How Technology Diversity is Driving Demand in Connected Devices

Throughout the 21st century, the world has been gradually becoming more connected than ever. We’ve gone from tying up landlines with temporary dialup connections to always-on broadband in almost every home, and devices in our pockets that keep us connected on the move.

As technology has advanced, consumers have been eager to explore the possibilities of connecting more devices to the internet and how that can improve their lives. And this has been accelerated further by the events of the past year and the need to maintain work and personal relationships without physical contact. At the same time, users are becoming more aware of potential dangers so it will be important for new products to factor in buyer security.

So what in particular is driving the growth in Internet of Things (IoT) and connected device technology?

 

Healthcare

Devices that automatically tell your healthcare provider what’s wrong with you might sound like something out of Star Trek, but they could be a lot closer than you think. With the increase in remote health appointments and the innate human desire to be fitter and stronger, this is potentially the biggest area for growth. The value of the connected medical devices sector, or Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), is predicted to reach over $140 billion by 2026 as the prevalence of chronic diseases increases and health services improve.

More than 30 million Americans live with diabetes and, as anyone with the condition knows, checking and recording glucose levels manually is not only inconvenient but also not foolproof. It only reports levels at an exact time so problems can be missed if these levels are fluctuating. Connected IoMT devices can provide continuous, automatic monitoring of glucose levels, meaning that there is no need to keep manual records and patients can be alerted at the first signs of a problem. The biggest challenges are making them small enough so as not to hinder the patients, and keeping electricity consumption down to minimize the frequency of recharging. 

Similarly, heart-rate monitoring carried out in hospitals only tells you how a patient’s heart is performing at that specific moment. It is now possible for connected devices as small as a paperclip to perform continuous heart monitoring and report back to a doctor via a smartphone.

As technology allows connected devices to become ever smaller there will be opportunities for better and less intrusive monitoring of a myriad of conditions. This may be in the form of wearable or implanted devices, but another option is the development of ingestible sensors. Capsules are already available that are small enough to be swallowed and still contain the necessary components to monitor and report back to a connected device. The information they transmit as they pass through the gut can provide a plethora of insights into a patient’s health and these devices are being developed to give more and more useful data.

Great strides have been made in recent years in the fight against Parkinson’s disease, in no small part due to the contribution of the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Again, as symptoms fluctuate throughout the day, continuous monitoring is key to assessing the severity. The development of wearable sensors that collect and report this data will be invaluable in the progression of treatment.

And whilst laser eye surgery has been commonplace since the 1990s, eye upgrades are surely coming at some point. Google patented connected contact lenses back in 2014, so it might not be long before consumers can improve their vision further, or even record pictures and video with a blink of an eye.

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Smart offices

Some companies have already invested heavily in smart offices, with the market valued at $33.53 billion in 2020. This is expected to double by 2026 as many organizations move towards a ‘hybrid office’ where there is increased flexibility around when and where people work.

Reducing office rent is a key driver for firms, but cost savings through connected devices will also be an important part of this shift. Ask any office manager what their biggest costs are and electricity and heating will be right up there. As working habits change it will become even more important to use technology to make energy use as efficient as possible. 

Offices can be fitted with smart bulbs that connect to staff’s devices to learn their schedules. No more reminders needed to turn off the lights at the end of the day – it will all happen automatically. And connected environment monitoring devices will not only regulate the temperature but also notify you of all sorts of occurrences such as open doors or windows, other devices malfunctioning, or even flooding.

One of the more mundane office management tasks is ensuring coffee machines and vending machines are fully stocked. Connecting these to the internet will allow them to send an alert when they need replenishing and even place an order themselves without any user intervention.

Smart fobs are useful for controlling building access, but it’s another item to add to a keyring. What about a smartwatch that gets you into the office and logs you onto your computer? Connect it to the coffee machine and have your morning cup freshly brewed as soon as you arrive. And with heart-rate monitors already widely available in smartwatches, these could be linked up to a company system to monitor stress levels and reduce staff sickness. However, this will mean recording a significant amount of personal data so brands will need to ensure buyer privacy is taken into account.

 

No more disconnected assets

As manufacturers, distributors, utilities, and pharma were forced to switch to remote operations in 2020 they realized how problematic disconnected assets can be. And they’ve also seen the cost savings of being able to operate and address repairs remotely. Why settle for expensive travel and lengthy downtime when a remote expert can resolve the issue?

As these firms’ expectations change, field service companies and industrial OEMs will be determined to keep up by giving them the connected devices they demand.

 

Location, location, location

A crucial aspect of almost any connected device is knowing where it is. Location data is key for brands to adapt their offering and increase convenience for consumers. In the connected world, time-saving and ease of use are more important than ever.

But GPS is unlikely to be the solution for a Location of Things due to the excessive power and bandwidth use and cost. Rather than multiple devices in the same location all communicating with a central point such as a GPS or cell tower, it makes sense for them to communicate with each other. That way the heavy lifting of location tracking is limited to one asset and the resources of your growing collection of connected devices can be focused on their unique functionality.

 

Final thoughts

All this new demand for connected devices gives huge scope for brands to develop and expand their product offering, but it also opens up risks. 

A recent report found that 82% of healthcare providers that had implemented such connected devices had experienced a cyberattack in the previous 12 months. The main threat was the theft of patient data but providers also said that patient safety was at risk. Anyone developing new IoT devices for the healthcare industry will need to assure customers of product security.

Your smart office setup can alert you to unexpected activity, but if the system itself is breached then the security element becomes useless. And staff will no doubt enjoy the benefits technology can provide, but they won’t appreciate any intrusions into their personal life. Any connected devices that staff wear or use outside the office will need to be designed to ensure product privacy, security, and safety for the individual. Especially as most devices will record location data in some form and constant tracking of someone’s whereabouts would be a step too far for most. Ensuring IoT devices are equipped with embedded cybersecurity protects both the users and their data.

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