The future of health rests on the internet of near things


Monty Munford

November 19, 2015

The Internet of Things promises to transform the way humanity operates and while some wearables have disappointed, our personal existence and survival is going to depend on this technology, says Monty Munford

The hype behind the Internet of Things (IoT) appears well-founded. According to the UK Department for Business, Innovation & Skills the world market for smart city technology services will be more than £250 billion by the end of the decade.

Products, however, that come with fanfare means there is always a lot of space for disappointment. The ludicrous launch of Google Glass and the mounting desperation of smart people at a smart company when showing off an unfinished product was an early mistake.

Even earlier was the overused example of the ‘internet fridge’ that was supposed to transform grocery shopping and still hasn’t reached critical mass. We also have the latest anticlimax; sales of the Apple Watch are alleged to have been underwhelming and it may take a new version to catch consumer attention.

The IoT’s dazzling future appears to trailing a little behind, but there is one area where the hyperbole is justified and that is in the field of healthcare. The IoT is going to influence, even dominate, the way humanity will exist.

Take artificial pancreas, for example. Smart sensors inside the body will be able to monitor the blood-sugar level and be networked to an internal insulin pump, creating an artificial pancreas.

Similar applications can work with blood, endocrine and other systems in the body. This is likely to be the first step in having the IoT inside our bodies, like a co-processor network. It won’t even need to be surgically implanted, it can be swallowed orally, because these devices won’t need batteries; instead they will work from heat-exchange or movement and still be wirelessly connectable.

Remote monitoring is another interesting aspect. Take heart attacks, which are the number one killer in the western world. There is now a lot of work going on around how to detect a heart attack from simple sensors, attached to wearable devices. That is a giant leap from pacemaker technology.

Inside hospitals and not bodies, it will also have a huge beneficial effect. The IoT means patients will be monitored with greater accuracy and reliability. Sensors can transmit data about their blood, heart and temperature, and correlate it to prevent problems.

Location tracking will also optimise health resources by ensuring the best use of expertise. Deployed inside buildings, it will be used widely in hospitals for real-time triage, mapping the nearest, most relevant doctor to the emergency. This is about making sure highest priority cases get seen by the right person.

Described in a recent Forrester Research report as a ‘Leader in the Wide, Deep and Internet-of-Things Integration Category’, enterprise company Software AG is planning for futures such as these and and the IoT revolution in healthcare. Dr John Bates is CMO and the Head of Industry Solutions at the company and foresees manifold ways the IoT will improve health.

“Sensors will help prevent the spread of diseases. For example, a nurse moving from an area with communicable disease patients, will be monitored when he or she enters another room. If within ten seconds either the rubber glove dispenser or hand-sanitiser dispenser is unused, an alarm will sound.

“I can also foresee the IoT coming into play in war and crisis zones, where lightweight surgical robots are flown in by drones and operate on victims after linking up with satellite technology. The surgery would be rudimentary, perhaps, but it would help to save lives,” he said.

As is ever the case with new and ‘life-changing’ technologies, it is not the glitzy and so-called sexy products such as Google Glass and the Apple Watch that change the world.

Instead it will be underrated (and definitely unsexy) technology such as sensors inside hospitals and inside our bodies that will be the technology that will come to define the IoT, and ultimately will also define us… much more so than an fridge connected to the internet.


This article was written by Monty Munford from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

There is 1 comment

  • Ron Blair - 11/23/2015 15:49
    This article is quite timely and on point. Unfortunately I recently lost a family member due to kidney failure -- the primary root cause being high-blood pressure related to post cancer treatment dehydration. I believe a relatively simple sensor would have resulted in faster problem identification and possibly a different outcome. In addition to better patient care, the other benefit of course would be the minimization of expensive, unnecessary "false alarm" trips to medical facilities. Beyond monitoring and alerting, there is a huge data analytics component as well. Building on the hand sanitizer example, there are solutions that map sanitizers and employee badges with real-time location system technology to model interactions between patients, like the Hitachi Business Microscope example from a couple years ago. And there is no doubt research overall would benefit across the board by being able to analyze real time data captured by digested or implanted sensors. That all stated, it will be interesting to see how data privacy requirements will change over time as these capabilities increase and as wearables become more commonplace. To that end, developers certainly need to consider app/data portability, access controls, and encryption as part of design efforts.

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