Technologies Behind the Healthcare IoT

The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) serves patients, hospitals and clinics, physicians, cardiologists, radiologists, dentists, insurance companies, and other organizations that directly interact to deliver healthcare. The IoMT delivers medical care using technology from the Internet of Things to give more efficient and humane care.

The emerging ability of machines and sensors to connect to health networks via Internet protocols has changed the way that the healthcare industry delivers medical care and attention. This universal machine-to-machine (M2M) connectedness is pushing smart technology out to the edges, which helps patients to have better care and attention remotely and in real-time.

M2M Healthcare Devices

New generations of hospital equipment transmit information directly to the electronic health records (EHR) of patients while providing much of the same capabilities in the homes of consumers. Connected sensors and M2M equipment can report on dosing, equipment condition, and present patient health. Significantly, these system do this in real-time, detecting errors and breakdowns and health crisis events, even sending alerts when devices need a new battery.

The key technologies behind this revolution in care are the mHealth, which exploits the extensive capabilities of smartphones and tablets, activity monitors like FitBit, and provides opportunities for devices specifically designed as connected sensors such as smart Band-Aids, connected weight scales, and blood pressure monitors.

Protocols That Speak The Language Of Healthcare

The Internet Protocol (IP) is the underlying software that drives the communications of IoMT, and many of the M2M communications protocols derive directly from IPv6.

6LoWPan is a protocol based on IPv6 designed for use over a low power wireless personal network.

ZigBee comes from more industrial roots; it is otherwise similar to Bluetooth. ZigBee optimizes for M2M connections as opposed to voice and data. Its relatively low data rate is ideal for controllers and sensors where the priority is minimum latency and energy consumption.

Z-Wave is a protocol for M2M developed by Danish startup Zensys. It is similar to ZigBee, with a relatively low data rate, but designed to be used in home automation products, which makes it ideal for remote monitoring to send alerts from connected healthcare devices.

Bluetooth connects devices to networks at short range. Bluetooth Smart edge devices can now connect directly to the Internet via 6LoWPan. Any protocol with IP connectivity has potential to integrate into the IoMT, for example, the current 3G and 4G LTE cellphone data networks can connect patients to their doctors and their sensor devices.

Internet of Medical Things Platforms

The Internet itself forms the foundations of the platforms that tie the telemedicine sensors and devices of IoMT into integrated systems. All of the cloud-based platforms that are emerging for IoT can adapt to support IoMT. However, some of the largest technology companies are concentrating efforts on IoMT because of the opportunity to position themselves as leaders in the healthcare industry.

Electronics giants like Qualcomm and Phillips are all interested in providing the platforms for IoMT; it is a market where companies that can make multi-billion dollar investments of capital into research and infrastructure projects will dominate.

The rewards of getting ahead of the competition in IoMT could secure their positions for decades. Qualcomm expects the IoMT to be a $117 Billion market by 2020 and based on that forecast the company offers 2net and Capsule as platforms for IoMT integrations.

As consumers accept the involvement of application and messages from machines in their lives, patients can have monitoring that ensures they get the right prescriptions and the encouragement to take medications on time, warnings of impending crises and less time in hospital wards.

The IoMT is the intersection of health and technologies; the result is a new paradigm of data-intensive medical capabilities. It is redefining the way that the healthcare industry manages and treats both acute and chronic issues. The protocols platforms and equipment that enable continuous real-time health monitoring and management are still developing; it is up to the technology industry, as well as the medical professionals and consumers to define the directions and follow through with creative and intelligent Internet of Medical Things solutions.

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