How Small Smart Devices Make a Big Difference to Modern Healthcare
The Internet of Things has made it possible for medical devices to be more data-intensive, portable, and support an unlimited variety of cloud-based applications. As a result, these devices are in high demand among patients, who are relying on them to keep their health in check without the need for regular visits to the hospital. Unsurprisingly then, the global market of smart medical devices is expected to reach $25 billion by 2025 as we are approaching a greater convergence of traditional healthcare and a new generation of IoT-powered medical technology.
Smart Devices for Mothers and Babies
The PregSense wearable belt makes sure that vital information about mother and baby is being tracked continuously throughout the pregnancy, rather than just at rare scans in the hospital. The belt consists of a lightweight harness with sensor-laden straps that go over and around the bump. Its acoustic and ECG sensors monitor the heartbeat, while numerous motion sensors track kicks, contractions and movements as well as baby’s sleep cycle. The data is processed in the cloud server and then sent back to the user’s phone where it can be accessed via an application. Doctors can then use this data to monitor fetal health in high-risk pregnancies remotely without resorting to keeping women in hospitals for observation.
In addition to recognizing importance of tracking fetal health data, Nuvo has paid attention to some research data claiming that listening to music while in the womb can facilitate intellectual development and future musical ability in babies. Their Ritmo smart belt features a high quality surround sound system with four mini speakers that are split up in four areas of the belt. The speakers are specifically engineered for the womb and have a controlled level of sound. Playing music is not the only option with Ritmo. You can pre-record your voice or the voice of the loved one for the baby to listen to. This option can come in handy for couples with a significant other being away during the pregnancy, or for couples using surrogates. Working with phones and MP3 players, this belt is designed to last five hours in a prenatal setting on a single charge.
Dutch startup Hugsy is focusing solely on newborns and premature babies. Hugsy is the result of a collaboration between NICU Maxima Medical Center in Veldhoven and the Eindhoven University of Technology. Seeking to improve little patients’ comfort, the team of industrial designers has created a smart blanket mimicking the comfort of parents’ arms. Kangaroo care is the concept behind the product. Newborns, especially premature babies, are known to benefit from a skin-to-skin contact, since exposure to temperature, smell and parent’s heartbeat can improve bonding, relieve stress, promote deeper sleep, and boost their immunity and overall development. The Hugsy blanket, used as a supportive wrap during kangaroo care, absorbs mother’s smell, while a heartbeat module records and then recreates into a realistic sound and vibration her unique heartbeat. The blanket itself, made of organic textile, is coming in two variants - as a swaddle and a scent-cloth for older babies and toddlers, and evokes a parent’s embrace. Hugsy is already undergoing clinical trials in Dutch hospitals and homes and the team is planning on adding a new generation of hugsies with support of other smart devices.
IoT-enabled Innovations for Hospitals
ART Medical, an Israel and Palo Alto-based company specializing in technology to detect and prevent life-threatening complications in ICUs (intensive care units), has recently unveiled a complete solution for the comprehensive patient data collection and the reduction in risk of medical complications. The FDA-cleared platform of sensor-based smart tubes aims to mitigate the complications caused by intubation devices. Currently, tube-related reflux and secretion can cause acute kidney injury, aspiration of foreign materials, ventilator-associated pneumonia, or can even prove fatal. Therefore, ICU nurses and doctors are now required to constantly monitor patients in real-time in order to identify gastric reflux and saliva and immediately treat them. However, since physicians have to do it manually and due to the prolonged duration of intubation, the risk of developing abnormalities is always there.
The smart tube platform uses sensors to continuously monitor and collect gastric reflux, saliva and urine output and automatically alert physicians of any life-threatening complications via a console-based dashboard. It can also watch for infections and control the feeding process, providing real-time information, including the exact location of the tube. The ART Medical platform is now adjusting itself to patients’ needs and identifying possible complications in several hospitals around the United States as a part of clinical studies.
Personal Medical Devices
Smart Nora is an anti-snoring pillow system that helps alleviate this annoying problem. It consists of a pillow insert that goes inside a pillowcase and a pebble-shaped microphone that can sit on the nightstand or can be mounted to a wall. When a person goes to sleep, the Pebble monitors the loudness of the snoring. Once it exceeds a threshold and is likely to wake the user’s partner, an airbag placed inside the pillow insert activates via Bluetooth and starts automatically inflating and deflating via a pump connected to a portable case. This action stimulates throat muscles, allowing the user to breathe normally and stop snoring.
Driven by the need of over 1 million of Americans, Medtronic Plc has launched a wearable device that mimics a core function of pancreas. The artificial pancreas, called the MiniMed 670G, links a blood-sugar monitor with an insulin pump to create a system that delivers insulin to patients with type 1 diabetes automatically depending on their blood-sugar levels. It measures glucose levels every five minutes and administers a personalized dose of insulin for the patient. Medtronic’s advanced SmartGuard HCL algorithm and highly accurate Guardian Sensor 3 ensure that sugar levels stay within a range considered healthy by clinical standards. The device has already been approved by the FDA and is set to hit store shelves in the nearest future. This comes as a relief to patients, who will be able to manage their diabetes independently and enjoy greater freedom in their lives.
Inspired by the friendship with a blind communications professional, Aira has been founded with the goal of making cities more inclusive and accessible for visually impaired people. Using the concept of Google Glass technology, Suman Kanuganti and Yuja Chang developed a remote assistance technology that connects the blind with a network of certified agents via wearable smart glasses and an augmented reality dashboard, which allow agents to see for the blind person in real time and talk them through the situation they are in - from recognizing faces, grocery shopping, and finding the right switch to travelling the world. Developed to complement existing assistance systems, Aira sends agents a live video stream and the location of the person on Google Maps as well as the person’s general profile information. The video stream is claimed to be crisp enough for an Aira agent to read a restaurant menu and catch other small details, taking the quality of life of the blind to a new level.
Personal Medical Devices
Smart medical devices have revitalized traditional healthcare with home-based treatment and remote medical services. More advanced functions of new smart devices are also combined with flexible, cloud-based control and configuration, making these devices highly personalized and patient-centric. But that’s just the beginning. Large pools of patient data collected in the process prepare the ground for a new generation of medical analytics and preventive medicine solutions. With more intelligent, early diagnostics they are expected to provide, IoT-empowered healthcare will set the new standard of living for a broad population. We are on the right track.