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Future of IoT in healthcare brought into sharp focus

Advancements in AI and the effects of the global pandemic are some of the main drivers that will encourage healthcare organizations to adopt medical IoT.

With faster broadband speeds, better analytics, technological improvements and more competitors in the space, the future of IoT has a greater opportunity to make a positive impact on the healthcare industry.

In the last few years, numerous vendors have entered the IoT market space. The 2020 consumer electronic event CES saw a record number of companies in the market with healthcare IoT products, such as care robots, intelligent home camera systems for tracking seniors at home and, of course, smart speakers. By 2025, experts predicted that the wearable technology market will reach $74.03 billion. This is a significant increase from its valuation in 2019 of $27.91 billion. Wearable technology is especially important to healthcare because it will introduce more devices to the market that patients can use to monitor activities, vital signs and several healthcare data points.

Why the internet of medical things is the future of healthcare

Beyond the growing market for healthcare IoT, the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred conversations around the future of IoT in healthcare and how it can safely connect healthcare professionals and patients. Hospitals and clinics were forced to quickly evaluate telehealth to continue to treat some patients without increasing their risk of infection by bringing them into care facilities. Hospitals are also under constant pressure to identify ways to reduce costs. Wearable devices that enable some patients to be treated and monitored at home could reduce the number of resources needed at the healthcare facility.

Another technology contributing to the future of IoT in healthcare is the introduction of 5G networks, which provide 100 times faster speeds for connectivity than traditional 4G networks. IoT devices rely on connectivity to communicate and transfer data between patient and care provider. Faster cellular data transfer provides IoT flexibility in terms of the volumes of data it can exchange and at a much faster rate. With these improvements, new healthcare IoT uses include devices that assist patients with their medication adherence at home; sleep monitoring devices that can track heart rate, oxygen levels and movements for high-risk patients; remote temperature monitoring tools; and continuous glucose monitoring sensors that connect to mobile devices and alert patients and clinicians to changing blood sugar levels.

This new pandemic experience combined with the progress and recent advancements will increase the adoption of IoT and encourage those who might have otherwise ignored the technology in the past to get on board.

IoT uses in healthcare

What would future applications of healthcare IoT look like?

With the increasing use of cloud services combined with AI, IoT devices are getting smarter and are going beyond just transmitting data from patient to healthcare professional. For example, IoT devices that use cloud services for data analysis are the smart glucose monitoring system and smart insulin pen. These two technologies not only continuously capture information regarding glucose levels, but also upload the data to a cloud service or a mobile app to be analyzed. Based on the outcome of the analysis, the insulin pump can then inject the patient with the appropriate dosage of insulin. Another example is the use of smart nanny cameras for monitoring elderly patients. These smart cameras recognize when routines deviate from the norm, such as if an elderly person goes into the bathroom but does not come out after a short period of time. Another application of the camera is for fall detection, which would then alert emergency services or caregivers.

AI will continue to convert many traditional internet of medical things devices from data collection points to smarter devices that can facilitate meaningful interactions with the data.

Other uses of IoT that will begin to trend in the future include the use of bots or virtual agents to interact with patients. By combining sensor information collected by different IoT devices and sensors and using voice-enabled speakers, seniors can have access to a personal virtual assistant to remind them to take their medication, survey them for any relevant information that relates to their health or pain levels, and react to any collected information from their devices, such as glucose levels, fall detection or oxygen levels.

Beyond wearables and patient-specific interactions, healthcare organizations will adopt IoT in facilities  for inventory management and equipment tracing. This technology -- generally referred to as real-time location systems -- continues to improve because of advancements in wireless technology and the size of the sensors. By tracking the movement of equipment and general use, hospitals will get better visibility of potential equipment shortages and who may have come in contact with the equipment. This is especially important for preventing the spread of infection, such as how the COVID-19 pandemic forced hospitals to track equipment and staff who came in contact with infected patients.

History of IoT in healthcare

In the past decade, internet-connected devices have been introduced to patients in various forms. Whether data comes from fetal monitors, electrocardiogram machines, temperature monitors or blood glucose monitors, tracking health information is vital for some patients, though many of these measures require follow-up interaction with a healthcare professional. The use of IoT devices has been instrumental in delivering more valuable, real-time data to doctors and lessening the need for direct patient-physician interaction. Early on, the purpose of many of these devices was to transmit data to provide visibility of a patient's condition through reported vitals. For many physicians, the data was not sufficient and needed analysis to provide greater value. That's the direction healthcare IoT has been moving toward.

AI will continue to convert many traditional internet of medical things devices from data collection points to smarter devices that can facilitate meaningful interactions with the data. With the increased rollout of wearables, IoT technology will continue to see significant growth in healthcare.

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When it comes to the future of IoT in healthcare, which use cases are you looking forward to most?
First we have to develop a standard communications method between healthcare devices.
There are so many improvements to our healthcare system that can and should be made right now, before worrying about implementing new IoT technologies. 
It's kind of happened already. What we can expect is wireless diagnostics and pacemakers, then struggle to make them hack-proof.
You can't try to bolt on security and expect it to work. "Making it hack-proof" has to start from the ground up, with design.
Everyone want the latest technology and jump into it before analyzing the total impact it may have. It's nice to have the toys in some cases, but I would not want them to put all their eggs in one basket and then get hacked. Even worse if patients health/life is in jeopardy. I would hate to think a hacker took control of some life support equipment that I had a family member on. I know TV may over dramatize things, but how far off are they when a hacker took control of an automated medication dispenser and gave someone a lethal dose ??
I'm not easily finding an example, but it wouldn't surprise me. Certainly there've been other examples of hackers and medical devices, at least theoretically.
Hey, I think that IoT will be used in all areas of living, it will take our jobs and finally, it will take control of humanity. That's how I see it but maybe I've watched too many science-fiction movies ;).
Went back and read the article again now that some time has passed..Funny some of the points mentioned like the garage door.. Do I really want my door to open automatically when I'm coming home from work? What if I drive past my house to get a pizza for dinner? This would leave my door open for theft or entry to my house? As for being able to open it with my phone? What is that hard the door with the button on my visor? Besides in most states you should not be on your phone while driving. Now I see kitchen appliances like refrigerators with LCD screens and network connections for making out grocery lists or seeing what is inside without opening the door. Do I have an extra 5,000 dollars lying around to buy one of these marvels? No. This type of technology may be convince when it comes to healthcare because we are stretching medical staff thin today. Too many patients and not enough nurses and doctors. It could alleviate some of the tedious tasks they do today but on the other hand who is going to be held accountable if something goes wrong? I still think it will be a ways down the road before it becomes mainstream. I have spent too much time in hospitals over the last few years. I see the nurses walk in pushing a computer on a trolley with her patient orders. Then she leaves the cart unattended to get meds or see to another patient or gets called away for a minute and that leaves this open to anyone walking by to read patient info or tamper with the device. I don't think we can ever eliminate the risk of these systems 100%. It seems every time you turn around some of the systems we thought were secure can now be hacked with little effort. Most recently is the ability to clone your car's key fob from a distance then relay that info to someone else who loads the info into a hand held device, opens your car, starts it and drives away. All in less than 60 seconds. All without your knowledge. It's scary.
IoT future is bright within this sector, with almost 20Bn devices connected nowadays and a growth which is expected to be multiplied by three. We can say that bright economic future is waiting for this healthcare industry.
With IoT wearable devices: doctors, patients, physicians all of them get benefit in terms of tracking, tracing and managing reports. IoT applications can also help the patients to see their health status on smartphone app. 
Use of IoT in healthcare is a new trend and it makes the process easier to track and monitor a patient's health & track the records.