HealthcareInternet of Things

The Fourth Industrial Revolution – Internet of Things

Did you ever think that one day your toothbrush would tell you if you have brushed your teeth well? Or for that matter your refrigerator would give an indication that you need to buy groceries. I never did but that is the world we are currently living in – Fast, ever evolving and always connected. To reach this point it has taken sometime and in this blog we will go back a little in time to understand how we reached the stage of being ever connected via – Internet of Things.

It was in 1969 when an experiment to connect two entities “Stanford University” and the “University of California” was conducted. After this in 1982 TCP/IP emerged as the protocol for ARPANET. This was the network to implement the basic communication language used on the Internet (TCP/IP protocol) and also use packet switching**. This was the basis of the Internet becoming a reality and the world slowly started to connect with each other.

In the year 1989 Interop’s (Technology Conference) President Dan Lynch threw up a challenge to John Romkey to see if he could connect a toaster to the Internet. John worked with his friend Simon Hackett to connect a Sunbeam Deluxe Toaster to the internet. This was demonstrated in 1990 at the Interop Conference and became a huge hit/success. The solution at that point in time was not automated end-to-end since the bread still had to be put in manually. This was also automated by 1991 by adding a small robotic crane in the solution. It is very interesting to know that at the time this was achieved there were only 310K computers and only 3.1 million people had access to the internet.

There was no name given to this achievement and only in 1999 did Kevin Ashton coined the term “Internet of Things”. Evidently Kevin Ashton used the term as part of his presentation to Proctor and Gamble where he was linking the idea of using RFIDs in P&G’s supply chain and the internet.  In the year 2000 LG came up with the first Internet connected refrigerator. It used RFIDs and barcodes to sense which items were in the fridge. This product was not very successful as it was expensive and also it did not solve any specific problems. A simple example, mostly all juice bottles are transparent one can visually decide if a purchase is required or not. Another aspect, which was in question was security, what if internet viruses would hack into your refrigerator system and open your fridge door. Today systems use Gmail to setup the same and one could hack into your email accounts if the system is weak.

In the year 2005 United Nations globally recognized the Internet of things and also predicted that humans could be a minority as generators and receivers of traffic. Interesting to note the example quoted was of tiny sensors being used to check the Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco) for structural damage. The list can go on and some of the more recent examples are Bluetooth enabled devices (mostly we all use one in our cell phones), self-driving vehicles, and google glass.

When we look at the healthcare market it is expected to reach around $117 billion by 2020 along with this overall 40% of the IoT devices by then will be health related. I want to cite one specific example related to healthcare. If you are a fan of video games you would have heard of MYO a gesture controlled Armband. You can basically control your computer by waving your wrists to do things. Now you will ask me where is healthcare in this? Actually MYO armbands are used in physiotherapy treatments for fractures and measure how well the patient is responding to treatment.

Well that is it for now, till next time.

** For those of you who don’t know packet switching is simply breaking the source message into smaller parts, sending it and reassembling it at the destination.