5 non-health tech stories you should care about this week

Plus, MIT programmers have developed a tool to find bugs in Web applications fast and improved digital banking technology may be the death knell for physical bank branches.


It’s Friday afternoon, so it’s time once again to take a look at what you may have missed — particularly if you attended MedCity INVEST in Chicago this week — in the world of technology outside healthcare.

Here, we present this week’s list of five interesting general technology stories from the past week that people in healthcare should pay attention to. These issues could have an impact on health tech in the future.

1. “FBI paid professional hackers one-time fee to crack San Bernardino iPhone” (The Washington Post)

The FBI cracked a San Bernardino terrorist’s phone with the help of professional hackers who discovered and brought to the bureau at least one previously unknown software flaw, according to people familiar with the matter.

The new information was then used to create a piece of hardware that helped the FBI to crack the iPhone’s four-digit personal identification number without triggering a security feature that would have erased all the data, the individuals said.

The researchers, who typically keep a low profile, specialize in hunting for vulnerabilities in software and then in some cases selling them to the U.S. government. They were paid a one-time flat fee for the solution.

2. “MIT’s new bug finder uncovers flaws in Web apps in 64 seconds” (CIO)

Finding bugs in Web applications is an ongoing challenge, but a new tool from MIT exploits some of the idiosyncrasies in the Ruby on Rails programming framework to quickly uncover new ones.

In tests on 50 popular Web applications written using Ruby on Rails, the system found 23 previously undiagnosed security flaws, and it took no more than 64 seconds to analyze any given program.

Ruby on Rails is distinguished from other frameworks because it defines even its most basic operations in libraries. MIT’s researchers took advantage of that fact by rewriting those libraries so that the operations defined in them describe their own behavior in a logical language.

3. “Traditional banks may be in trouble due to digital banking” (Business Insider)

The bank branch will become obsolete. It will be some time before the final death rattle, but improving online channels, declining branch visits, and the rising cost per transaction at branches are collectively leading to branch closures.

Banks that don’t act fast are going to lose relationships with customers. Consumers are increasingly opting for digital banking services provided by third-party tech firms. This is disrupting the relationships between banks and their customers, and banks are losing out on branding and cross-selling opportunities. For many banks, this will require further commoditization of their products and services.

4. “Whatever Happened to Facebook’s Slack Competitor Facebook at Work?” (Re/code)

When we last spoke to Facebook about Work, the company was gearing up to launch a freemium version of the software to the masses before the end of 2015. It’s now mid-April 2016, and Facebook at Work is still in a closed beta.

So what happened? Is Facebook at Work still part of the game plan?

“We are working on building a great experience by incorporating the feedback we’re receiving from our pilot partners around the world,” a spokesperson told us, adding that the internal Facebook at Work team is growing and adding international support. “The product will be more widely available later this year.”

5. “Lytro’s 755 megapixel Cinema light field camera is going to kill the green screen” (TechCrunch)

The company’s light field solution is a truly beautiful technology that may eventually be in every camera we snap a shot or video with. The tech essentially uses data on all of the available light in a photo to separate objects by depth and store them in a three-dimensional grid. In the future this technology will allow the simple creation of VR-ready navigable 3D spaces, but right now it’s enabling filmmakers the ability to achieve a level of detail and flexibility in gathering shots and making post-production edits that wasn’t previously possible.