In this blog, we will explore an interesting aspect of the IoT: the fact that many IoT devices can actually save lives. Of course, Devices designed for medical usage such as blood pressure monitoring sensors, etc are – be design – saving lives but other devices with various usages in various environments can also be seen as contributing to ‘save lives’.
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It is estimated that the Internet Of Things can save around 50,000 lives a year in the US and likely 10 more times in the whole world outside the US.
Errors in hospitals and clinics are to blame each year for at least 50,000 deaths. But most – if not all – of such deaths could be prevented with increasing the quality of the relevant communications networks and especially using the Internet of Things.
Recall that on average, dozens of special devices populate the average hospital room: ECG monitors, Holter monitors (a small, battery-powered medical device that measures the heart’s activity), multi-parameter monitors, pulse oximeters, etc
Thousands and thousands of errors occur in US hospitals on a daily basis. Solving most of these errors is made possible by using the Internet of Things.
Technology and ‘smart’ algorithms have improved a lot of medical devices, for example, ventilators or infusion pumps for IV drugs but the error will persist simply because all these devices operate in an independent way. It is not possible to gather and combine information from the ecosystem of medical devices and understand the way they operate altogether.
The complexity of the interactions of these medical devices triggers problems. Fatigued staff might not notice the alarms or even disable them and overall this results in error conditions where patients may die.
For instance, patients in emergency conditions, like going through critical surgery are usually provided with infusion pumps that inject special products for maintaining or controlling specific organs.
When a patient is moved to the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) after surgery the situation of these pumps must be reported by the operating room (where surgery is being performed) to the ICU. Usually, this is done over the phone with two nurses so that the equipment can be reconfigured adequately in the ICU.
This is error-prone. Instead, with a system using IoT devices and devices communicating in a real-time manner potential errors could be completely avoided.
The same applies to PCA: patient-controlled analgesia: Monitoring PCA is typically not performed in hospitals because of a high rate of false alarms. But, every day, PCA overdoses kill on average two people in the U.S.A.
But developing smart alarms using IoT devices that would check the oxygen levels (SPO2) and the carbon dioxide (CO2) levels could dramatically reduce many such distracting false alarms.
Using IoT in hospitals is more and more perceived as a necessity because of the huge amounts of life that could be saved. For this, the Integrated Clinical Environment (ICE) standard has been created and is based on the so-called Data Distribution Service (DDS) standard.
Recall that DDS is an IoT – internet Of Things – protocol from the Object Management Group.
Networking medical devices in hospitals are quite complex and require solving many challenges.
But the IoT will soon connect many billions of medical devices together into intelligent systems and will provide orchestration so that such medical errors do not happen anymore.
This IoT system makes automatic adjustments in the basal insulin infusion and can even be wearable.
An IoT-based advanced inhaler monitors the medical condition of the patient but it can also train them on how to prevent their next attack.
IoT Ingestible sensors can provide diagnostics for many diseases. The MIT has developed ingestible sensors based on genetically engineered bacteria for detection and diagnostic of gastrointestinal problems.
The device is made up of an embedded bio-electronic hybrid sensor combining both bacteria and a microchip which reacts to biomarkers by emitting light.
This IoT device was co-developed by Takeda and the University of Cambridge. It is a smartwatch application that monitors depression, currently dubbed ‘MDD-5003‘, and aims at improving patient monitoring for people diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD).
There are other areas where IoT devices contribute to saving lives, usually, they help teams that have a vital role such as firefighters, policemen, etc.
First responders most often do not have the right information about what they should expect when they arrive in the scene. IoT technologies provide them with critical and vital information such as:
For example, IoT wearables assist firefighters with situational awareness: heat and smoke levels detected through sensors and uploaded via the internet to a command center that will redispatch the information to the firefighters.
A typical police car has a lot of devices that require bandwidth such as laptops, vehicle cameras, license plate recognition tools for instance. IoT Wi-Fi repeaters can help these cars to access the bandwidth they need for their critical missions.
Wearable devices can help ordinary people to raise alerts when they are in a situation of danger and the device can upload useful information about the danger itself and the medical condition of the caller. These devices can also alert others either from non-problems or to the contrary from medical distresses.
IoT can definitely save lives by providing intelligent monitoring and helping humans. IoT devices act as “small robot helpers” and will become more and more popular. Of course, they must not create a proliferation of such tools which could become rapidly invasive and obstructive for people, but they must remain ‘smart’ and used for a very precise purpose. There is definitely a future (and a market) in the IoT that helps to save lives.
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