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When I heard about the Internet of Things (IoT), I immediately pictured connected home devices and had visions of the “Jetsons;” toasters and coffeemakers connected to my snooze button. However, the tech world’s visions for IoT go far beyond the fantasies of lazy cooks like myself. With technologies like Google Glass, SmartTV and Fitbit and home security systems, consumer products and IoT seem like the perfect match.

Enter the Medical Device Industry

The potential for what a marriage between Medical Devices and IoT could accomplish is mind blowing. This spring, Google (in conjunction with Novartis) patented a technology that would allow the injection of a computerized lens into the eye. This lens would correct vision problems, serve as a telescope, take photos, monitor blood pressure, pulse and blood sugar. These devices don’t even need to be charged because they’re powered by the movement and chemistry of the eye. It’s one of several new connected medical devices that will help physicians and patients – especially those with long-term illnesses like diabetes – monitor symptoms and treat chronic conditions.

Some sources estimate that the connected medical device market could be worth $1 trillion by 2025. This growth is largely driven by the potential cost savings for insurance companies who see huge benefits to monitoring patients with connected devices. IoT will allow providers to identify problems before costly procedures become necessary. Furthermore, the health care industry has been trending toward models that pay providers based on patient outcomes (just like manufacturing), increasing need for devices to measure results.

There’s a Lot to Gain from IoT

Medical device manufacturers also stand to gain from IoT. Several QAD customers, like hearing aid manufacturer, Oticon, and retinal prosthesis manufacturer, Second Sight Medical, have expressed interest in the idea of providing software updates and patches through device connectivity. Some device manufacturers see a future where cardiac devices could be monitored real-time to ensure they are working properly and the ability to monitor devices like CT scanners or ultrasound equipment for servicing already exists. Still, there are skeptics. Several device manufacturers we spoke to, at our Explore 2016 Medical Device Roundtable, expressed concerns over the potential for foreign hackers to steal intellectual property. Their fears aren’t without merit. Cybercrime is a major concern for the healthcare industry, with more devices translating to more potential points of entry for hackers. This will cause more healthcare facilities to read more and become educated on cybersecurity and possibly VPN’s to keep IoT connected devices anonymous, effectively closing the “entry point” otherwise many devices could become effected. Criminals can use health data for prescription fraud, insurance fraud, identity theft and industrial espionage. According to the FBI’s Cyber Division, major intrusions into health care providers’ computer systems now are happening at the pace of two or three a day.

“Do or do not. There is no try.”

Incorporating IoT isn’t a strategy for dabblers – a half baked attempt at developing a connected medical device would be an invitation for disaster. Given the risks, Medical Device manufacturers could torture themselves with nightmarish scenarios where voyeurs hack into our eyeballs to watch our lives, but this fear would prevent them from reaping the benefits of connected devices. To take advantage of everything IoT has to offer, Medical Device manufacturers should take proper precautions by teaming up with Cybersecurity specialists, and in doing so, march confidently into the future.

Want to learn more about Cybersecurity? Watch our Cyber Security session, with expert Dr. Doug White, from Explore 2016.