Dr. Joseph Siryani, IT Director, Research Computing and Data Science at Inova Health System
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a smart and ubiquitous technology interconnecting “things” through a variety of networks. The term “things” include sensors, actuators, software, and hardware, proliferating across multiple sectors, and industry verticals such as utility, transport, healthcare, vehicles, and home appliances. Enabling a smart, connected society and systems, IoT represents a tremendous paradigm shift.
IoT architectures typically consist of three main layers, encompassing sensing and control, information processing, and presentation. Sensors collect data from the monitoring area, and communications device hardware sends the retrieved data to the middleware element. The middleware processes and analyzes the enormous amount of received data by using various data analysis systems and tools to extract interpretable information, hopefully without human intervention. The presentation element of IoT visualizes processed data and results.
The main objective of IoT is to maximize the connectivity and communication of hardware devices with the physical world and to transform the harvested data by these devices into insights and useful information.
The advantage of IoT devices is that they are key for automation processes and strategies and can be used to monitor and control a variety of functions remotely.
The IoT has been enabled by advances in, among others, artificial intelligence (AI), microelectronics, ubiquitous connectivity, IPv6, and battery innovation. Overall, IoT extends connectivity beyond the “traditional” internet of computers, tablets, and smartphones. Connecting these objects together enables organizations to automatically capture detailed information about events and activities to improve the decision-making process, and automate processes and responses to events.
The IoT industry landscape is expanding rapidly. There will be 20.4 billion IoT devices, and 90 percent of automobiles will be connected to the internet by 2020. There will be 3.5 billion cellular IoT connections by 2023. In addition, the home IoT market is expected to grow to $53.45 billion by 2022.
The total medical IoT market is estimated to grow by 12 percent annually from 2017 to 2023 to reach $140 billion in revenues by 2024.
Advances in IoT applications are driven by two high-level factors: the better ways to deliver value through connected devices, and the improvement in the underlying technologies.
The technology advances behind the IoT’s emergence encompass:
• AI and machine learning technologies that help deliver actionable insights and predictions to support decision making through leveraging the torrent of IoT data.
• Ubiquitous connectivity through WiFi, ZigBee, Bluetooth, and 5G networks provides options for diverse bandwidth and price point requirements.
• Cheaper, smaller, and faster microelectronics reduces the cost of adding intelligence to objects.
• IPv6 protocol that provides a much greater number of IP addresses to deal with.
• Battery innovation and efficiency that helps devices lasting longer and doing more.
Driven by competition and seizing the opportunity, the healthcare industry will further develop several ecosystems, some of which will cross-industry boundaries
Challenges for the IoT include market regulation, interoperability, coping with the flood of new data, security and safety, and privacy protection.
Despite the aforementioned advances, there are various reasons to be conservative regarding how the IoT will evolve and how useful it will be after deployment. These reasons encompass:
• Market regulation where the regulatory bodies may require complex approvals for devices and software for public safety purposes that prevent innovative companies from advancing the IoT.
• Interoperability of various connected devices to overcome standard-based and technological challenges. IoT standards are still in development while facilitating communication between all IoT devices will remain a challenge for some foreseeable time.
• Data overload and complexity, and how well will systems be able to store, transmit, and make sense of the increasing torrent of collected data.
• Security that may imply that a connected world of things potentially makes society, and organizations more vulnerable to cyberattack and fraudulent actions.
• Personal privacy protection raising the questions about the data personal ownership, and the extent of information about a person that can be made available to others and whether a consent approach will be required.
Ways harnessing the Internet of Things in Healthcare
IoT examples that are often referenced in the media encompass the emergence of smart vehicles and smart homes that can adjust to various lifestyle preferences. The healthcare industry has already started with concepts such as the growing use of wearables, the smart hospital room, the streamlined supply chain management, and emergency services, the infection control, the medication adherence, and the smart devices. They enable clinicians to monitor and track patients across various care environments, in the community, as well as in their homes.
Advanced analytics help transform the raw sensor data into actionable insights enabling decision support systems that help to enhance health outcomes and optimize business, such as alerting a care provider to dispatch an ambulance, and adjusting a medication dose.
There are additional business drivers for the IoT, such as the shift toward value-based care, and the greater focus on cost savings and control.
To make sense of the opportunities for the IoT in healthcare, the following are some representative aspects:
• Approximately 488 million connected medical IoT devices in 2019.
• 83 percent of healthcare executives think IoT will be disruptive by 2021.
• 68 percent of healthcare organizations have adopted IoT in some capacity.
• An average of approximately 12 percent of annual IT budgets healthcare organizations allocated to investments for IoT solutions.
Health care use cases for the IoT
IoT is beneficial in healthcare in many ways. Following are a few use cases where additional value can be gained through leveraging the IoT:
• Remote patient monitoring to make sure the patient is in good condition.
• Smart hospital room where primary information includes patient and device identification, readings, and status.
• Medication adherence to verify whether the patient has taken her meds.
• Hospital infection control to ensure that necessary precautions being taken to prevent infection
• Asset management to enable locating where all of the facility’s infusion pumps are.
The IoT and specifically its applicability to healthcare will likely focus on smart rooms in hospitals, improving remote patient monitoring initiatives, making asset management more efficient, and enhancing the hospital infection control tracking and compliance.
Advances in devices to collect a greater amount of more accurate data, advanced analytics to process it and make sense of it, and applied AI systems to act on it will continue to grow. Driven by competition and seizing the opportunity, the healthcare industry will further develop several ecosystems, some of which will cross-industry boundaries such as automobile and home. This progress will enable more advanced IoT applications for innovative organizations.
Considering the latest developments in the IoT landscape and how the IoT industry is growing rapidly to reach approximately $140 billion in revenues by 2024, renders the IoT a vital and indispensable technology for a CXO.