suffering from mental health issues.
All this bodes well for a future in which Britain can carve itself a place as an exporting force for digital healthcare – and could significantly benefit those suffering from diabetes, cancer, heart disease, or dementia on an international scale.