The IoT of Health

Medical_Software_Logo,_by_Harry_GouvasTo me one of the most exciting things that is promised by the Internet of Things is the way that medical care is going to move into our homes and get personalized. Within a decade we are going to be able to monitor ourselves and diagnose the more common maladies. This kind of constant and steady monitoring is going to revolutionize health care. This will make preventative medicine the norm and our IoT devices will warn of problems at the very earliest stages. The monitoring devices are going to be paired with the diagnosis power of supercomputers to bring us quick and accurate diagnosis of problems. Current software on IBM’s Big Blue is already able to diagnose things right over 95% of the time. Doctors will be freed to cure ailments rather than spend all day diagnosing colds.

The first generation IoT medical devices are starting to hit the market and there are dozens of firms feverishly trying to develop more. Here are a few of the things on the horizon right now, including some devices you can buy now or soon:

  • The Qualcomm Foundation has an ongoing Tricorder XPrize that will award $10 million to the team that develop a handheld device capable of precise monitoring and diagnosis of diseases. This must be an in-home and hand-held device capable of capturing key health metrics and diagnosing a set of 15 diseases. Metrics for health could include such elements as blood pressure, respiratory rate, and temperature.
  • There are tools out today that can monitor the quality of your sleep. Research is showing that getting good sleep may be one of the most important aspects of good health. For example, a bed pad from Withing can give you a record each night of your sleep pattern and the deepness and length of your REM sleep.
  • Google announced a contact lens that is going to be a real-time monitor for blood glucose levels for diabetics. Rather than needing periodic blood tests, the lens will monitor 24/7 and will alert the wearer any time their sugar levels are high or low.
  • There are numerous devices available to monitor people while they run or exercise. These monitors have gotten very sophisticated and can even tell you when you are overtraining.
  • One of my favorites is the new biofeedback monitors. These devices are related to the devices that let people control machines using brainpower. But instead of looking externally, devices, like Interaxon’s Muse headband help you look internally and help you slip quickly into various meditative states.
  • There are also now devices that will nag you into having good behavior. One of the funniest, and yet serious devices I have seen is a pin that vibrates whenever you slouch your shoulders. My fifth grade teacher would be so proud of this device.

These new tools are just the beginning of the home medical IoT revolution. It’s really exciting when you look at what companies have on the drawing board. One of the most promising fields to me is that within a decade we ought to have a host of devices and tools that are going to let seniors stay in their homes for extra years rather than have to go into an institution. This will be transformational in terms of the quality of life and of dying.

And following that will be devices that can detect disease and cancer early and can then nip problems in the bud. There is real hope that within 50 – 75 years that most forms of cancer will be things of the past, diseases that have been cured. Cancer will hopefully become one of those diseases found only in history books.

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