Innovation in Wearable Devices: Emerging Markets likely to Benefit

Innovation in wearable devices


Vimal  By Vimal Kumar,

  December 7, 2015


Medical device (Wearable Devices) technology is well known for its ability to adapt to other disciplines of knowledge, which is indeed the reason for its enhancement. Development in aerospace applications, consumer electronics, and semiconductor technologies has all triggered the avalanche of innovation in this sector.

An analysis on the innovation trends in medical devices highlights four particular drivers, which are listed below. It is interesting how these seemingly independent trends are facilitating each other and changing the face of modern healthcare.

  1. Miniaturization

    This is the one of the most important trends one will observe in the medical devices industry, lately. Medical device companies are investing to meet the demand for smaller devices, particularly with the demand for wearable devices increasing. It is interesting miniaturization efforts are driving many other major trends in the sector, including the ones listed below.

    Various options considered for miniaturization include application specific integrated circuits (ASIC), and 3-D printed electronics, which is a major trend at present. Integration of complex circuits into a single chip has been a key focus for some time now. This reduces the real estate of printed circuit boards (PCBs), thereby realizing products with smaller form factors.

    For example, the ADS129x family of Texas Instruments delivers fully integrated analog front end (AFE) capability for patient monitoring, portable and high-end electrocardiogram (ECG), and electroencephalogram (EEG) equipment. All this is made possible in a ball grid array (BGA) package size of 8mm x 8mm and die size 6mm x 5.6mm. The engineers’ attention to layout allowed them to integrate 43 discrete IC capabilities with a combined area of 1800 mm.

  2. Enhanced portability

    The demand for miniaturization in the medical devices field has enhanced the portability of medical devices. Portability, in turn, is facilitating the possibility of monitoring the condition of patients at any given point of time.

    Innovation in wearbable devices - smart phones

    Typically, portable devices measure data and combine it with a display format suitable for mobile computing devices. The display devices targeted are normally smart phones and tablets. In fact, the growth in mobile phone markets is a major driver of innovation in portable devices sector. The advances in wireless technology have also been instrumental in driving investments targeting innovation in portable device sector.

  3. Low power designs

    Developments in Bioelectronics and semiconductor technologies have made it possible to design circuits that consume less power. This will also allow for smaller battery size and longer backup time. Smaller battery size will reduce the weight and enhance portability.

    Bluetooth low energy is one of the major advancements in this area. It enables low power consumption and miniaturization, in addition to making the platform compatible for smart phones.

    Another interesting area of innovation emerging to tackle low power design requirements focuses on tapping solar energy. Kits enabling solar energy tapping consist of high-efficiency solar cells that can operate even by tapping low-intensity fluorescent lights available indoors. Thin-film rechargeable batteries are typically embedded to ensure enough power for covering more transmissions without external power. These batteries offer the advantage of energy buffers enabling reliable capturing of medically relevant data, which can be transmitted in real time without interruption as battery recharging occurs automatically, as and when environmental sources are available.

  4. Enhanced clinical workflow

    Wireless connectivity in medical devices will enhance clinical workflow as medical devices no longer need to be tethered for internet connectivity for EMR or remote monitoring.

    enhanced clinical workflow

    Integration of medical devices into existing data and communication networks, offering secured access to both patient and physician is being achieved through advanced healthcare IT systems that offer high-quality clinical workflow. These systems connect patient monitors to the Electronic Health Record (EHR) of patients. Medical device companies are investing to upgrade their devices for facilitating seamless flow of such information without compromising data security.

    Interoperability is a major challenge in this area. Software attached to various devices need to be integrated to the healthcare system of the organization enabling data exchange between systems from various vendors. New standards to enable interoperability between connected medical devices are being developed by industry organizations bringing all stakeholders to same page. An important development towards this is the establishment of Continue Health Alliance, a not-for-profit industry group developing design guidelines based on global industry standards and test tools. This group has established Design Guidelines for related technologies such as smart phones, sensors, remote monitoring devices, and cloud solutions.

These above four innovation trends are expected to change the face of modern healthcare. One can expect that emerging markets may not be far behind in adopting some of these innovations, thanks to the fast-growing smart phone markets in these countries that may facilitate easier adaptation of these trends. Since all these innovation trends are focusing on affordability and simplicity, new medical devices that are user-friendly and cheap are entering the markets. It can be expected that these trends will have a positive influence in healthcare services accessible in emerging markets.

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