According to Gartner analyst Tom Austin, we have finally entered the long-predicted “Smart Machine Age.”
Austin predicts that by 2021, smart machine revenues will reach $29 billion and 30% of large companies will use devices or pieces of software that use some form of cognitive computing, deep learning, or intelligent automation (Gartner research available to subscribers only).
But what does it mean for a device to be “smart?” If a device can teach itself how to do something new, it’s pretty smart. The ability for an inanimate object to learn is sometimes called “machine learning,” and is a subset of artificial intelligence. Smart machines are an example of robotic process automation (RPA).
But at this stage in the tech’s development, that ability is still limited to use cases such as robots in Japanese auto manufacturing facilities. For most of us, we’d consider toothbrushes with sensors to be smart. After all, they determine when, and for how long, we brush our teeth and whether we’re pressing too hard or spending too much time in one region of our mouth.
But it’s not just toothbrushes and car manufacturing robots that are getting smart. Healthcare is seeing previously unconnected devices get smart. Machine learning is impacting healthcare in a big way, from natural language processing automating medical billing and coding to AI making telehealth more effective and efficient to deep learning making diagnoses as well as doctors.
When it comes to smart medical devices, we’re just now on the cusp of big breakthroughs. They’re more on the toothbrush end of things at this point in time than the self-teaching, car-making robots. That said, they’re still pretty cool. And getting smarter by the day. As an introduction to what’s happening in the space, here are three smart medical devices that are changing healthcare in 2018:
1. Wearable smart asthma monitoring
ADAMM Intelligent Asthma Monitoring (Source)
Asthma is a chronic condition that afflicts 25 million Americans, who experience an estimated 44,000 asthma attacks every single day, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Most people with asthma don’t know they’re having an attack until it’s in a pretty advanced stage, which is unpleasant, not to mention dangerous. It makes interventions such as medication and stopping the triggering activity less effective.
ADAMM Intelligent Asthma Monitoring is a wearable technology from Health Care Originals that can identify an oncoming asthma attack before the wearer notices the symptoms.
“Right now a patient can only rely on when their coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath, physically affects them so much that they have to stop what they are doing to address it,” Health Care Originals co-founder Jared Dwarika tells R&D Magazine. “If they wait until it is affecting them that much, it means they are already in an advanced stage of an asthmatic attack.”
2. An AI-powered insulin pump
Bigfoot insulin system (via email)
In 2011, Bryan Mazlish’s 5-year-old son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Unhappy with the insulin pumps on the market, in 2014 Mazlish hacked his own insulin delivery system. First he tweaked an off-the-shelf insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor. Then he wrote an algorithm to control the insulin dosing, along with an app to display the results.
The algorithm is a metabolic simulation engine that predicts how much insulin the patient will need and when they’ll need it, rather than simply responding to spikes in blood sugar. Since spikes in glucose slowly wear down organs, preventing them rather than treating them is much better for the patient’s long-term health.
Later in 2014, Mazlish cofounded Bigfoot Biomedical. Within two years the company had assets from a diabetes equipment supplier and partnerships with glucose monitoring companies.
In 2017, Bigfoot presented data from a feasibility trial at the Annual Diabetes Technology Meeting that shows their system is effective for controlling Type 1 diabetes .
The company raised $37 million in Series B funding in December 2017 for their AI-driven insulin delivery system. They have two products in the works: an insulin pump called Bigfoot Loop and an insulin pen called Bigfoot Inject.
“We look forward to initiating our pivotal trial in 2018,” president and CEO Jeffrey Brewer says.
3. A smart drill
The SMARTdrill (Source)
The SMARTdrill is kind of like the aforementioned smart toothbrush, but a lot more complicated. Basically, the drill recommends where and how to drill based on the resistance, bone density, and other factors it senses and its calculations.
Its screen offers surgeons real-time performance feedback as well. With it, surgeons can know with greater certainty that they’ve chosen the right depth to screw, for example. Or that they’ve used the right number of screws—too few screws, and whatever’s being screwed might can come out of place. Too many screws can slow healing.
Are you using any smart medical devices?
Welcome to the Age of the Smart Machine. Everywhere you look in 2018, you’ll see more devices that use some form of cognitive computing, deep learning, or intelligent automation. These three smart medical devices are just the tip of the iceberg.
Smart physicians should be aware of the state of the art when it comes to smart medical devices because they have the potential to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your care.
To learn more about smart machines and medical innovation, check out these