4 Technology Upgrades Every Business Fleet Should Have

A shipping fleet lined up

Modern business fleet management is so much more than taking calls and sitting in an office with a giant map of the city. What was once a dispatch job dispensing intermittent instructions to drivers all over the city is now a highly streamlined technical experience involving adaptive scheduling, navigation, communication, and even vehicle controls. Or, at least, it should be.

The surprising thing is that even with technology for fleet management and service improvement having come leaps and bounds, many business fleets are still mostly just drivers, cars, and the occasional cellphone call back to HQ. However, if your fleet is ready to step into the digital, mobile era of seamless cloud-based management on every possible level, you can. All it takes is putting together your new vehicle tech stack and adapting your workflow to the newly unveiled fleet management possibilities.

Today, we’re starting with the basics before leading you through a thought-leadership journey into the future of cutting-edge fleet management. For this article, we’re going to focus only on four technology upgrades that every business fleet can and should have:


GPS Tracking and Geofencing

GPS has been a fleet management option since the 90s and has only been getting more accurate and accessible since that time. It is entirely possible not just for your drivers to navigate with on-point GPS, but for fleet managers to be able to track the exact location of every single vehicle in their fleet. Of course, you want to know where your company vehicles are, and for more than just basic oversight and security reasons.

Being able to track the locations, routes, movements, and even average speed of your drivers can open up your process to streamlining through data-driven insights.



Geofencing is a technology that stacks onto GPS tracking, as it defines the areas where your GPS-marked vehicles should and should not go. Not only can you track how efficiently your drivers are handling their routes, but you will also be immediately alerted if a company vehicle strays too far from it’s approved service zone in the event of a stolen vehicle, a rogue driver, or traffic so bad it’s time to start calling clients.


Remote-Controlled Vehicle Security

OnStar pioneered the idea of providing vehicle security remotely from a distant call center when a vehicle’s alarm goes off, or the driver requests help. But with modern vehicle technology, it is becoming possible to skip the commercial-grade services to handle your remote-controlled security features. Whether you need to help a driver find where they parked or slow down a vehicle that has been stolen for a high-speed police chase, of course, you want this power over your vehicles.

It is now possible to not only provide traditional security features, but to take more sophisticated control like kicking on the AC to keep internal equipment alive when the temperature rises too high, take control of the radio to send messages to an unresponsive driver, or even look through the vehicle’s installed dash and rear cameras to provide nearly on-site assistance.


Interactive Mapping and Routing Software

No doubt, your vehicles already have a built-in navigation screen or a mounting point for mobile navigation devices. But navigation software for business fleets is so much more innovative than simple Google Maps for consumers. Don’t get us wrong; Google Maps is terrific, and software powered by their traffic-aware API is even better.

What your fleet needs is not just the fastest route, but the smartest route. Which sometimes means taking over human control and loading a new route in for your teams manually from headquarters. Interactive mapping and routing software communicating through the cloud can make it possible to help your team navigate bad traffic, re-strategize a multi-client service route, or adjust to an updated driving schedule instantly without the passenger having to fumble with the pin-points and route settings.

Is your fleet as upgraded and innovatively managed as it can be with the technology available to your business today? If you’re ready to take the next step toward truly cutting-edge business fleet technology, contact us today!

4 Incredible Uses of USB Outlets in Automotive

USB Port in car

Sometimes car buyers are not just after the drive, mileage, or safety; they consider little things like USB outlets. Nowadays, almost all car models come with USB outlets thanks to advances in technology. The number of USB ports in new cars is rising superficially. In 2016, the number of vehicles sold with USB charge ports was approximately 14.6 million, a huge rise from 3.3 million in 2005. Also, many new car models have more than one port. Currently, some car models have as many as nine ports up from a standard of four in previous models. The big question is, what is the purpose of these USB outlets? Here are some incredible uses of USB outlets in vehicles.

1.    Charging your phone

This is the most common use of USB ports in automotive. Many people do not worry about forgetting to charge their phone at home when traveling. They have the option of charging their phones using the USB outlet on the dashboard, glove box, or center console.

Unfortunately, many people complain that their phones take long to charge with the in-built USB port on the vehicle. This is mainly because the ports are anemic when it comes to amperage. High amperage ensures that your phone charges fast while with low amperage, your phone takes longer to charge.

Luckily, some cars have 12v cigarette lighters that have high amperage for charging your phone or tablet. If not, you can upgrade your port to a 12v port inexpensively.  Also, ditch the unreliable drug-store charges for quality chargers designed for phone charging in vehicles.

2.    Listening to music

The USB port allows you to plug in your MP3 player or phone and play music. When you plug in your MP3 player, just select the auxiliary or USB input, and the music plays ASAP. Some head units include additional functionality and may necessitate the opening of a corresponding app.

What if you want to listen to music stored in a flash disk? In some car models, it is as simple as plugging in the flash disk and your music plays. But in others, the head unit only reads music formatted a particular way like FAT32 or NTFS. In some head units, you have to specify the location of the music you want to listen to in the flash disk while others have an automated way of detecting the location of music. However, some older car model USB ports do not allow for this use.

3.    Data and power transmission

The USB technology allows for an interesting type of connection; data and power transmission.  Nevertheless, USB ports are not created equal, and while some are data-only, others are power only. If the primary purpose of a port is data connection, the port can also be used to charge your tablet or other portable devices.

Most people charge their portable music players and digital cameras using a USB cable connected to a wall adapter or computer. What happens if you are on the road away from the wall adapter and computer? Do you give up and wait till you return home? No. You can use the USB outlet to power these devices.

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4.    Firmware updates

Some USB ports allow for firmware updates. To use your vehicle interface (VI) it must be programmed with firmware that comprehends the data your car sends. Some vehicle models enable such configurations to be sent via the USB port.

If your head unit does not have a USB port or the available one does not have data or power transmission, it is not a death sentence. You can add different types of USB ports to a car to facilitate these uses. Contact Coolgear for all your automotive USB needs –hubs, chargers, serial adapter and cables- that prepare you for the future.

USB Safety for the Medical Industry


Medical USB devices are valuable and reliable when they are well made. They can perform specialized monitoring tasks and transmit information to almost any computer. The devices can draw their power from the connector.

USB connections have a high level of compatibility. Devices supporting old versions of the protocol work with the latest computers and drivers, and speedy USB 3.1 devices can fall back on earlier protocol versions when connected to older computers. Connecting Type C ports to Type A is just a matter of getting the right cable or adapter.

The ability to power devices through the cable is often useful. There’s no need for an external power supply to plug in, and there’s no need for batteries that may run out of charge at an inconvenient time.

Safe and Secure Connections

Some people are concerned that USB devices may not be safe enough for medical applications. Any detachable device can be used carelessly, but it’s not the fault of the connection. People have been known to pick up USB thumb drives that were left in parking lots as bait and plug them in. It’s not surprising if that gets them into trouble.

With proper precautions, USB devices are highly safe. The connection is hard-wired, so it doesn’t have the complications and risks of a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection. Configuring a wireless connection carelessly can expose data to interception; configuring a USB interface incorrectly results, at worst, in no connection.

Because USB is a widely used protocol with backward compatibility to 2.0 in both directions, devices can easily be moved from one computer to another.

Simple Steps for USB Safety

Any removable device has its risks. Some simple practices will keep these risks to a minimum and ensure reliable use of medical USB devices.

  • Encrypt any local storage on the device, using a strong algorithm. If the device holds patient data for its internal use, be sure to use only devices that can’t yield up that information without authorization. Make it clear to employees that they must never store patient information on unencrypted devices.
  • Don’t allow unauthorized USB devices. This needs to be enforced by policies and training. The only devices that should be connected are ones issued by the organization. Employees should never bring in drives from outside, even if they have cute shapes.
  • Turn off auto-run (also known as auto-play) on all computers that deal with sensitive data. This will reduce the chance of problems if someone inadvertently plugs in a hostile device.
  • Install software that will monitor and log all USB usage on computers that handle personal health information. Inform employees that their usage is being monitored. If any of them plug in unauthorized devices, give them a stern warning.

There are just sensible security precautions, and for the most part, they apply whether your organization uses its own USB devices or not. HIPAA compliance requires keeping personal health information safe, wherever it’s stored.

Use High-Quality Hardware

Computers for medical applications should use trustworthy, reliable hardware, and USB ports and hubs are no exception. Coolgear delivers hubs that will perform consistently in clinical environments where failure is unacceptable.

Cheap devices may break or short out under repeated insertion and removal. The physical connection should be as sturdy as possible. The power capacity should be enough to handle all the devices that will be plugged into the hub. Clinical personnel shouldn’t be afraid of what will happen when they plug in one more device.

Good security practices and good equipment are the keys to the safe and reliable use of USB-connected clinical equipment. Contact us for information on equipment that will satisfy the rigorous needs of the health care industry.

How Voice Control and “Smart Home” Technology are Changing Fleet Management

smart automotive fleet management

The sophisticated development of voice-controlled technology introduced by the smart home “trend” is the best thing that has ever happened to fleet management. Or, more to the point, driver safety. Hands-free was already something that vehicle technology was working on when smart homes took center-stage in popular tech trends. But the voice controls of the original hands-free programs and GPS routing were clunky and often not really as hands-free as we would have liked.

But with the introduction of the fully integrated, wireless, and intuitively responsive IoT network, fleets are the ones that stand to benefit the most. Fleet managers have the ability and greater future potential to tap into a vehicle’s systems to provide direct guidance to drivers. And drivers are gaining more and more control over their vehicles and devices while finally able to keep both hands firmly on the wheel.

Let’s take a quick yet thorough exploration of where today’s voice control technology is taking the present and future of fleet management.


Voice-Controlled Vehicle Lights, Sound, and Internal Features

Part of the challenge of professional driving is physical coordination. Drivers must control every aspect of the vehicle with quick flips of buttons, levers, and switches. While automated transmission significantly simplified driving the cars of thirty years ago, now vehicles are capable of so much more. Today, drivers are still reaching for the touch-pad or volume-knob to control the sound system. They are still flicking levers to control the lights or reaching for the CB radio to convey messages. These little actions could lead to distraction at a critical moment, as mobile devices have taught us.

As voice automation in vehicles is refined, soon drivers will be able to control more than their GPS with voice. They will be able to say “Brights” and have the brights switch on and off or “Scan” and “Stop” to control the radio without having to reach for a button or stab at a touchscreen.


Voice-Request Stats, Facts, and Updates

Smart home AI personalities like Alexa are already integrating with vehicles to provide conversational information to drivers who need it without requiring someone to pull over and look up a fact or update on their phones. Alexa will read off web searches on command, provide weather reports, and convey updates from HQ through the appropriate skill. This allows drivers to ask for and receive the information they need on-demand without taking their attention from the road for a moment. In fact, Alexa even reads Kindles and plays Audiobooks for entertainment.


Hands-Free Route Navigation Changes

GPS responsive navigation with traffic, weather, and construction updates is definitely among the best things that has ever happened to fleet drivers. The ability to see traffic and a moving map in real-time is invaluable, even for those talented individuals who can navigate the city smoothly without it. However, changing routes has traditionally required stopping or tasking the passenger to interact.

Voice controls are only recently reaching the point where AIs can effectively understand changes in routing commands, or maintain a route while accepting orders to make minor adjustments. But as the technology advances (and with the assistance from HQ-controlled navigation) drivers will be able to adapt their routes aptly with voice commands alone.


Drivers Safely Update Service Customers while On the Road

For fleets that provide on-site service to customers, keeping the schedule is important. But because you don’t control the traffic, the weather, or the construction plans for the city sometimes making an appointment is impossible. And sometimes drivers make much better time than they expect. When either occurs, it will be useful for drivers to have the ability to trigger a helpful service schedule update sent to the customers.


Hands-Free Requests for HQ or Emergency Assistance

Finally, vehicle voice controls are making it ever-easier for drivers to maintain communication with HQ while on the road. Whether they need a new route, updates, or emergency roadside assistance,  drivers are gaining the ability to trigger a hands-free conversation with HQ sometimes without even making a phone call. Voice communication has made it possible to simply open an internet-powered channel back to dispatch for whatever assistance or update a driver might need.

Technology is changing the landscape of business fleet management and the future is bright. The trends and innovations brought on by the smart home and IoT products have far greater safety and functionality potential for fleet managers than has yet to be imagined. Soon, we will be seeing vehicles that are fully voice-automated from the headlights to fold-out cupholders. For more fleet management insights and innovations that will make use of your USB upfitting, contact us today!

The Future of Medical Technology: How Augmented Reality is Already Changing Things


Advances in modern technology are already changing the medical field in ways that, just a few years ago, would have seemed like really out-there science fiction. The sort of stuff you would have seen on a network TV series, or read about in a pulp novel that was just a few years over the horizon. Perhaps one of the most interesting changes we’re seeing, though, is an increased use of augmented reality that allows medical professionals to better diagnose patients’ problems, and to make more precise incisions during surgery.

What is Augmented Reality?

Speaking of science-fiction language, augmented reality is still a concept that’s new enough for more of us that it sounds like something made-up. Chances are good, though, that you’ve already experienced this technology for yourself. According to Merriam-Webster, augmented reality is when you use technology to overlay an image when you’re viewing something through a device.

That can still seem a little esoteric, though, which is why Pokemon Go and other similar smartphone games are ideal introductions to the idea of augmented reality. By holding up your smartphone or tablet, you view the world around you, and the game overlays an image of the adorable little monster you’re trying to catch. It isn’t there, of course, but the device you’re playing the game through overlays the image of the little creature onto the picture of the world around you, showing you roughly where it would be.

How Can Augmented Reality Help in The Medical Field?

While a technology used in video games might not sound like a medical breakthrough, augmented reality has serious potential. This is true both for people who can use it to help control their medical conditions, as well as for doctors, nurses, and those who provide medical care.

For example, Medical Futurist mentions that it’s possible we could make special contact lenses that could read someone’s current glucose level from their tears. These contact lenses would flash a small image, allowing a diabetic to know what their blood sugar levels look like without ever needing to prick their fingers and do a swab ever again. The sheer amount of energy, not to mention discomfort and frustration, such a product could save cannot be overstated.

And that’s far from the only use for augmented reality when it comes to how it could improve people’s lives. A simple eyepiece or tablet that could scan someone’s arm, showing exactly where their veins are, would make drawing or donating blood a snap and avoid all kinds of problems. Similar scans that can show a bone beneath the skin, but which could then be rotated would allow doctors to see in real-time what’s going on inside of their patients. Even surgeons could use devices like this to get a real-time view of what’s happening inside organs, or beneath the skin, allowing them to pick the best spot to make an incision.

In short, augmented reality would allow us to see things we normally can’t, and to do so in such a way that it’s as seamless as glancing at a screen. In a very real way, it creates a personalized kind of heads up display that can feel a little bit like making life into a video game… in the best possible way.

Would You Like To Know More?

While impressive, augmented reality is far from the only major technology that’s changing the way the medical field operates. If you’re working on the latest developments in medical technology, we’re here to help! Reach out to any one of our technology specialists to match you with the tools you need.

Automotive USB: Beyond the Car Charger

USB port in the car panel

More and more automotive entertainment and information systems are connecting to phones and tablets, even on moderately priced models. USB connections, unlike Bluetooth, can deliver power as well as communicating with them. This is a distinct advantage for daily use or on long trips.

USB chargers in cars have been around for a long time. If they only provide power, they don’t need a clean connection or the fastest protocols. But when people use them to play music or display on the car dashboard, they need good-quality connections. The latest and fastest standards let people do more. A powered hub lets them switch easily between devices or power one while using another.

Basic Car Stereo Connections

In the simplest form, the car stereo sees the USB device as a file system. It can be a thumb drive, tablet, phone, or laptop. The user navigates through the directory and chooses files to play. It’s not the most exciting interface, but directory access protocols are well understood. A stereo that supports the feature can connect to almost any USB device.

USB audio is another option, though it’s not used so much in automotive systems. A system that supports it treats a device as a sound source using the USB Audio protocol. That approach is used more with microphones, cassette and CD players, and speakers than with smartphones. The user has to control the player directly, which can be inconvenient and hazardous while driving.

Integration of Car and Mobile Systems

More exciting possibilities emerge when the mobile and automotive systems actively communicate in both directions. A mobile phone can send information, songs, and videos to the car. The car’s dashboard and steering wheel controls offer a driver-friendly user interface. The user rarely has to touch the phone. These systems make serious use of USB and work best with a fast, clean interface. The two leading integration systems are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

CarPlay lets users control their iPhone or iPad through the dashboard and voice. The display on the dashboard shows only applications designed for CarPlay, not the full set on the device. For safety reasons, not just any application can be added. (Putting Tetris on a car’s dashboard would be a really bad idea.) The default applications, such as Contacts and Messages, are simplified versions with an emphasis on Siri control.

Android Auto takes a less sophisticated approach. Early versions mirrored the phone’s screen to the dashboard. The current version has a more driver-friendly UI, and further advances are planned. Like CarPlay, the system supports steering-wheel controls.

User forums reveal that some people have USB problems when using these systems. Having a high-quality port and cable is important to reliable operation.

Connection Types

New mobile devices are increasingly being shipped with Type-C ports. The cheaper ones may still have old-style micro connectors, but the latest high-end phones and tablets mostly use USB 3 with Type-C connections. They’re often called “USB-3,” though strictly speaking the connector type and the protocol version are independent. Type-C cables are never flipped the wrong way, which is very nice when working in a car at night. They support Quick Charge, helping travelers to keep their devices fully charged all the time.

It’s not a cut and dried question whether automotive systems should provide Type-A or Type-C ports, but the momentum is definitely toward Type-C. People keep their cars for years and don’t like to replace their dashboard hardware, so Type-C connections will future-proof infotainment systems. The connector type doesn’t lock anyone out completely since adapters are available.

Coolgear offers USB hubs, chargers, adapters, and cables for all types of applications, including automotive systems. Contact us to learn more about creating customized automotive solutions featuring USB connectivity.

The Future of Medical Technology: Gamification and Living Better Lives

Gamification in medical devices

Humans learn through play. Anyone who’s ever watched a group of children knows this, but we often think that games are only for children. That our brains somehow leave play behind when we finish maturing and get regular jobs. However, psychologists have repeatedly told us that one of the best ways for us to keep learning, growing, and to live better lives is to take time for play. It is a necessary component of our lives, and it’s hard-wired into our brains.

This is where the recent gamification craze came from. In short, gamification is when you turn a task into a game so that people want to participate in it, instead of forcing themselves to do it. It works in the workplace, the classroom, and even around the house. And thanks to advances being made in technology, gamification is becoming an ever-larger part of our day-to-day lives.

Changing Your Behavior is Easier When It’s a Game

One of the biggest examples of gamifying behavioral change, according to The Medical Futurist, is the mobile game Pokemon Go. For those who haven’t played it, it’s an augmented reality game where you have to physically go to a location, and use your smartphone to see, target, and catch wandering monsters for you to then make more powerful. This game was a massive success, and it led to thousands of people meeting up at parks, walking through their towns, making new friends, and getting exercise.

Now, that wasn’t the express purpose of the game (which was likely made the way it was for maximum possible immersion), but the side benefit was that because people were playing a game they engaged in a lot of activities they normally wouldn’t. People often say they want to get out more, make new friends, and exercise, but they rarely do. With the introduction of a gamified element, though, suddenly they couldn’t wait to change their behavior.

This quirk of human psychology, when combined with our ever-advancing technology, has the potential to really help us. As another example, there are apps out there that track your workout regimens, and level you up as if you were a character in a roleplaying game. While it’s useful for tracking your progress at the gym, it’s the idea of earning “experience” points and building up your digital self that keeps a lot of folks pumping iron and pounding the pavement. Even though the reward is purely in the mind, it’s the game that changes that person’s behavior, and gets them to do something healthy they might not otherwise be willing to do. This same tic, if properly catered to, could get us to do everything from eating our vegetables, to taking our medicine.

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What Will The Games of The Future Look Like?

Gamification is a huge bandwagon at the moment, being used for everything from scholastic achievement to corporate training. However, this ability to motivate people isn’t going away any time soon, so the only thing that’s going to change is how technology incorporates our love of the game.

It’s possible, for example, that as our Internet grows even faster that we’ll be able to have fully-immersive virtual games with friends, allowing us greater human connection and enjoyment. Training scenarios could allow for everything from EMT proficiency with car accidents, to police tactical simulations. These simulations could provide us with personal avatars like Iron Man’s Jarvis to help us keep our schedules, making us feel like superheroes. Even something as simple as brushing our teeth or eating healthier could be gamified, with a little creativity on the part of developers.

If you’re working technology that will help us change our lives for the better, contact us today! We have the experience and solutions to help!

Revolutionize Fleet Management With Telematics Solutions

Revolutionize Fleet Management With Telematics Solutions

The introduction of Telematics solutions to the fleet management industry continues to prove worthwhile for different businesses. Fleet managers can now remotely assess vehicles thanks to the enhanced GPS tracking solutions. The ability to monitor driver behavior and manage vehicle maintenance adds to the ballooning list of benefits from these technologies.

Telematics brings together telecommunications and informatics systems to empower fleet managers. Wireless Telematics devices collect data on various aspects of the vehicle and help companies make informed decisions on how to manage their fleet.

Talk of Telematics began way back in the ’70s as the internet started to gain traction in the technology world. Telecommunication networks have since expanded on a global scale, and transfer of data has steadily become child’s play. Satellite connections or cell phone networks are all that is needed to transfer Telematics data to central units in real-time.

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What can you do with Telematics?

From a central dashboard, you can monitor the current location, fuel consumption, and speed of your cars. VPs also get an opportunity to assess the productivity and profitability of the fleet. The fast-paced growth of technology has ensured that the applications for fleet Telematics solution have no limit at the moment. Vehicle-based businesses continue to make the most of adequate connection systems world over.

Given that businesses have unique needs, API integrations and customizations are necessary for the success of Telematics systems. Once the right model is in place, fleet managers have an easy time picking out relevant data. Such data will reveal the state of their fleets and help them reduce costs as they streamline services.

Monitoring fleet activity comes with the benefits of controlling costs better and complying with government regulations. As fleet owners seek cost-effective ways that boost accountability and improve productivity, we are bound to see more innovative products introduced to the market.

Vehicle makers have joined this bandwagon. Smart cars will be already installed with OEM Telematics systems to connect them to smart traffic technologies. Customers can look forward to high returns from their fleets.

Reliance on data

Fleet management has now entered into a phase where companies cannot expect to succeed without data and technology. Businesses should seek to take these changes in their stride and strive to deliver proactive and predictive services. Rather than putting out fires, Telematics enables companies to plan ahead.

Digitized data allows you to aptly take care of the needs of today’s techno-savvy clients. Telematics technology ensures that you can give your competitors a run for their money without being unnecessarily hard on your employees.

Constant phone calls to drivers are soon becoming a thing of the past as the fleet management software gives you a full picture of your fleet. You’ll be better placed to optimize schedules for different vehicles using near-real-time data. Telematics allows you to ditch manual paperwork and focus the time and resources to step up productivity.

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Increased productivity

Although Telematics solutions have been around for over ten years, only 40% of fleets use this technology. This statistic does not mean that the benefits are not adequate. Organizations that take time to plan a Telematics implementation carefully have enjoyed a high return on investment (ROI).

Incorporation of Telematics also has a hand in decreasing the risk factor. You get to save your company loads of out-of-pocket expenses that often arise in the event of an accident.

Top productivity features include:

  • Route optimization
  • Total cost of ownership
  • Vehicle health monitoring
  • Near-real-time tracking

Coolgear continues to offer top-notch solutions to clients in an industry where compliance mandates are on the rise. Contact us for customizable Telematics solutions and we will help you enhance service delivery and facilitate efficient dispatch.

Standardized USB Devices for the Medical Industry

USB devices have long had a reputation for simple plug-and-play connections. As more and more of these devices are deployed to people’s homes or they wear them everywhere, this is an increasingly valuable feature. People want to hook them up and use them without the help of a computer expert. They want to be confident that the gadgets which monitor their health will keep working reliably.

Using a USB connector is a good first step, but it’s not the whole picture. The software which accepts data from the devices needs to understand it. Widely accepted standards for USB medical devices make achieving this goal possible A device that complies can work with software from multiple vendors, and patients and medical professionals can use the applications that best meet their needs.

USB for the End-User

Personal health devices (PHDs) aren’t just found in hospitals and medical offices anymore. They’re increasingly available to patients wherever they are for ongoing monitoring of their status. Diabetics and people with high blood pressure can catch abnormal readings and take action in time to avoid a crisis.

The physical interfaces for PHDs include wireless, USB, Thunderbolt, and others. USB offers the advantages of high speed and ease of connection. Most desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones offer a USB connection. It’s more reliable than Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Inexperienced users can make mistakes that compromise the security of wireless connections, but a USB cable is a safe data conduit. Newer versions of USB are backward compatible with old ones. The current standard is USB 3.1, and a still faster USB 4 is expected to appear this year.

Standardization at the Data Level

Medical devices deal in specialized data, and they need a high level of reliability without room for misinterpretation. Every device sends data using a particular format and data model. The software needs to understand them in order to do anything with the data.

Much of the industry has adopted the IEEE 11073 family of standards to maximize interoperability. It provides a framework for data which is independent of the transport mechanism. The standards define roles for agents, which are devices that collect and transmit data, and managers, which receive and process it and may direct the agents. The standards include specializations for different kinds of agents, such as heart rate monitors and thermometers. Each specialization has its own data model.

Conformance to IEEE 11073 greatly simplifies the job of connecting a PHD and using its data. Applications which understand a device’s specialization will be able to ingest its data, give reports, and issue alerts with few difficulties. Adherence to these standards is a sign that the manufacturer takes the product seriously for medical purposes.

The Medical Applications USB Stack

In between the data model and the physical connection are many protocol details. The USB standards include the Personal Healthcare Device Class, which is supported in the application rather than the operating system’s USB driver.

The Continua Alliance, a consortium recommending standards for medical systems, has endorsed the Medical Applications USB Stack. This implementation brings together the standards at the application and USB levels. Application writers don’t have to deal with the low-level issues, so they can focus on the user experience and data management.

When people’s health is at stake, it’s important for devices to “just work.” The availability of these standards lets medical professionals confidently recommend devices and software that work well together. Compliant USB devices are easy to configure, work reliably, and are compatible with a growing body of software.

Coolgear offers state-of-the-art USB medical devices that earn patients’ confidence. Contact us to find out more.

USB Technology and Cyber Security Threats: Understanding the Necessities and Dangers Surrounding USB Storage in Medicine and Beyond

Medical USB Technology

The medical industry is drenched in technology. Intricate AI-powered surgery robots and high-tech anesthesia equipment fill surgery rooms, computers and laptops litter nurse stations, and MRI machines and powerful PCs back up teams of expert radiologists. 

At the heart of all of this powerful equipment is a small, often discrete, USB connection.

USB connectors and ports breathe life into all of these devices. They supply protocols for communication between machines, can be used as a power supply for smaller equipment, and are even used to transfer patient files remotely between locations (i.e., thumb drives, external hard drives, etc.). Medical technology relies on USB daily, and USB connections play a critical role in medical IT architecture.

But, all of this USB tech also introduces risk. To be fair, USB technology itself isn’t the risk. USB connections open up gateways for internal threat actors to access confidential patient records. Hospitals struggle with their USB ecosystem. These ports that exist on virtually every piece of medical equipment require forward-thinking and strategic planning to minimize risk.

USB and Risk

According to Verizon’s 2018 Protected Health Information Data Breach Report (PHIDBR), over 55% of ALL security breaches in the medical industry come from inside threat actors. Healthcare is the only industry in which internal actors are the biggest threat to an organization. This makes internal security the single most critical channel of risk prevention. And, USBs rank towards the top-of-the-list when it comes to reducing internal threats.

USB drives that house information are incredibly portable, convenient, and easy-to-use. But, they’re also easy to abuse in the wrong hands. Whether it’s a former employee who wants some form of revenge against your healthcare system, a sophisticated threat actor looking for physical hardware, or merely an unaware employee, someone who accesses a USB drive that hasn’t been secured can easily do damage with the files contained within.

There’s risk anytime you’re dealing with portable drives that carry sensitive information. And, there’s also a risk in any communication protocol between two or more machines. So, what do you do? You have to use USB cables; they’re absolutely necessary in the medical industry. How do hospitals prevent USB security issues?

3 Ways to Reduce USB Security Risks

#1) Zero Trust Security

Originally coined by Forrester Research, Zero Trust security involves baking security into your everyday operations granularly. According to Forbes, 66% of external and internal actors are abusing security privileges in the healthcare industry. Instead of blaming the individual, healthcare needs to discover how it is that over half of their employees are capable of abusing privileges in the first place.

Zero Trust security leverages segmentation and perimeters to ensure that systems, cloud resources, and databases are protected in layers. Part of this involves tracking user access routes, using location services, and certainly monitoring logins. But, it also involves securing the physical resources in a structured manner. Who can check out USB drives? Can they plug them into any system? If so, is that safe? These are the questions you need to be thoroughly examining.

#2) Actively Review USB Activities

Securing your USB assets is one thing, but tracking them is an entirely different monster. But, it may be one of the simplest ways to ensure that data leaks are dealt with accordingly. One way to do this is to use a tracking system paired with something small — like QR codes. Another way is to keep USB data transfer under lock-and-key.

Most hospitals have access to a plethora of USB drives, cables, adapters, and hubs. You need to monitor this equipment and check for any suspicious activities.

#3) Glue Security Education to Onboarding and Beyond

While GI Joe’s tagline “knowing is half the battle” may have been applied to an evil metal-faced villain, it’s instantly applicable to USB security. You can create the best processes, glue expensive and robust security to your IT architecture, and create dynamic role-based access systems; if you aren’t training employees on how to use USB — you’re going to have incidents.

And, training shouldn’t be exclusively an onboarding phenomenon. You need ongoing training. Do your employees understand the roles of USB? Are they aware of how data transfer can impact security? If not, they should be.

Final Thoughts

While USB technology can be used by internal employees to expose your healthcare organization to risk, It’s also a vital part of standardizing the healthcare IT ecosystem. USB cables, drives, hubs, and connectors are the spirit of your equipment. Through the proliferation of USB, connected devices such as medical ID bracelets and other machines, more and more systems will be able to communicate efficiently.

Technically, a USB hub (both external and internal to a computer) should prevent an attacker from stealing data from adjacent USB-connected devices. But that’s not the case in practice.

As it turns out, some USB hubs don’t sufficiently secure the communication lines between USB ports and the computer, an oversight which attackers can exploit to steal sensitive data.

The purpose of medical technology is to aid in the care of patients. With USB standardization, healthcare professionals can bypass many of the roadblocks that keep them from their patients and deliver more optimized care.

In the medical industry, there’s no room for error. You need innovative technology products that are paired with excellent customer support. If you are currently building a device that relies on USB technology, we’re here to help. 

Interested in purchasing superior USB solutions for your healthcare setting? Contact us.