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Driving digital transformation for medical tech companies

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Driving digital transformation for medical tech companies


Medical technology and pharmaceutical companies are transitioning beyond biopharmaceuticals, medical devices, and equipment to provide comprehensive patient care. The key is to support proactive, predictive, and personalized care delivery and management that is sustainable. This involves enabling better outcomes, improving patient and clinician experience in care pathways, reducing health-care costs, removing inefficiencies in workflows, and maximizing the convergence of capabilities.

In a bid for relevance and differentiation, many medical technology and pharma companies have embraced digitization. Digitization is now seen as an enabler of this transition as health-care companies strive to enhance value for their customers and partners.

With the availability of digital tools and technologies, the industry aims to accelerate the use of health-care data for process improvement, product development, and value proposition enhancement while looking at new monetization models.

Succeeding with digital transformation

Medical technology companies have always had to choose where to invest their research-and-development resources: on prioritizing developing their core competencies and solutions or on digital infrastructure and analytical capabilities. Although both are essential, not all firms have the funds to do both or the skill sets to develop capabilities in data management or analysis algorithms, or the partner ecosystem to leverage, collaborate, co-create, and share risk. Furthermore, these firms may not have experience in setting up governance and compliance structures to use clinical data in compliance with regulations.

Specific internal capabilities, as well as planning and resources are required to develop and maintain a digital ecosystem to realize the multiple benefits of data, analytics, and collaboration with appropriate partners. Platforms offer a cloud-based ecosystem for secure access and data sharing among multiple stakeholders, enabled by digital tools and applications while providing an avenue for like-minded firms to collaborate.

In this way, platform as a service (PaaS) allows users to leverage a subscription-based data and cloud computing service without the complexity of building and maintaining the infrastructure. It allows users to access, develop, and run applications, and unify digital transformation using a single platform, reducing the use of resources needed to drive transformation.

“Data is in silos, and to optimize clinical pathways, all stakeholders need to work together by co-creating and co-opeting,” says Max Milz, senior partner and senior vice president at Siemens Advanta Consulting. “In other words, data needs to be accessed, processed, stored, analyzed, and shared in a secure and compliant manner for it to be useful to different stakeholders. PaaS is one of the enablers for driving this integration. Medical technology companies can accelerate their digital transformation efforts by leveraging first-mile connectivity to a hospital ecosystem and last-mile access to data offered by the teamplay digital health platform.”

Medical technology needs a specific platform

Most health-care data management use cases are industry-specific with requirements to access imaging, pathology, and clinical data. Stakeholders considering a platform would benefit from collaborating with one that has domain specificity and is incubated and managed by another experienced medical technology organization.

A platform specific to medical technology offers vertical domain expertise from a market access and connectivity perspective, access to relevant data, specific applications for that sector, and experience of the security and regulatory compliance requirements, allowing partners to focus on the development of their core solutions and value propositions. Using a medical technology PaaS offers medical equipment and device companies the flexibility to adapt continuously to evolving market needs, optimizing investment in time and resources while being guided by a valued partner with experience of developing a platform fit for purpose.

In a competitive market, medical technology companies must focus on accelerated product development while partnering with the best PaaS provider to help realize their overall digital transformation goals.

“The majority of medical technology companies have a strong product presence,” explains Thomas Friese, senior vice president for digital platforms at Siemens Healthineers. “However, what they also need is to transform to a sustainable service model.”

And there’s no need to go it alone. “Co-opetition is gathering prominence in medical technology and pharma, and all stakeholders stand to only benefit from integration. PaaS will become very relevant in this context, thus positioning teamplay digital health platform uniquely, with its domain-specific expertise and digital transformation capabilities,” Friese says.

A proven and compliant PaaS platform: teamplay

A company with extensive experience in imaging and diagnostics can build a platform that brings together a strong diagnostic and therapeutic core and specialized digital offerings, and systematically expand it across multiple functionalities.

Several use cases can be used as templates for technology advancement, enabling partners to achieve their objectives. teamplay acts as a technology accelerator for medical technology companies, providing first-mile connectivity and last-mile access.

As a medical technology-specific platform provider, Siemens Healthineers offers vertical domain expertise and industry expertise, differentiating it from horizontal platform capabilities offered by leading IT companies. The subscription model also allows users to spread the investment over time and generate higher returns by giving partners a head start. Overall, Siemens Healthineers has a clear vision of where it fits with partners by increasing fidelity and ease of use while decreasing time and effort for its partners.

Partnering offers advantages for digital transformation

The advantages of partnering in creating a PaaS are evident: it is a more strategic and long-term option with the opportunity to collaborate, co-create, and share risk. Compared with building a platform, partnering provides scalability by optimizing time, resources, and investment. While building a platform with a public cloud services provider, medical technology companies are still required to network with hospitals for data access and arrange integration with devices and the health-care IT ecosystem.

Partnering with a medical technology PaaS, however, offers scalability in terms of access and connectivity and the ability for the platform to evolve by onboarding new products, applications, and vendors.

Medical technology companies must choose a partner whose vision, breadth, and service align with overall digital transformation efforts. Partnering with Siemens Healthineers enables access to a tried and tested platform that is compliant, secure, and acts as a technology accelerator. It further offers the potential to focus on core competencies while collaborating to explore new and adjacent opportunities.

The teamplay digital health platform connects and integrates data from various sources across departments and institutions on a vendor-, system- and device-neutral platform. It offers scalable deployment models with hybrid computing, combining cloud and on-edge deployment to serve specific use cases. Access is also open to innovations and solutions in AI and digital health from Siemens Healthineers and its curated partner network with opportunities for collaboration with peers and partners that enables risk-sharing models. It allows the deployment and operation of applications and algorithms globally by leveraging the secure platform infrastructure.

Most important, with Siemens Healthineers, medical technology companies have the opportunity to partner with a platform that is continuously being developed and delivers clinical credibility and business relevance.

Learn more about PaaS technology in health care.

This content was produced by Insights, the custom content arm of MIT Technology Review. It was not written by MIT Technology Review’s editorial staff.

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A pro-China online influence campaign is targeting the rare-earths industry

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A pro-China online influence campaign is targeting the rare-earths industry


China has come to dominate the market in recent years, and by 2017 the country produced over 80% of the world’s supply. Beijing achieved this by pouring resources into the study and mining of rare-earth elements for decades, building up six big state-owned firms and relaxing environmental regulations to enable low-cost and high-pollution methods. The country then rapidly increased rare-earth exports in the 1990s, a sudden rush that bankrupted international rivals. Further development of rare-earth industries is a strategic goal under Beijing’s Made in China 2025 strategy.

The country has demonstrated its dominance several times, most notably by stopping all shipments of the resources to Japan in 2010 during a maritime dispute. State media have warned that China could do the same to the United States.

The US and other Western nations have seen this monopoly as a critical weakness for their side. As a result, they have spent billions in recent years to get better at finding, mining, and processing the minerals. 

In early June 2022, the Canadian mining company Appia announced it had found new resources in Saskatchewan. Within weeks, the American firm USA Rare Earth announced a new processing facility in Oklahoma. 

Dragonbridge engaged in similar activity in 2021, soon after the American military signed an agreement with the Australian mining firm Lynas, the largest rare-earths company outside China, to build a processing plant in Texas. 

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The U.S. only has 60,000 charging stations for EVs. Here’s where they all are.

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The U.S. only has 60,000 charging stations for EVs. Here’s where they all are.


The infrastructure bill that passed in November 2021 earmarked $7.5 billion for President Biden’s goal of having 500,000 chargers (individual plugs, not stations) around the nation. In the best case, Michalek envisions a public-private collaboration to build a robust national charging network. The Biden administration has pledged to install plugs throughout rural areas, while companies constructing charging stations across America will have a strong incentive to fill in the country’s biggest cities and most popular thoroughfares. After all, companies like Electrify America, EVgo, and ChargePoint charge customers per kilowatt-hour of energy they use, much like utilities.

Most new electric vehicles promise at least 250 miles on a full charge, and that number should keep ticking up. The farther cars can go without charging, the fewer anxious drivers will be stuck in lines waiting for a charging space to open. But make no mistake, Michalek says: an electric-car country needs a plethora of plugs, and soon.

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We need smarter cities, not “smart cities”

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We need smarter cities, not “smart cities”


The term “smart cities” originated as a marketing strategy for large IT vendors. It has now become synonymous with urban uses of technology, particularly advanced and emerging technologies. But cities are more than 5G, big data, driverless vehicles, and AI. They are crucial drivers of opportunity, prosperity, and progress. They support those displaced by war and crisis and generate 80% of global GDP. More than 68% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050—2.5 billion more people than do now. And with over 90% of urban areas located on coasts, cities are on the front lines of climate change.

A focus on building “smart cities” risks turning cities into technology projects. We talk about “users” rather than people. Monthly and “daily active” numbers instead of residents. Stakeholders and subscribers instead of citizens. This also risks a transactional—and limiting—approach to city improvement, focusing on immediate returns on investment or achievements that can be distilled into KPIs. 

Truly smart cities recognize the ambiguity of lives and livelihoods, and they are driven by outcomes beyond the implementation of “solutions.” They are defined by their residents’ talents, relationships, and sense of ownership—not by the technology that is deployed there. 

This more expansive concept of what a smart city is encompasses a wide range of urban innovations. Singapore, which is exploring high-tech approaches such as drone deliveries and virtual-reality modeling, is one type of smart city. Curitiba, Brazil—a pioneer of the bus rapid transit system—is another. Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, with its passively cooled shopping center designed in 1996, is a smart city, as are the “sponge cities” across China that use nature-based solutions to manage rainfall and floodwater.

Where technology can play a role, it must be applied thoughtfully and holistically—taking into account the needs, realities, and aspirations of city residents. Guatemala City, in collaboration with our country office team at the UN Development Programme, is using this approach to improve how city infrastructure—including parks and lighting—is managed. The city is standardizing materials and designs to reduce costs and labor,  and streamlining approval and allocation processes to increase the speed and quality of repairs and maintenance. Everything is driven by the needs of its citizens. Elsewhere in Latin America, cities are going beyond quantitative variables to take into account well-being and other nuanced outcomes. 

In her 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs, the pioneering American urbanist, discussed the importance of sidewalks. In the context of the city, they are conduits for adventure, social interaction, and unexpected encounters—what Jacobs termed the “sidewalk ballet.” Just as literal sidewalks are crucial to the urban experience, so is the larger idea of connection between elements.

Truly smart cities recognize the ambiguity of lives and livelihoods, and they are driven by outcomes beyond the implementation of “solutions.”

However, too often we see “smart cities” focus on discrete deployments of technology rather than this connective tissue. We end up with cities defined by “use cases” or “platforms.” Practically speaking, the vision of a tech-centric city is conceptually, financially, and logistically out of reach for many places. This can lead officials and innovators to dismiss the city’s real and substantial potential to reduce poverty while enhancing inclusion and sustainability.

In our work at the UN Development Programme, we focus on the interplay between different components of a truly smart city—the community, the local government, and the private sector. We also explore the different assets made available by this broader definition: high-tech innovations, yes, but also low-cost, low-tech innovations and nature-based solutions. Big data, but also the qualitative, richer detail behind the data points. The connections and “sidewalks”—not just the use cases or pilot programs. We see our work as an attempt to start redefining smart cities and increasing the size, scope, and usefulness of our urban development tool kit.

We continue to explore how digital technology might enhance cities—for example, we are collaborating with major e-commerce platforms across Africa that are transforming urban service delivery. But we are also shaping this broader tool kit to tackle the urban impacts of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. 

The UrbanShift initiative, led by the UN Environment Programme in partnership with UNDP and many others, is working with cities to promote nature-based solutions, low-carbon public transport, low-emission zones, integrated waste management, and more. This approach focuses not just on implementation, but also on policies and guiderails. The UNDP Smart Urban Innovations Handbook aims to help policymakers and urban innovators explore how they might embed “smartness” in any city.

Our work at the United Nations is driven by the Sustainable Development Goals: 17 essential, ambitious, and urgent global targets that aim to shape a better world by 2030. Truly smart cities would play a role in meeting all 17 SDGs, from tackling poverty and inequality to protecting and improving biodiversity. 

Coordinating and implementing the complex efforts required to reach these goals is far more difficult than deploying the latest app or installing another piece of smart street furniture. But we must move beyond the sales pitches and explore how our cities can be true platforms—not just technological ones—for inclusive and sustainable development. The well-being of the billions who call the world’s cities home depends on it.

Riad Meddeb is interim director of the UNDP Global Centre for Technology, Innovation, and Sustainable Development. Calum Handforth is an advisor for digitalization, digital health, and smart cities at the UNDP Global Centre.

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