Today, the Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming the way information in various business ecosystems is captured, processed and analyzed. IoT devices and sensors can be deployed almost anywhere to gather and monitor data, and it has gained significant ground in the healthcare space, where it is reshaping the way healthcare infrastructure and systems make life better for average people.
From wearables that measure heart rates to glucose-monitoring patches connected to mobile applications, IoT applications help patients get diagnosed and treated in real-time. The healthcare IoT market (also known as the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)) is expected to grow from $72.5 billion in 2020 to $188.2 billion by 2025 at a CAGR of 21 percent, according to a MarketsAndMarkets report. And it is having a growing impact on how doctors and authorities monitor the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Wearable IoT Devices Identify Covid-19 Symptoms Early
Wearable devices such as bands, watches and even glasses were designed initially for fitness and healthcare needs, but they are rapidly becoming a great tool in creating early diagnoses for Covid-19. Wearables can immediately identify whether a patient is experiencing the onset of respiratory problems that may be associated with the disease, then act quickly to make a medical appointment before more serious symptoms appear. In other cases, devices can transmit a warning directly to a healthcare professional so that steps can be taken proactively. Wearables are expected to become a $60 billion market by 2023.
IoT devices are helping hospitals and clinics to diagnose patients from afar and prescribe remote treatment. The remote strategy is critical during crises like the pandemic when hospitals need to optimize the time spent in person with patients that need immediate treatment. A good example is CMED Health in Bangladesh, which has instituted an IoT-enabled health monitoring solution via mobile app. Vital signs are tracked in real time, delivered first to a mobile device, then transmitted to the CMED cloud server. The app creates color-coded diagnoses based on the level of risk to the patient’s health. Doctors have been able to identify and escalate emergency situations during the Covid-19 pandemic, and more than 1.5 million people have benefitted from the system.
Tracking Temperatures that Could Indicate Covid-19
Another key IoT-enabled technology that is being used worldwide to identify potential Covid-19 infection is infrared thermometers. We’ve all seen them in airports, but they are becoming pervasive everywhere to help identify an infected person within a big crowd. People who register a high body temperature are identified by smart sensors and can then be isolated or put into social distancing protocol.
A recent National Institute of Health (NIH) study illustrated how the process works: IoT sensors such as infrared thermometers are placed in targeted locations, including public toilets, airports, shopping malls, public transportation, hospitals, and offices, to name just a few. Sensors then wirelessly transmit information to regional gateway servers, which process and deliver to central big data and machine learning infrastructure. AI and deep learning techniques are applied to analyze the healthcare trend, model risk associations, and predict potentially dangerous outcomes. Scientists and authorities can then determine where an outbreak may be starting and begin protocol to mitigate the spread.
IoT-connected platforms are also being rolled out in places like amusement parks to identify potential Covid-19 infections and monitor safe distancing procedures. Microsoft reports that a connected IoT framework called the Connected Platform for Detection and Prevention uses a scalable intelligent edge and cloud infrastructure that can help detect Covid-19 in large group spaces. Detection components include:
- Thermal cameras and contactless thermometers to measure temperatures in people
- Portable virus testing centers to conduct rapid testing for those with high temperature
- Smart cones to monitor social distancing in lines
- Automated announcements, alerts and reminders for employees and visitors delivered by interactive bots based on IoT data
- Analytics to let authorities monitor trends and outcomes
IoT Applications and Robots Keep Hospitals Safe
IoT-powered robots have grown in popularity in places like hospitals during the Covid-19 pandemic. Robots can be programmed to disinfect devices, clean facilities, and even deliver medicine, eliminating the need for human healthcare workers to conduct those tasks and allowing them more time to focus on treating patients. Moreover, hospital administrators can use IoT applications and monitors to more easily keep track of equipment such as wheelchairs, defibrillators, and other vital technology that is critical in dealing with and treating Covid-19. IoT applications are also used in managing pharmacy inventory levels and checking refrigeration and humidity levels of drugs to ensure safety.
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IoT Applications Will Remain Important Post Pandemic
A Vodafone 2020 IoT Spotlight study reported that 84 percent of companies said that IoT was key to maintaining business continuity during the pandemic and 73 percent said that the pandemic would accelerate their IoT adoption plans moving forward. IoT and edge devices will continue to play a critical role as the pandemic wanes for companies across a wide range of industries, not just healthcare.