What is the Internet of Things
Even if the Internet appears ubiquitous, the number of objects or devices connected to the internet is still greatly inferior to those that are not connected. The coming revolution will result from the need of replacing disconnected objects with connected ones, and making these objects ever more intelligent, and aware of their surroundings (using sensors). The resulting network promises to create disruptive business models.
We call this new step: The Internet of Things
In 2008 the number of devices connected to the Internet exceeded the number of people on Earth, and we foresee 50 billions Connected Things in 2020.
The Healthcare market research Company, Kalorama published a study that the market for remote patient monitoring is growing of 25.4% yearly. According to the industry standards we should think of this as exciting news that represents the whole landscape. But... it is not true.
Where the Internet of Things meets Healthcare
The starting point for the Internet Of Things is represented by our smartphones which are not only connected to the net, but are also going to be ever more enriched with applications and sensors, and used by people as valuable tools for our Health.
The Quantified Self movement, founded by the Network Economy guru Kevin Kelly together with the former Wired journalist Gary Wolf, identified and addressed the need of a growing number of people to monitor themselves. These early adopters armed with devices or even pen and paper, decided to improve their life or performance starting studying and measuring it: everyday.
The tipping point, represented by this cultural shift, together with the explosion of a new generation of GPS based mobile device - and - with the raising relevance of complex information visualization, was the natural reason why many companies tried to intercept this trend, with new products and services. The early and rapid adoption by sport and fitness oriented products - starting in 2008 up to now - we saw the concept of "monitoring yourself" take off and away from the classic tech or health way to "remote monitoring".
Self-tracking means that YOU are in charge. You are the first one to monitor your performance / conditions. Self-tracking leverage on consumer technologies instead of complex PRO medical device, makes you the protagonist sharing on the web, giving you the possibility to be aware of the feedback that your "stories" are receiving.
Some traditionalists could be afraid by this alternative approach to medication, but there is no need for fear. First of all because this is not a medication, but second - and most relevant - because self-monitoring makes people aware of how important prevention is.
If just an email/sms makes people 30% more likely for a patient to go to the doctor for an already scheduled meetings, imagine how effective could be a pills reminder (like same iPhone APPs already are doing) and how big is the opportunity to extend the space of Healthcare thought a real one to one interaction.
If the Internet of Things is the upcoming scenario, Healthcare already generated more Fitness and Personal Health oriented devices than in any other area. A good example: The Withings scale, which innovates through the presence of a digital layer and it’s sharing, an old, and personal object, represents the archetype of this category. Following this lead, every pathology, every hospital can give rise to a special object, making it the protagonist of the lifestyle of its target.
Risks and Opportunities NYC, Fall 2010, 8am
Visiting the glass cube made by Apple in front at the Central Park in NYC is always an experience. Last time I went there, few weeks ago, I saw many "health in a box" packages, telling to the mac-users how fancy and useful it could be to track their own health.
All these products are beautifully shaped and work in harmony with all iSomething devices from Apple.
These objects are the high visibility portion of the huge upcoming wave of medical devices. More and more disruptive services (or self-services) are emerging on the health market. Every day more, these innovative approaches are grabbing the attention of the early adopters, media - and - venture capitals. Health is quickly evolving with some dramatic changes from the usual path. People have a completely different role. Information is available in many places. Big brands could suffer from the many newcomers, while the digital shift just began inside them. Like every industry, HEALTHCARE also has an endless list of advantages over any newcomers. More over, the specific needs of people affected by health issues, don’t fit within the trial-and-error approach that other sectors can use. However, the digital divide as well as the health knowledge divide, has to be faced with fancy and effective solutions. If a consumer solutions is iPad based (and people love it), a professional solution can’t be ugly and cold.
Data Collection and data analysis must include timely geographic information.
The whole process of taking care of patients, have to be "inclusive" and designed in a completely new way, based on User Experience and cutting edge design approach.
Appropriate analysis and visualizations, typical of Web 2.0, should be a constant in the solution provided to any kind of users. Data and information generated by medical appliances - personal, wearable or geographically distant from major hospitals - carry with them the need to establish remote services which are secure, but also open and interoperable if necessary.
A "Health Cloud" is an asset that will be a primary need for hospitals as well as for medical device manufacturers (and a service for patients).
...at the beginning of the Web, no one believed that Amazon was set to have 5 to 10 times more revenue (online) than Walmart. In 2010 the brick and mortar retail giant, invested more than 100M for the acquisition of new technologies, and it is only a small amount given the gap they have to fill now.
The race is definitively started and a slice of this evolution is already on the store shelf.