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Why the Internet of Medical Things is not the revolution we’ve been promised

Posted on Nov 11, 2017 by Administrator

Why the Internet of Medical Things is not the revolution we’ve been promised

The IoMT is terminology consistently in use when talking about new developments in medical electronics today, frequently without any definition of the term. It is, however, not new technology at all. Since 2000 many companies have been actively delivering this technology without it being described as game changing or exciting.

Over the last three years though, the demands of consumers, advances in medical technology and widening general market trends have coalesced, opening up an opportunity to connect every aspect of our lives. It is this that is driving the true IoMT.

Within the medical electronics industry confusion has developed between IoMT and connectivity for a product. One misconception is that IoMT is an emerging market. This is not so. It is, in simple terms, an enabling technology that helps outline new ways to add value to existing markets. It is the advances made in that technology, especially software, which has enabled the data analytics and real-time decision-making that forms the basis for today’s IoMT.

By connecting a hand held medical device to the internet you are not creating the IoMT element. However, when that connection is used to reduce operational costs, and/or create new revenue streams, or enables new services to be delivered, it does become an IoMT product.

The ever-increasing number of medical and fitness devices make full use of connectivity to communicate data back to software applications, frequently via smart-phones to the Cloud. Diagnostic data is then interpreted by an appropriate clinician to determine actions required for patients on-going healthcare.

A key question that any medical design engineer needs to ask is whether the product specifier is actually just talking about connectivity for this end product or true IoMT. Or is the aim to utilise that connection to make actionable decisions or, maybe, to change its business model? If one of these two scenarios is not under consideration then is questionable whether additional investment should be made.

The next step is to ascertain what the design needs to accommodate, beyond connectivity, to ensure that IoMT benefits are fully realised by both customer and end user.

When looked at closely the IoMT ecosystem is simple at its core, with four basic elements - the product, connectivity layer, application layer and the Cloud.

  • The most basic level is the product, delivering the user experience and intended function. This may not change dramatically but its development may require significant changes when the full implications are thought through.
  • Next is the connectivity layer, used to create communication between the product, any applications and/or the Cloud. Growing concerns and awareness of the vulnerability of the data, particularly where personal information is involved, makes understanding all options very important.
  • Third, the application layer. Here IoMT has evolved significantly with hundreds of companies in application development using it to gather data, perform analytics and make operation-improving decisions. Keeping an open mind, whilst remembering what the product is intended to provide, are important elements to balance.
  • Finally the Cloud, public or private. This has, subject to connectivity, become ubiquitous, delivering the ability to share information seamlessly and globally.

Overall the IoMT is an attractive proposition for innovation of older service models, or to offer a new service model, with the ability to monitor usage in real time a game-changer for some. Key to success is the design engineer having the full picture of the customer’s IoMT requirements before working on the transition of the product from one model to the next.

Misunderstandings of the definition aside, IoMT is here to stay in its many and varied forms. Now product design engineers and producers must ensure that they are delivering maximum benefit from this enabling technology. They need to take a holistic view so that customers realise the cost savings and the changes in business models that the true Internet of Medical Things can deliver.

By Chris Ruchala

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