To coincide with the Medica exhibition I wrote a White Paper called “Trust me – I’m not a Doctor” to explore some of the changes that I think are necessary for the development of usable consumer health devices.One reader came back to me with a very pertinent question – “It’s one thing to say what needs to change, but what steps can manufacturers take in order to keep up with the latest developments in technology?”
It’s a very good question.Much of the medical industry concentrates on gradual evolution.It’s not an industry that is either particularly fast moving, or prone to disruptive influences.Certainly Medica was very much about more of the same and not doing anything new.
That poses a real problem, and to address it I think you have to take a deliberatively disruptive approach by thinking outside the box.Rather than asking how to keep abreast of technology, which is only likely to increase the pace of the current linear evolution, I’d suggest the more heretical view of thinking about what happens to the market when the clinician is excluded from it.
This year will see the arrival of a new short range wireless standard that is set to revolutionise the way that devices are made. That’s not a new claim – I recall it being made for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, Home-RF and DECT, amongst others. Some succeeded massively, some struggled on and some failed. This year sees another technology join the fold and I’m confident that it will make a bigger change that any that has preceded it.
The technology I’m talking about is called Bluetooth low energy. Don’t be fooled by thinking it’s a variant of Bluetooth – that would be a mistake. Although it’s part of the Bluetooth family of standards, and designed to coexist within an existing Bluetooth chip, it’s a totally new standard, designed from the bottom up to fulfil a new set of requirements.
Those requirements are to enable a new generation of products that can connect to mobile phones. It covers everything from fashion accessories, watches, fitness and medical devices to office and security products. The essential thing is that they can be low power, low cost devices that only need to send small amounts of data. That allows them to be run off batteries that don’t need regular charging. In fact most of them will run for years on single coin cells.
As well as connecting to your phone as accessories, they’ll also be able to use the phone to send their data over your mobile network to a remote web service. That’s where Bluetooth low energy becomes really powerful, as it allows your mobile phone to act as a gateway.