The number of connected medical devices – the ones communicating with other systems via the Internet – is growing steadily. These smart things gather and transmit a mountain of healthcare data. Even such small gadgets as fitness trackers and smartwatches can provide quite a bit of health-related metrics, including heart rate, sleep patterns, calorie consumption, to name a few. The point is, this data is the main building block of the huge system called the Internet of Medical Things. And what IoMT is? You’ll find out in this post.
What is the Internet of Medical Things?
IoMT or the Internet of Medical Things is a healthcare-focused part of the Internt of Things (IoT), hence another name – healthcare IoT. Defining more precisely, IoMT is a system of interconnected medical devices, software, and healthcare systems and services that exchange real-time data by means of networking technologies.
To help you understand what’s behind the “things” part of the IoMT systems, let’s take a heart rate monitor, for example. Such a device collects patient data and sends it to the hospital cloud software so a doctor can see the real picture of a health condition and make timely and informed decisions.
If we take the 2017 statistics presented by Healthcare IT News, we’ll see that 60% of healthcare organizations worldwide have already implemented IoT solutions into their processes. Another 27% of institutions are expected to adopt the technology in the short term. The major factors that influence the fast adoption of IoMT technologies are as follows.
Rising healthcare costs
Analysts have calculated that the IoMT adoption can result in $300 billion savings annually for the US healthcare industry. With IoT solutions implemented, it is possible to reduce hospital visits, detect diseases at an earlier stage and thus cut spendings on their treatment, and much more
The increased need for remote patient monitoring
There are two key tendencies behind this factor: the rising incidence of chronic illnesses (specifically such diseases as cancer, asthma, and diabetes) and the aging population. As for the latter, The United Nations report states that by 2050 there will be 2.1 billion elderly people on Earth. Seniors are prone to have more health issues, and IoMT devices can be of big help in this case.
People are becoming more health-conscious
The COVID-19 pandemic has made a lot of people change their attitudes towards health and related precautionary measures. This has increased the demand for various health monitoring devices.
How IoMT systems work
Similarly to IoT, the architecture of the Internet of Medical Things involves the four key components or layers:
- the perception or sensor layer consists of a number of medical devices and sensors that gather useful health-related data from surroundings and transmit it to another layer;
- the network or communication layer transmits the data collected at the perception layer to the middleware layer via different networking technologies (WiFi, Bluetooth, LAN, etc.);
- the middleware or processing layer acts as a data storage, processing, and management environment; and
- the application layer includes a variety of software tools to analyze medical data received.
Let’s now go through each building block, focusing on connected devices that power the IoMT engine with data.
The perception layer: IoMT devices
The variety of physical medical things that have Internet access and cover diverse healthcare purposes is quite impressive. Some calculations point to the number of 2 million different smart medical devices which generate and collect important healthcare data. All they can be grouped in the following categories.
Hospital monitors and devices
Health facilities have huge machines like MRI, ECG, and CT scanners that provide valuable data and send it to the cloud. On top of that, various small devices and sensors can be used on-premises to track equipment, monitor patients and staff, and manage supplies inside a hospital.
Point-of-care diagnostic devices and kiosks
A range of portable diagnostic instruments and self-service kiosks aim at collecting patient clinical information (blood, saliva, urine, skin cells, etc.) outside of laboratory settings. The devices in this category can be used both in clinics and at home.
This category includes all kinds of devices prescribed or recommended by a physician. Their main goal is to track disease conditions – degradations and improvements – and provide doctors with real-time data about a patient’s health status for quick decision-making. Clinical-grade devices must be approved for use or certified by respective regulatory bodies such as the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration.)
The group consists of various wearable devices with built-in sensors used to track, collect, and transmit data related to general physical activity. They are also known as fitness wearables and aren’t regulated by health authorities.
Personal emergency response systems (PERS)
These medical alert systems are used by patients (paralyzed, elderly, limited in mobility, etc.) to call for help or to notify caregivers and doctors. Medical devices of this type are commonly equipped with an emergency button.
Also referred to as digital pills or smart drugs, these small electronic devices are shaped as pharmaceutical capsules and equipped with sensors. When such a pill is swallowed, it can be used to track vitals, carry drugs to a needed area, provide pictures of the gastrointestinal tract for more accurate diagnosis, and much more.
The communication layer: networking technologies
Once collected, the data is sent to the cloud via one of the following networking technologies:
- Local Area Network or LAN — a private computer network that enables the connectivity of two or more computers and devices within a limited geographical area;
- Bluetooth Low Energy or BLE — a power-conserving wireless technology that allows various devices to communicate and transfer data over a short distance;
- WiFi — a wireless technology that enables high-speed connectivity of devices to the Internet and operates within a limited area; or
- Wide Area Network or WAN — a computer network that provides device connectivity over a large geographic area.
To transmit messages among devices and to the cloud, there are different messaging protocols used. The most common ones are:
- Message Queue Telemetry Transport or MQTT protocol — a lightweight network protocol that supports publish-subscribe messaging between devices; and
- Advanced Message Queuing Protocol or AMQP protocol — an open standard application protocol enabling systems to send and receive messages.
Now that you know the path of data from the physical world of devices to the cloud, it’s time to deal with the IoT platforms where data is stored, processed, and managed.
The processing layer: IoT platforms
A cloud IoT platform or middleware is the most vital part of any IoMT system. There are several IoT solutions that not only have the powerful processing layer but, more importantly, provide compliance with healthcare regulations — namely, with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Google Cloud IoT has a pack of services to build a fully-fledged HIPAA-compliant IoMT system. The technology giant offers Cloud Healthcare API with a development environment for creating healthcare applications and solutions on Google Cloud.
AWS IoT platform is empowered with a wide array of capabilities to create advanced IoMT systems. These services include, among other things, AWS Cloud Trail and AmazonCloudWatch to follow the regulatory requirements for data protection as well as AW IoT Greengrass to build, deploy, and manage device software on-premises.
Microsoft Azure IoT doesn’t lag behind its competitors and provides services like Azure IoT Edge to integrate on-premises data, Azure IoT Central to manage devices and process data streams and events, and Azure IoT Connector to ingest data from IoMT devices.
Application layer: medical software
This layer interfaces with end-users — medical experts and patients. There is a wide range of solutions you can build on top of IoMT, like health tracking apps, data analytics dashboards, remote patient monitoring platforms, or telehealth systems.
IoMT use cases
While still developing and improving, IoMT already has tons of real-life applications. Below we’ll overview some successful examples.
IoMT devices that monitor glucose levels
According to the World Health Organization, there are nearly 422 million diabetic people globally. Continuous tracking of a blood sugar level is critical for them and even can be a question of life and death. Today, we have glucose monitoring systems that not only make tests day and night but also do it without painful finger piercing.
In such systems, a water-resistant wearable with a sensor is commonly placed under the skin. Every few minutes, it checks interstitial fluid and sends data to a smartwatch or smartphone via WiFi or Bluetooth.
Real-life example: The Dexcom G6 CGM System for diabetes data monitoring and management
IoMT devices that detect and prevent falls
The statistics presented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that one out of four American seniors falls each year. Not only do older adults tend to fall more often, but they also have a greater chance of getting dangerous injuries – hitting their head or breaking a hip. To prevent this from happening, special IoMT solutions are designed.
These are typically wearable devices like a smartwatch or a belt that have sensors capable of indicating harsh falls, notifying emergency services and/or caregivers of the event, and even providing on-time protection (if it’s a belt, it can be equipped with airbags.) Such devices are synced with software apps so that data can be seen on a computer or phone.
IoMT devices that power smart hospitals
Smart homes surprise no one these days. The same can’t be said about smart hospitals – this concept is still in its infancy. However, it’s not some kind of science fiction. Some facilities, for example, equip their medical appliances with sensors to track the exact location of each piece of equipment
In this way, when hospital staff needs, say, a defibrillator, they will be able to quickly find and deliver it to an emergency room. The trackers can be also attached to hospital beds to check their location, condition, and need for maintenance. Another way such sensors can be useful is monitoring hospital supplies and refilling them on time.
Real-life example: Caithness General Hospital operated by NHS Highland
IoMT devices that advance endoscopy examinations
Capsule endoscopy lets clinicians examine the entire gastrointestinal tract, deliver medication to a specific location, take biopsies, and perform other procedures. The principle is simple: A patient swallows a small pill-sized digital device with a tiny video camera in it. The camera takes pictures as it passes through the human GI tract and transmits data to a recording device. Then, the data can be delivered to EHR systems.
Real-life example: CapsoCam Plus system
Major IoMT technology implementation challenges
Along with promises, IoMT brings a number of challenges. Here are the major issues that must be addressed to realize the full potential of IoT in healthcare.
Healthcare data security threats
HIPAA Journal reports that in 2020, the rates of healthcare data breaches increased 25% compared to 2019. Data security threats are still the biggest challenge for hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities that want to employ IoMT systems. IoMT devices are designed with different levels of security, so Internet connectivity makes them vulnerable to cyberattacks.
The lack of interoperability between individual systems
Interoperability is the ability of healthcare systems to exchange and interpret data cohesively. Doctors, administrators, and patients may use different types of medical devices and software solutions that don’t “understand” each other. The lack of interoperability between them leads to data silos and hinders data access.
IoMT solutions must adhere to laws that take care of data privacy and patient safety. Since the regulatory scene tends to change every now and again, compliance may become a significant obstacle in the way of building and upgrading medical devices and accompanying software.
Despite these and other challenges, the global IoMT market keeps growing since by far the benefits it brings outweigh the troubles its adoption causes.
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Fintech Kennek raises $12.5M seed round to digitize lending
London-based fintech startup Kennek has raised $12.5 million in seed funding to expand its lending operating system.
According to an Oct. 10 tech.eu report, the round was led by HV Capital and included participation from Dutch Founders Fund, AlbionVC, FFVC, Plug & Play Ventures, and Syndicate One. Kennek offers software-as-a-service tools to help non-bank lenders streamline their operations using open banking, open finance, and payments.
The platform aims to automate time-consuming manual tasks and consolidate fragmented data to simplify lending. Xavier De Pauw, founder of Kennek said:
“Until kennek, lenders had to devote countless hours to menial operational tasks and deal with jumbled and hard-coded data – which makes every other part of lending a headache. As former lenders ourselves, we lived and breathed these frustrations, and built kennek to make them a thing of the past.”
The company said the latest funding round was oversubscribed and closed quickly despite the challenging fundraising environment. The new capital will be used to expand Kennek’s engineering team and strengthen its market position in the UK while exploring expansion into other European markets. Barbod Namini, Partner at lead investor HV Capital, commented on the investment:
“Kennek has developed an ambitious and genuinely unique proposition which we think can be the foundation of the entire alternative lending space. […] It is a complicated market and a solution that brings together all information and stakeholders onto a single platform is highly compelling for both lenders & the ecosystem as a whole.”
The fintech lending space has grown rapidly in recent years, but many lenders still rely on legacy systems and manual processes that limit efficiency and scalability. Kennek aims to leverage open banking and data integration to provide lenders with a more streamlined, automated lending experience.
The seed funding will allow the London-based startup to continue developing its platform and expanding its team to meet demand from non-bank lenders looking to digitize operations. Kennek’s focus on the UK and Europe also comes amid rising adoption of open banking and open finance in the regions.
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Fortune 500’s race for generative AI breakthroughs
As excitement around generative AI grows, Fortune 500 companies, including Goldman Sachs, are carefully examining the possible applications of this technology. A recent survey of U.S. executives indicated that 60% believe generative AI will substantially impact their businesses in the long term. However, they anticipate a one to two-year timeframe before implementing their initial solutions. This optimism stems from the potential of generative AI to revolutionize various aspects of businesses, from enhancing customer experiences to optimizing internal processes. In the short term, companies will likely focus on pilot projects and experimentation, gradually integrating generative AI into their operations as they witness its positive influence on efficiency and profitability.
Goldman Sachs’ Cautious Approach to Implementing Generative AI
In a recent interview, Goldman Sachs CIO Marco Argenti revealed that the firm has not yet implemented any generative AI use cases. Instead, the company focuses on experimentation and setting high standards before adopting the technology. Argenti recognized the desire for outcomes in areas like developer and operational efficiency but emphasized ensuring precision before putting experimental AI use cases into production.
According to Argenti, striking the right balance between driving innovation and maintaining accuracy is crucial for successfully integrating generative AI within the firm. Goldman Sachs intends to continue exploring this emerging technology’s potential benefits and applications while diligently assessing risks to ensure it meets the company’s stringent quality standards.
One possible application for Goldman Sachs is in software development, where the company has observed a 20-40% productivity increase during its trials. The goal is for 1,000 developers to utilize generative AI tools by year’s end. However, Argenti emphasized that a well-defined expectation of return on investment is necessary before fully integrating generative AI into production.
To achieve this, the company plans to implement a systematic and strategic approach to adopting generative AI, ensuring that it complements and enhances the skills of its developers. Additionally, Goldman Sachs intends to evaluate the long-term impact of generative AI on their software development processes and the overall quality of the applications being developed.
Goldman Sachs’ approach to AI implementation goes beyond merely executing models. The firm has created a platform encompassing technical, legal, and compliance assessments to filter out improper content and keep track of all interactions. This comprehensive system ensures seamless integration of artificial intelligence in operations while adhering to regulatory standards and maintaining client confidentiality. Moreover, the platform continuously improves and adapts its algorithms, allowing Goldman Sachs to stay at the forefront of technology and offer its clients the most efficient and secure services.
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UK seizes web3 opportunity simplifying crypto regulations
As Web3 companies increasingly consider leaving the United States due to regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom must simplify its cryptocurrency regulations to attract these businesses. The conservative think tank Policy Exchange recently released a report detailing ten suggestions for improving Web3 regulation in the country. Among the recommendations are reducing liability for token holders in decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and encouraging the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to adopt alternative Know Your Customer (KYC) methodologies, such as digital identities and blockchain analytics tools. These suggestions aim to position the UK as a hub for Web3 innovation and attract blockchain-based businesses looking for a more conducive regulatory environment.
Streamlining Cryptocurrency Regulations for Innovation
To make it easier for emerging Web3 companies to navigate existing legal frameworks and contribute to the UK’s digital economy growth, the government must streamline cryptocurrency regulations and adopt forward-looking approaches. By making the regulatory landscape clear and straightforward, the UK can create an environment that fosters innovation, growth, and competitiveness in the global fintech industry.
The Policy Exchange report also recommends not weakening self-hosted wallets or treating proof-of-stake (PoS) services as financial services. This approach aims to protect the fundamental principles of decentralization and user autonomy while strongly emphasizing security and regulatory compliance. By doing so, the UK can nurture an environment that encourages innovation and the continued growth of blockchain technology.
Despite recent strict measures by UK authorities, such as His Majesty’s Treasury and the FCA, toward the digital assets sector, the proposed changes in the Policy Exchange report strive to make the UK a more attractive location for Web3 enterprises. By adopting these suggestions, the UK can demonstrate its commitment to fostering innovation in the rapidly evolving blockchain and cryptocurrency industries while ensuring a robust and transparent regulatory environment.
The ongoing uncertainty surrounding cryptocurrency regulations in various countries has prompted Web3 companies to explore alternative jurisdictions with more precise legal frameworks. As the United States grapples with regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom can position itself as a hub for Web3 innovation by simplifying and streamlining its cryptocurrency regulations.
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