Skip to Main Content

Strategic Business Insights (SBI) logo

Internet of Things September 2023 Viewpoints

IoT Wearables for Ad-Hoc Medical Care

By George Chowdhury

Overview

Health monitoring through IoT devices is increasing in sophistication and may provide commercial opportunities for private healthcare providers and companies offering diagnostic services. Some solutions hope to connect directly to local emergency services to provided medical interventions. Comprehensive, continuous health monitoring may be especially valuable to insurers.

Description

A considerable consumer market for wearable sensor technology has developed. Apple Watches, Fitbits and similar devices provide detailed data on a user’s health. The ubiquity of such devices may be the precursor to a sophisticated ad-hoc digital health infrastructure with direct ties to dedicated health monitoring providers and emergency services.

Recent studies have shown that low-resolution non-invasive sensor technology can be augmented with machine learning to diagnosis heart conditions nearly as effectively as an ECG scan. For example, researchers at Queen Mary University of London have devised a set of machine-learning algorithms that compare data from a wearable device to known signatures of heart conditions and signs of stroke. The proposed system runs on the cloud and uses a novel traffic-management mechanism to provide services to multiple users in the same location simultaneously. The researchers hope to connect their server to local emergency services; permitting real-time monitoring and a rapid response in the event of cardiac arrest. Researchers from RMK College of Engineering and Technology, India, have developed similar remote-monitoring technologies, extending sensors to include temperate and blood pressure. In Japan, Sompo Holdings, responsible for the running of 280 care homes, hope to adopt IoT-based systems to monitor their patients and determine when medical intervention might be warranted using metrics including heartrate, sleep, diet, and exercise.

Implications

Although some remote health-monitoring products are already in use, many solutions require cumbersome devices, periodic rather than continues updates, and have no link to emergency services. As the market for comprehensive ad-hoc health monitoring grows, opportunities will be created for vendors to provide bespoke IoT wearables, apps, and to run dedicated servers for spotting health condition using sensor data for a subscription fee. Further, the increased use of sophisticated all-in-one wearable sensor technology capable of capturing body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate may allow for the detection of conditions that, until now, have required a healthcare professional and expensive diagnostic equipment. Private healthcare providers and insurers will likely benefit considerably from continuous at-home patient monitoring. Wearable sensors are also likely to be a boon for the monitoring of vulnerable adults in care homes, where such technology may be used to assuage both an ageing population and staffing shortages.

As wireless standards evolve, remote sensing of health conditions by a network may become increasingly feasible. For example, the high resolution of Ultrawide-band (UWB) standards permits the direct monitoring of heart rate through chest movement via a radar mechanism.

Relevant Areas to Monitor

  • Health-Care Applications

    The health-care sector is already a major user of connected digital technologies. Health-care providers have been among the early adopters of a range of high-end technologies. Hospitals and surgeons make use of a wide variety of digital devices for examining and monitoring patients and for dispensing drugs.

  • Wearable Sensors

    Interest in promoting health and fitness continues to drive significant demand for wearable sensors, including smartwatches and other devices that mount on the wrist, arm, waist, and chest. Visionaries expect a shift from wearable devices to sensor-embedded clothing that collects various types of data.

Impact Scale

On a scale of low, medium, or high, the anticipated level of impact for this topic is: Medium.

Impact Timing

On a scale of now, 5, 10, or 15 years, the anticipated impact timing for this topic is: 5 Years.

Opportunities in the Following Industry Areas

  • Finance/Insurance
  • Sensors/Electronics
  • Health/Medicine/Wellness
  • Internet of Things

Relevant to the Following Explorer Technology Areas