Tag: healthcare

Enterprises consider internet of things strategic

internet of thingsA report from IDC said that a survey it conducted showed that 73 percent of organisations surveyed have either already inplemented internet of things strategies or will do so in the next year.

Different sectors are moving at different speeds, however. IDC said that the healthcare industry is ahead of the game, followed by transportation and manufacturing.

But government lags behind, the report said.

IDC surveyed 2,500 respondents from 15 countries and claims that has shown that the internet of things “is not just a concept but a real global accelerator of the third platform”.

But organisation are still chary about implementation, with security a major worry as well as putting up money and ongoing costs.

And in 2015, hardware vendors fell behind software vendors in implenting products and plans.

The retail industry, said IDC, is currently the underdog but that is set to change on the next 24 months.

The enterprises surveyed by IDC included organisations with over 500 employees and 50 percent of those who responded had at least heard of the phrase internet of things.

IBM buys two companies, deals with Apple

IBM logoBig Blue bought two technology healthcare firms as it re-engineers itself to take advantage of the cloud.

It bought Phytel, a company that develops and sells cloud based services for healthcare providers.

And yesterday it also bought Explorys, a so-called “healthcare intelligence cloud company” with a set of 50 million peoples’ clinical data set.

And in another announcement, it said it was expanding its partnership with Apple – again in the cloud arena.

IBM has a Watson Health business unit, and will support APple with its ResearchKit and HealthKit frameworks. The goal is to give medical researchers a secure open data storage and also use IBM’s data analytics products.

As part of that Apple collaboration, IBM will let researchers access and share their data in the cloud. The company said it will build a suite of enterprise apps called HealthKit. The iOS based apps are intended for enterprises.

While IBM’s re-engineering and acquisition strategy isn’t receiving much notice from the press, behind the scenes it appears to be positioning itself for what it hopes is a ladership role in the cloud and in data analytics in every sector.

Think tanks predict enormous boom in machine to machine comms

Ignoring the threat of Skynet and the inevitable Judgement Day it brings about, a report from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) is predicting that Machine to Machine (M2M) communication is approaching a tipping point.

The EIU’s opinion is that M2M communication will offer a way to drastically change the way in which critical services are delivered over the next ten years, touching on topics from healthcare, to transport, to energy. The barriers in the way, according to the EIU, are the technical complexities involved and “regulatory hurdles” that act as a blockade for the next wave of innovation in M2M.

Although the market forecasts are varied, the EIU said, they all agree that there is an enormous opportunity for growth. The more optimistic analysts are putting the amount of connected devices as high as 50 billion by the time 2020 rolls round. This compares to 1 billion in 2010. Others are marking in potential revenues of up to $948 billion by 2020, up from $121 billion in 2010. 

Established technologies will continue to scale to smaller sizes and cut down on costs – so M2M, the EIU predicts, will be driven largely by sensors, microprocessors, and wireless technologies that, once enormously expensive, now cost relatively little. 

The EIU pointed to a Yankee Group forecast which said that markets intent on cutting costs will see some of the largest growth in M2M applications. Think: energy, automotive, healthcare, retail, and manufacturing, which are already using M2M based technology. Companies that are looking for efficiencies in, say, automatic fleet tracking, will contribute heavily to investing in M2M communications.

In the report, sponsored by SAP, the EIU said that the industry faces a number of complex challenges. Telcos will need to develop their own business models, it said, while firms must innovate in a range of sectors if the many sceptics are to be convinced.

Although a “complex ecosystem” does benefit certain providers at the moment, ultimately, this will need to take a simpler approach if widespread adoption is going to be realised sooner rather than later. This will include providers agreeing on standards, along with developing their own open protocols and building network technology which is able to survive deployment times over a long period of time. 

Citing Ovum and Vodafone, the EIU detailed the complex route to market for M2M when working with the supply chain. British Gas, for example, is rolling out smart meters, but with the deployment comes working with a long list of partner companies – from manufacturers to telco providers to data management. According to the EIU, utilities operators are lobbying energy regulators like Ofgem to create centralised systems. 

Governments will have to look at freeing up spectrum and “consider streamlining regulations” if they want to boost innovation, the EIU said. For their part, customers will need to be convinced that M2M applications are robust in terms of privacy and security, which is likely going to mean a plethora of trials from businesses to gauge customer feedback, and to learn their boundaries.

Disabled and retired ex-employees in pay dispute with Nortel

Nortel’s US arm is trying to project manage its way out of a dispute involving pensioners and disabled workers who were once at the company.

Nortel is gunning to shut off the health care and disability pay that it owes its former employees as well as squirm its way out of paying pensions. However, disgruntled ex staff aren’t letting the company off so easily. Although there have not been any figures on how much these pay outs to ex workers will cost, it is likely to eat up a chunk of the company’s assets. 

Nortel made roughly $7 billion selling off its businesses after filing for bankruptcy. Now it is trying to strike a deal with affected ex-employees, turning to mediators after the company failed to get the results it wanted. As Nortel puts it: “talks aimed at setting out terms have gone nowhere.”

The telecoms company is desperately trying to sort the terms out. At the moment, the dispute is causing an enormous delay in tying up all the loose ends. Meanwhile, debt investors want to grab the cash ex-staff are looking for.

A lawyer familiar with US employment law told TechEye that once a company has offered benefits including medical, disability, dental, and life insurance, the federal anti-discrimination laws and health plan enforcement regulations come into play. 

“These ensure that an employee’s rights are protected under those health plans,” he said. “This law is also loosely applied to those with disabilities and those with pension plans. The latter especially. If a pension plan is in place then a company must adhere to this, unless it has filed for bankruptcy and there is evidence that there is a lack of funds to pay this.”

Micro machines tipped as future in medicine

A panel of health professionals and MEMS industry specialists today said that if MEMS existed when the audience was growing up, thanks to their potential applications and accuracy, perhaps they wouldn’t have hated going to the doctor’s office so much after that first visit. 

The excitable panel suggested that micro-machine medicine is en route to being very big business, but first, researchers have to find exactly the right way to approach the challenges. Neurologist Francois Berger, M.D.-Ph.D., Director, CEA Leti – Clinatec, said that first and foremost, the biomedical need for MEMS has to be identified. “We realise that we need to interface between technology and medical applications,” he said. “It is important to have early contact with technology companies to define what we need.”

Such are the potential applications of MEMS that, in Berger’s opinion, the technology could become the next major player in the pharmaceutical industry. 

An example is an insulin pump, introduced earlier in the day by Carmelo Papa at STMicroelevtronics, which is accurate to the nanolitre and can be administred remotely. Chris Baten, program manager, 3D ambulatory motion analysis, Roessingh Research and Development, said that diabetes is indicative of a global medical disaster. The pump addresses the problems with diabetes today: it is very easy to treat, but the treatment effects your quality of life. “Quality of life is exactly the limiting factor of treating it today. With that pump,” he said, “it alters the way of living”.

Besides, according to the panel, there is nothing out there which can touch the same level of safety as MEMS devices. Back to the insulin pump there are sensors in the pump which immediately detect errors and raise the alarm, along with other ways to monitor it. Couple that with the nanolitres of precision and it could be argued that the machines are failsafe. “Another area is reliability,” Berger said. “If you speak about medical devices you are speaking about life sustaining devices – in essence, you can’t afford to have the system stopping at any time.”

According to Berger, the next medical trend will be in “electronic medicine.” An example is in Parkinson’s disease. In most cases, when the disease is discovered, the pathogenic cells have already been destroyed, but, he said, with MEMS it is possible to detect the disase early by checking for very early movement disabilities, way before the cells are fully destroyed. Then, also using MEMS to monitor reactions, he would be able to detect the efficacy of the drug along with its side effects. This is important because, during early stages, he claims it is possible to stimulate the brain and have it cause a regenerative effect within the body. MEMS, along the way, “can be there from early detection through to therapy.”

“MEMS is only part of the answer,” the panel agreed. “It’s not just about what’s under the hood, but also how it interacts with the user – the user interface is extremely important. MEMS i the enabler, but to really take effect it has to have proven clinical efficacy, or it will not be introduced into the market.”

And that will bring substantial challenges. Some doctors, according to MEMS industry insiders, are reluctant to adopt new technologies because they can take revenue away from healthcare. On the other side of the fence, the “consumer” of MEMS healthcare might not, in real terms, be overly keen to trust the technologies. But the potential is astounding.

Public cloud revenue to rise 21.6 percent by 2014

Cloud computing revenue in the US public sector is expected to grow by 21.6 percent over the next few years, according to the latest survey by International Data Corporation (IDC).

The report, entitled U.S. Public IT Cloud Services by Industry Sector: More Details on the Opportunity, shows that from 2009 to 2014 public cloud revenue in the US will grow significantly from $11.1 billion to $29.5 billion.

The main areas that will employ cloud computing are professional services, communications and media, and discrete and process manufacturing markets. Professional services will be the primary driver of growth, due to a large volume of small to medium size businesses that require software-as-a-service.

The report found that the services and distribution sector makes the most revenue for cloud computing and that it is expected to more than double from its current intake of $3 billion to $8.5 billion in 2014.

Currently applications make up a large portion of revenue in this area, amounting to half of cloud revenue in 2009. As the sector grows, however, it will become less dependant on this and its market share will drop to one third. At the same time, infrastructure software is expected to increase to provide 22 percent of revenue.

Some public sector areas will be restricted in how they can apply cloud services, due to additional regulations, privacy concerns and security fears. These mainly include government, banking and healthcare sectors, all of which will also have a severely curtailed budget due to cutbacks.

Despite this, the potential for healthcare is huge and IDC forecasts a compound annual growth rate of nearly 23 percent by 2014, which will see a healthy increase on its currently small five percent market share. Collaboration applications will be the primary area where cloud computing will be employed in healthcare.

While these figures apply to the public cloud sector, it’s highly likely that the private cloud arena will see similar high growth over the next few years. A previous IDC report last year suggested that private cloud revenue would jump from $7.3 billion in 2009 to $11.8 billion in 2014, which is a slightly lower rate of growth than the public cloud, albeit still significant.

Samsung nurses healthcare sector with huge acquisition

Samsung is playing doctors and nurses.  It announced it has signed an agreement with Consus Asset Management to purchase a stake in diagnostic ultrasound manufacturer Medison.

Under the contract, Samsung will acquire a 43.5 percent stake in this company, as well as 100 percent of Prosonic  a manufacturer of transducer probes and cables for ultrasound devices.

The acquisition is Samsung’s first major foray into healthcare in the company’s history. It will set Samsung back $262 million. However, it may not comes as a surprise to many – back in May, Samsung hinted that it would aim to invest $20 billion in the healthcare business by 2020. It took some baby steps in June when it unveiled a portable blood test kit.

“We aim to combine Medison’s expertise and advanced technology in diagnostics ultrasound devices with Samsung’s resources, global network, design and other technological capabilities to create differentiated medical diagnostic [innovations] for the global market,” said Sangwon Bang, senior vice president and head of the health and medical equipment (HME) business team, at Samsung.

According to Reuters Samsung outbid tobacco company KT&G and SK Holdings in the auction.

Intel teams up with GE to help old people

GE and Intel are to combine forces to help old people like me make it in the 21st century.

The bright idea is a 50/50 joint venture (JV) aimed at telehealth and independent living, and the new company has, so far no name. Or if it has, it has slipped my mind. It has a CEO though. What’s his name again?

Intel and GE already have a “relationship” – they’re not married to each other unless that’s slipped my mind too – since April 2009. The goal is to use tech to bring better healthcare into millions of homes and to better the lives of old people like me and Paul Otellini who is almost my age.

According to Intel, “there is a dramatic increase of people living with chronic conditions and a global ageing population”, so there’s a real need to help people that are old.

Paul Otellini, the CEO of Intel who is about my age, said that the whole society needs to rethink increasing healthcare costs.

GE CEO Jeff Immelt said that controlling health care costs to an increasingly ageing population is a “global challenge”.

Louis Burns, VP and GM of Intel’s Digital Health Group will be CEO of the new company while Omar Ishrak, president and CEO of GE Healthcare will be the chairman of the board.

This is obviously an American JV – its HQ will be in the capital of California, Sacramento. Non-American healthcare is really quite a bit of a worry too – the demographics show that “advanced nations” will develop older citizens. China has a problem because of the one baby per family policy, while India has a problem persuading good citizens to wear a condom or have vasectomies.

India, like China, a developing economy, will have a bigger population any day now. Louis Burns (pictured) is always looking at his watch, as we reported in the other other place, the inqster. Intel is only in it for one thing, selling more chips. But that’s OK, long as the chips are not too expensive. Or has something slipped my mind?

* EyeSee Unlike Paul Otellini, I have no plans to retire.

Scottish hospital pioneers robot staff

A Scottish hospital is taking its healthcare into the realms of sci-fi by using a fleet of robots to carry out everyday tasks.

Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert, is said to be the first hospital in the UK to use such machines to deliver and retrieve a wide range of supplies.

Trials are currently being carried out to test their efficiency before the hospital opens its doors to patients at the beginning of August 2010. The new self guided vehicles will not only mean patients and visitors can walk along corridors free of bulky trolleys, but will also help cut down the risks of infection and free up support staff from routine deliveries.

The five foot tall robots, which disappointingly resemble mini fork lift trucks and not C3PO, will trundle between wards carrying bed linen, meals, clinical waste and medical supplies. Although they are fully automated, the hospital says there’s no chance of a collision with people as the machines will glide unseen along separate corridors behind the scenes.

It also claims that because the robots allow the movement of goods to be hidden from view, they will also provide a calmer, less cluttered environment although we think they could unsettle patients rather than help them. 

Ian Mullen, Chairman of NHS Forth Valley, said: “The new Forth Valley Royal Hospital is the largest healthcare project ever constructed in Scotland and from the very beginning we set out to ensure that it would be one of the most modern and well equipped hospitals in Europe.

“To help achieve this our staff researched the very latest technology available and looked at how similar robotic supply systems were being used in hospitals in places like France and Japan. Having seen the difference these systems made to patients, staff and visitors we were determined to bring this technology back to Scotland to benefit patients from across Forth Valley.”

The robots use laser technology to find their way around. The technology is similar to that already used in car plants and industrial shop floors as well as in hospitals in some parts of Europe and the USA.  The machines will be loaded and unloaded in a basement area and make their deliveries to wards via a number of special lifts with separate flows for clean and dirty goods, to minimise the risk of cross contamination.

If a robot fails, an electric vehicle can be summoned to tug the robot out of trouble. And should there be problems with one particular lift the robots can be re-routed through a special sensor system, but that’s what they said about SkyNet.  There will also be a fleet of 13 separate robots to help meet demand during peak periods and provide back-up, if required.

It also seems that there will be a fully robotic pharmacy system, capable of labelling medicines as well as stocking supplies and picking up drugs. Sounds like a dream come true for paranoid dealers. Robotic equipment will also be used to clean the hospital’s 16 hi-tech operating theatres.

We asked the hospital who would clean these robots and how much this would cost. However, it would not comment. 

Earlier this week Hitachi announced a roller-skating humanoid robot called EMIEW2. The bot can rollerskate over uneven surfaces, and respond to your voice commands, such as “Help! The hospital robots have gone haywire!”

Wear your heart on your sleeve

Benedetto Vigna, group VP of ST Micro’s MEMS, sensors and high performance analogue division said his company was exploring “new frontiers” in  micro electro mechanical systems (MEMS).

Sensors appear to be the new frontier for many of the big players in the semi industry and essentially a MEMS is a three dimensional device embedded in silicon and that uses silicon’s mechanical and electrical properties, supporting multifunctional systems of actuators, electronics and sensors.

The first wave of MEMS, according to Vigna, is in automotive airbags, tyre pressure sensors and stability control. The second wave is consumerisation of MEMS – he demonstrated this with an illustration of a young lass and a young lad waving devices in front of – presumably – a display screen,  and playing an interactive game of some sort. Perhaps they should be interacting with each other. MEMS sensors will push new apps and we’ll see motion user interfaces in phones coupled with advanced navigation and location based services.

Here’s some facts and figures he presented based on iSuppli data.

stats

As far as motion sensors are concerned, SI is squeezing the footprint and power consumption – down to 10 microAmps in full operating mode, and seeks to integrate motion, magnetic, pressure and temperature sensions in a single package, putting in embedded intelligence.

So what’s the third wave? It’s healthcare. It’s interesting as the semiconductor industry gets older, senior executives are getting increasingly interested in health care. But as Vigna pointed out, there are nearly seven billion people on the planet,  He said that in 2007 $2 trillion was spent in the USA on health care.  In the US, healthcare by 2025 is estimated to be a quarter of the GDP.

He sees a future in which MEMS will perform a variety of functions including sensing – such as motion, molecular detection and pressure; temperature cycling; microfluidics including pumps and valves; electrophoresis and energy capture.

That could lead to a connected system of biological to bit networks but a lot depends on low power writeless data transmission and on the quacks and boffins developing better accuracy, reliability and efficiency of diagnosis and treatement.

Here’s a slide he showed for a disposable “lab on a chip”.

lab on chip

He said applications ST is working on includes a nanopump – developed by it and Debiotech for diabetes management.  ST and the Mayo Clinic are working on a remote heart monitor  – and then there’s the wireless body sensor network – the Sensaction AAL is an EU funded pilot of a remote motion monitoring system which tracks a person’s movements and transmits data wirelessly. It uses ST’s Motion Bee wireless sensor technology. ST and Sensimed are working on a 24 hour disposable contact lens with a pressure sensor to detect glaucoma.

Finally, the future will include “smart micro robotics”, allowing less invasive surgery.