You may be thinking that IoT medical devices are a part of a distant future—especially since even regular home-based IoT hasn’t quite taken off yet. But the reality is, medical IoT have been around for longer than the term “IoT” has existed, including wearable and pocket devices by companies like Syncro Medical. While still in its infancy, medical IoT has come a long way, and still has a long way to go; so where does it go from here?
Predictions for Medical IoT
These are just some of the ways that IoT will develop in the medical and healthcare industry:
- Advancements in responder speed. One of the most important functions of an emergency response team is getting to the scene of the injury or accident as quickly as possible. Being able to stop blood loss, restore breathing, or resuscitate someone could mean the difference in saving their life—and only a few minutes separate life from death. In the future, IoT tech could give responders better options for arriving quickly and safely, such as allowing emergency vehicles to communicate directly with city traffic lights, stopping traffic and allowing an immediate clear path for the vehicles to follow. Better navigation systems, which could communicate with other vehicles to determine traffic patterns, could also instantly and reflexively calculate better routes.
- Vital monitoring devices. One of the most important—and fastest—IoT developments in the healthcare industry will be better devices for monitoring patient vitals, including blood pressure and pulse. With a discreet wearable device, patients could hypothetically be monitored from great distances with relative ease, and physicians could be instantly notified if those vital signals change. Better technology will extend beyond simplistic measures, potentially monitoring rates of bone healing or breathing patterns.
- Higher customization for medical devices. Prosthetic limbs, casts, and other medical devices work best when specifically tailored to an individual. Currently, this is an expensive and labor-intensive process, taking weeks of time and thousands of dollars. In the future, “smart” devices may be able to instantly adapt to the person using them, providing an instantly perfect fit to an individual, rather than needing extended time to produce a worthwhile customization. As prosthetics become more advanced, including being able to be controlled with human thoughts, this level of customization will become even more important.
- Smart pills. Rather than relying on external patient monitoring, future tech may be able to monitor patients from the inside. “Smart” pills, which would contain thousands of nanobots, could be ingested by patients to provide doctors with a virtually endless stream of information about how their bodies are performing. Different nanobots could specialize in different tasks, with some monitoring blood circulation and others centralizing on the digestive system, and all of them could send back information that could be used to diagnose a patient, provide the right treatment, and even monitor their recovery.
- Bio-hacking. Bio-hacking is somewhat controversial, but it will likely rise within the medical industry first, where its functionality could save lives rather than just providing convenience. Currently, dogs and cats can be implanted with RFID chips that help their owners track them down if they’re ever lost; similar chips could be used to track human behaviors, and possibly even their vital signs. Once that barrier is crossed, those internal chips could be scanned for identification purposes, with each embedded chip offering a signature ID number that can’t be replicated. From there, it’s a short jump to chips that can be used as credit cards, or to start cars and open doors.
A Question of When
Developers are already racing to see who can bring the best IoT tech to market the fastest, but adoption rates aren’t rising as quickly as industry analysts originally hoped. Optimistic reports once projected there would be 50 billion connected devices by 2020, but more accurate estimates now place that figure around 20 or 30 billion. Still, within the next 5 years, we’ll likely see an explosion of new IoT tech, particularly in the medical industry, and at some point in the future, it just might be able to save your life.