Archive for the ‘Healthcare IT’ Category

Temperature Mapping A Data Center Garage

Posted on: August 6th, 2015 by Dickson No Comments

Data Center Temperature Monitoring

In Season 2 of HBO’s hit TV Series, ”Silicon Valley,” Gilfoyle, a software designer and hardware guru, (played by Martin Starr) builds his company, Pied Piper, a host server in their ”Hacker Hostel’s” garage.

Now, we don’t try to be too big of computer know-it-all’s here at Dickson. While we do have our own Software as a Service system, with IoT hardware that communicates to a cloud application, we utilize Amazon Secure Web Services to host all of our data. Which means we don’t have direct, day-to-day interaction with the actual machines running all of our system’s data.

That all being said: we are temperature nerds. And we really question Gilfoyle’s temperature foresight to build a server in a garage. (We admit that the show is based in the Bay area of San Francisco, and thus isn’t susceptible to HUGE temperature swings. But, an office with an HVAC system would really be a much better solution.)

Why? Because server rooms heat up quickly, especially when the power goes out. They continue to run on backup battery, while the HVAC system is shut down.

Losing data is a nightmare. Which is why for Gilfoyle, we would recommend temperature mapping the Hacker’s Hostel garage before and after putting servers in. Data centers and server rooms experience extremely quick rises in temperature: servers generate a lot of heat. Without proper air circulation, and proper temperature monitoring, those extremely warm temperatures ruin a company’s data.

In a server room, temperature mapping means monitoring in a much more congested space than say, a warehouse. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be less points to monitor at within your server environment. Instead, when you map a data center, map at more points. Place your data loggers down the aisles of your server stacks, in between stacks, at all HVAC outputs, near any windows and doors, and by any external heat source (other than the servers themselves).



Why the Promise of Wearable Technology Lies in the Data

Posted on: July 19th, 2015 by Dickson 1 Comment

Update 11/19: It’s been interesting to see that since we published this piece, a sense persists that tech companies are more interested in developing wearables than consumers are in buying them. This recent article from The Economist has an interesting take, arguing that the challenge for wearables is the absence of a “killer app”. However as in our article below, they highlight the potential that wearable tech data has to transform public health.

“Clinical trials could become cheaper and more accurate if drugmakers give wearable monitors to the patients taking part. Hospitals and doctors’ surgeries could use such monitors to reduce the need for home visits.”

It’s difficult to overstate how quickly the wearable tech space is growing; after all, how many of your friends wear FitBits, use Garmins on their runs, or tap their Apple Watches to quickly check an email. In fact, the wearable technology industry is projected to see a 34% compound growth rate through 2020. However, as sophisticated as wearable technology may seem today, the industry still hasn’t really lived up to its hype. In fact, wearable technology sees a 30% return rate and high product abandonment after six months.

So where can wearable technology turn to achieve its full potential? The answer is in the data these devices make available. This goes far beyond the individual data that people like to track and share with their friends (such as how many steps they’ve walked per day). Instead, the data collected from wearable technology has a chance to make the biggest impact in the medical and public health fields. Wearable technology gives individuals access to a vast array of data, from heart rate to calories burned and more. This same data could revolutionize the healthcare industry, sending medical data to researchers, doctors, nurses, and pharmacies in order to better serve the individual.

With over ninety years of experience in data logging and monitoring in the healthcare industry, Dickson has seen firsthand the impact that data can have on an individual’s life; our data loggers are used for everything from helping grow tomatoes in a vertical farm to ensuring that highly perishable vaccines are stored in the appropriate conditions. The data gleaned from wearable technologies has the potential to help millions of people when used within the healthcare and medical industries. Here’s a look at the current landscape of wearable technologies, the limitations the industry faces, and the possibilities that exist in the data.

Putting the growth of the wearable technology industry in perspective.

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The Wearable Technology Landscape

The most immediately available examples of wearable technology are mostly found on your wrist: smart watches, fitness trackers, and sports watches. However, wearable technology isn’t relegated to your wrist; in fact, it can be on any part of your body, from head to toe and even under your skin. Here’s a brief overview of the current genres of wearable technology:

  • Smartwatches: devices worn on your wrist that connect to a mobile phone and act as a miniaturized version of the connected mobile platform, such as the Apple Watch.
  • Fitness trackers: devices worn on your wrist or clipped to your belt that are most commonly used as pedometers, such as the Fitbit; however, newer models contain heart rate monitors and the ability to measure calories burned as well.
  • Sports watches: a combination of smart watches and fitness trackers, sports watches such as the Garmin Forerunner typically include a GPS system to track your running and/or cycling route.
  • Head Mounted Display (HMD): a fairly new area in wearable technology, the HMD is worn on the head or as part of a helmet and shows a computer generated image, live images from the real world, or a combination of both; the most notable examples are Google Glass and Oculus Rift (note that Google recently took their Google Glass prototype off the market but says they are still developing the product).
  • Smart clothing: clothing that either contains some sort of electronic device that contributes to the aesthetics of the clothing or that appears otherwise normal but contains devices that give the clothing additional functionality. One example is Sensoria, a run-tracking sports sock gives runners information on pace, distance, time, and running style.
  • Smart jewelry: similar to smart watches, smart jewelry uses the same technology combined with a different aesthetic. Tory Burch has paved the way for the intersection of designer fashion and fitness trackers with her line for Fitbit.
  • Implantables: currently uncommon and confined mostly to the medical field (for example, implantable birth control), implantable technologies are placed beneath the skin and used for everything from magnetic fingertips to identification.

The wearable technology industry is projected to see a 34% annual compound growth through 2020, which is no surprise when you consider that recent studies have shown that the use of health and fitness apps is growing 87% faster than the mobile industry average.

While price is a major motivator for people buying wearables (one study found that the most interest was generated by a price point between $201-300), the biggest categories for wearables currently are in the health and fitness areas, showing that consumers are interested in tracking their fitness.

In 2014, the top 20 wearable tech companies included several big names (Google, Johnson & Johnson, Samsung, and Sony) and notable fitness tracking companies (such as Fitbit, Garmin, Jabra, and Jawbone) as well as companies that had previously only specialized in athletic apparel (such as Adidas and Nike). Of course, this was before the Apple Watch was released. While exact numbers of Apple Watches sold haven’t been released yet by Apple, it was estimated that they sold as many as one million units during their first pre-order weekend. Current estimates place sales at around 14 million units sold by the end of the fiscal year in September.

While the wearable technology industry is expected to continue its impressive growth, there are still limitations to the current technology and common flaws that contribute to high abandonment rates.


The Limitations of Wearables

You may recognize it as “shiny toy syndrome”: children get a new toy and excitedly play with it obsessively for a short period of time until they ultimately get tired of the toy and it falls by the wayside with the rest of their abandoned playthings. Unfortunately, the same principle often occurs with wearable technology; in fact, research shows that wearable technology has a 30% return rate and high product abandonment after six months.

While around 10% of Americans over the age of 18 own an activity-tracking wearable device, 40-50% claim that they no longer use it, and most tend to abandon the device within about six months. But why?

Studies are few and far between, but some theories suggest that the high return and abandonment rates can be attributed mostly to aesthetics and perceived common flaws. Since wearable technology is inherently wearable, the design and aesthetics of wearable technology are crucial to getting people to buy and use the devices. As Bill Geiser of Metawatch points out, “If nobody wants to wear it, is it really wearable?”

Wearables are also often perceived to have some common flaws that lead to abandonment. For example, many believe that wearables are easy to lose, breakable, not waterproof, difficult to sync with a smartphone, ugly, uncomfortable, and more. Users are also concerned with low battery life; after all, if you have to recharge a device every eight hours, it’s not a convenient or useful device. Even if the specific device being used doesn’t have that common flaw, users who believe that it does are much more likely to abandon the product.

Aside from perceived limitations, the actual limitations of wearable technology range from design to privacy issues. For example, HMDs such as Google Glass may have a flawed design that contributes to its slow reception, with its asymmetry driving away consumers. Other consumers are concerned that their wearable technology isn’t secure and private and that their private data is at risk for identify theft or other forms of misuse. Finally, while the small size of wearable tech is an appealing part of its design, miniature screens make it impractical for users to type messages or do other tasks that would be much easier on a phone; the catch-22 is that few consumers would want to buy a piece of wearable technology that’s as large as a smartphone.

Is wearable technology just hype, and do they help the people who really need them?

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Behind the hype of wearable tech – why are products so frequently returned and abandoned?

Wearable technology companies are already being proactive about overcoming these limitations. Modwell, for example, makes an activity tracker in the shape of a tiny disc that attaches to the inside of clothing; hideable technology is popular with users since it can easily be included in the design of any outfit.

Wearable technology is also becoming more peripheral. Previously, you had to look at wearable technology in order to interact with it, much like you would a smartphone. Now, however, companies are working on making wearable technology less intrusive and more integrated with users’ everyday activities, such as GPS shoes that use lights to indicate the direction a runner should go.

Companies are working to improve the screens on wearable technology, and they’re also experimenting with ways to disconnect wearables from other devices such as smartphones while still retaining full functionality. Experts believe that this detachment will help wearables become a valuable technology on their own rather than just fun gadgets to use with your smartphone.

While wearable technology companies work to address these limitations, the true potential of wearable technology lies within an untapped connection: data and the medical and public health industries.

The Big Data Possibilities of Wearable Technology

Currently, wearable technology is used mostly by individuals and in conjunction with the fitness tracking industry. Users appreciate the ability to quantify their every movement, adding to their collection of personal data and striving to beat their records and improve different aspects of their health.

The personal data that wearable technology makes available.

However, wearable tech’s applications have the potential to make a profound impact in the medical communication and medical monitoring fields.  For example, devices used for medical communication today are moving from simply alerting authorities to someone’s need from help (such as with a device like Life Alert) toward allowing direct communication between the wearer and a medical professional, using a concept similar to a button patients would use in the hospital to alert a nurse.

Wearable tech companies are searching for ways to sell the data that they gather and store from their devices, and the medical and public health fields are ideal fits for that data. The medical and public health fields are moving away from recording charts on paper and writing physical prescriptions for patients; instead, nearly 66% of physicians today would prescribe an app to help patients manage chronic diseases, while 79% of physicians and nearly 50% of consumers believe that using mobile devices can help physicians better coordinate care.

The public health and healthcare possibilities of wearable tech data.

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“The people who could most benefit from this technology- the old, the chronically ill, the poor- are being ignored.” The point that this article makes is an astute one; additionally, more than half of wearable technology uses and stores data which is not regulated by a user agreement. Therefore, the data could be sold and distributed without the user’s consent or knowledge, whether it’s activity data, movement data, or medical data.

Meanwhile, prototypes in the medical monitoring field are still being developed. Currently, they are most often used to transmit data from a patient to medical professionals, especially following the patient’s release from a hospital environment. Medical monitoring devices can do anything from measure heartrate or swelling to diagnosing potential problems from sweat or blood. Examples of prototypes in development include shirts and underwear that can monitor the chemical composition of sweat, and wristbands which can take and use a single drop of blood to record and transmit information about the patient’s health.

Some current applications of the intersection of data and health services:

  • Using wearable technology to determine insurance rates on a daily basis rather than just once a year.
  • io, an app that can alert a provider if something is “off” and may signal a potential depressive or manic episode based on how much the patient moves or how many people they’ve talked to that day.
  • ResearchKit, an Apple innovation geared towards using various features already included in the iPhone and other Apple devices for medical research.
  • iTBra by Cyrcadia, a “smart bra” that uses built-in sensors to track breast health by monitoring the conditions and rhythms observable in breast tissue to alert for the possibility of cancer (it’s been tested so far on 500 patients, with an 97% success rate)

The amount and type of data that wearable technology tracks is a natural fit for the medical and public health industries. Fitness and activity trackers have only begun to scratch the surface of how wearable technology can improve the health of their users, and as wearable technology continues to develop, these industries will continue to invent new ways to use their powerful data for the greater good.



Resources for Hospital IT Supervisors

Posted on: June 3rd, 2015 by Dickson No Comments

Healthcare IT Supervisor Resources

Healthcare IT is at the forefront of medical development these days. In previous editions of Dickson Insights and on our blog, we’ve outlined top twitter accounts, best websites and links, and other resources meant to help out those in the Healthcare IT landscape that is constantly changing around them. Because of the initial problems with, and because of cyber attacks like the Heartbleed bug, the public’s mindset towards Healthcare’s digital infrastructure has been a little volatile. If that overarching theme tells us anything, it’s that navigating the healthcare world as a IT Supervisor can be difficult, especially when it comes to finding resources you can rely on.

In past articles in Dickson Insights, and in past columns on our blog, we’ve tried our best to provide some avenues with which employees in Healthcare IT can better themselves and their healthcare system.

This time, we are focusing on the Healthcare IT Supervisor. We’ve listed off some general resource themes below that we think will help you better navigate your healthcare system, which will only be a benefit to the patients your healthcare system serves.

Training and Certification Programs

Healthcare IT Supervisors have to handle a combination of healthcare, IT, and managerial problems every day. Thus, additional training in all three of those scopes (and a few more) is a useful resource with which to gain more knowledge. The “skills” that one should learn as a part of these training programs are as follows:

  • Securities
  • Project Management
  • Electronic Health Records
  • Customer Service

Each of these skill sets has specific training and certification programs out there to help Healthcare IT Supervisors gain knowledge. Resources like Coursera, CAPM, and PMP can help give you a leg up for your career long-term, while also immediately making you a better supervisor to your Healthcare IT workers.

Job Boards

As a supervisor, you should try your best to find the best employees! Great Healthcare IT employees will help make your job easier. In this instance we are not just referring to LinkedIn, CareerBuilder, and Indeed. There are job boards specifically designed for IT focused individuals seeking out employment. Along those same lines are recruiters. Recruiters help you contact individuals who may already be employed, and thus may be the best candidate for your open position.


Conferences may seem like an easy excuse to spend a week away, perusing isles of exhibitors and lazily sitting through lectures . . . but they aren’t! We’ve found that in the Healthcare IT industry specifically, conferences are almost essential. Whether you or someone in your organization goes, you will not regret it. Industry events like the Digital Health Summit and HIMMS are great for interacting with your peers, and discovering the latest trends and innovations in Healthcare IT.

White Papers and Blogs

Those who work in Healthcare IT are usually well-versed in the online arts. But just in case you haven’t searched out any new resources lately, we’ve provided some over on our blog. There we listed off the best general Healthcare IT blogs, the best blogs for Supervisors specifically, and the best white papers that companies and governmental organizations have created with respect to Healthcare IT.



A Data Logger and Temperature Monitor for Your Server Room

Posted on: May 1st, 2015 by Dickson No Comments

Server Room, Healthcare IT, Data Logger, Temperature

Last month in Dickson Insights, our feature story focused on server room and data center temperature. We outlined an issue that happened at Yale University, and talked through the different temperature and humidity nuances that a data center provides. What we did not touch on, were the benefits of any one data logger over another. That is what this article is for. We will obviously be speaking about Dickson products, and one Dickson product in particular, but feel free to use this guide to help you navigate the large (and sometimes overwhelming) data logger market. If you are in the IT world, this guide should help you better understand our world: the data logging one.


The easiest way to narrow down your data logger search, is to know what you will be measuring. For data centers, that usually means temperature, humidity, and maybe water detection. For Dickson products, that means you will be looking to our temperature and humidity ambient sensors. These sensors and their associated data loggers provide two channels of measurement: temperature and humidity, each extremely accurate and calibrated to your needs.


Temperature rises fast in a data center. With energy costs and HVAC concerns, managing the temperature of a data center has become more robust, but the rapidness with which temperatures can rise when there is a power or HVAC malfunction remains constant. For that reason, your data logger should have a thorough alarming system. That means more than just an annoying beep at the source. You should want to be notified of rising or falling temperatures when you are away. For Dickson products, that means the DicksonOne family of data loggers. These loggers give you the option of customizable phone call, text, or email alarms, along with that annoying beep at the source.


Next up, is how you want to access your data logger’s data. If you opted out of the robust alarming system above, you are stuck with a manual USB download. If you didn’t, you have options. Many companies offer WiFi, Ethernet, Cellular, and Radio Frequency connectivity of your data loggers. Data centers and server rooms usually have WiFi or Ethernet connectivity, so that is what we would suggest. Choosing between the two is a matter of preference. There is a certain amount of security that comes with Ethernet (less likely to have a lost connection) but snaking Ethernet cord everywhere can be inconvenient. Either way, our DicksonOne system has you covered. And now, with our DicksonOne Touchscreen having the option of Power over Ethernet, you can decide to not have to find a wall outlet for your data logger.


Finally, we have the number of data loggers that you will need. Some server rooms are made up of one simple rack of computer servers, and others are entire data center campuses. As for our products, the data logger in the picture above is perfectly scalable. And we think it’s exactly what you need.



How Server Room Temperature Monitoring Prevents Data Loss

Posted on: March 23rd, 2015 by Dickson No Comments

Temperature Monitoring Computers

Ivy League Failures

Back in October of 2014, Larry Milsten of the Yale Daily News reported on a data server failure that brought down an entire university’s website and email accounts, during the wonderfully inopportune time of midterms.

That University of course, was Yale. In that October 9th article, Milsten interviewed multiple sources directly involved in Yale’s ITS division, from students and library workers to the current University CIO, Len Peters.

The article walks through the different ways a data server shutdown influenced the campus, while also trying to find the root cause of the issue. In the article, Peters describes how rare the occasion was for Yale, as the server experienced a multi-point power failure. The data center failure left students without their university emails, without access to online courses; the failure even took down the Yale library.

The piece of Milsten’s article that sticks out the most to us was the “Why?” of it all. Specifically, two instances in which a librarian and a student working for Yale ITS each named “overheating” as the reason for the data center issues. Both Rowillie Ross and Lizza Rodler believed that the failure was because of an air conditioning mishap.

The October 9th article was not the end of the investigation. After the weekend, on October 13, 2014, Milsten reported that Yale ITS was still investigating the Thursday server failure. While the article eventually divulges into asking Yale students how they dealt with the power outage, the opening line of the article sticks out:

Three days after the largest computer system failure in recent memory at Yale, the root cause has yet to be fully determined.

To make matters worse . . . the Yale servers crashed again only a few weeks later.

The data server failing for a few hours at Yale is one thing. What happens when a data center, serving more than a University, fails and all its data is lost?

While it was simply word-of-mouth reporting from those two individuals, it did peak our interest back in 2014, as temperatures adverse influence on data center security is a problem that we’ve stumbled across before. While the cause of Yale’s server failures was found to be to to electrical and power failures, the question remains: can server rooms overheat? If so, is it common? How big of a problem is it?

It’s a big one. Servers room with racks upon racks of data storage and humming servers generate a lot of heat. And they have to be kept cool, because overheating leads to disaster for data.

Server Room Temperature Monitoring

The world’s data is stored in server rooms across the country. There really is no “magic cloud.” The cloud is a data center or server room, that allows you to access your Facebook, Gmail, and Bank of America data by logging onto a website. Small businesses and large corporations have their data in server rooms. I know we do here at Dickson. For all the media coverage of hackers and viruses, one of the scariest threats to our data is hardly talked about: temperature.

Because server and data centers use so much power, if the HVAC or cooling system in a data center fails, the temperature of those rooms rises very quickly. Many times, those failures are the result of a power failure. When the power goes out, data centers will continue to run on back-up generators. While the HVAC and Cooling Systems (which sometimes take up as much if not more power than the data centers themselves) cease operation. Because server and data centers use so much power, they generate a lot of heat. So much so, that a simple Google Search for “server room temperature” returns results like: “Germans get free heating from the cloud” and “Heating a skyscraper with a data center.

As temperatures rise, computers fry. This leads to extremely high energy costs for data centers, so much so that there has been a call from tech giants like Google to “Raise Your Data Center Heat.” All this contention and information comes before the many data-center hacks that outline the solution to your heating problem hinges on the exact number of perforated tiles your data needs per square foot of space.

It can all be a bit overwhelming. While we will leave the control of your data center’s temperature up to you, we can offer some advice in the monitoring department.

Monitoring the temperature of your data center gives you a few tools that can be essential to the security of the data you are storing:



Alarms are pretty straight forward. When the temperature of your data center gets too high (or much less commonly, too low) data loggers and data monitoring systems can alert you via text, email, or a phone call.

A data logger can be your best friend and saving grace.

At Dickson, we offer devices that use cloud storage, to keep your cloud safe! Specifically, our line of DicksonOne temperature monitoring data loggers can alert you when your server room gets too hot: via text, email, or phone call. 

Mapping? That’s a little more nuanced. We sell data loggers to a lot of warehouses, and those warehouses place loggers across their entire floor plan to account for temperature differences and stratification that they may not be accounting for with their current monitoring system. Mapping is also extremely useful for data centers. Data centers have racking just like warehouses. So, they also have temperature stratification, a concern with air flow, and problem spots. Using data loggers (like these!) to map your data center floor will help you find those problem spots, and also help you find inefficiencies in your cooling system.

However you handle the temperature of your data center, do it completely and thoroughly. We believe part of that is using a data logger to monitor the temperature of your servers.