I have been reading a lot about “The Internet of Things” (IOT), which seems to be this year’s buzzword. I have been reading and thinking about what this might mean for the future of medical product development.

For one thing, connectedness will be a requirement. Medical products will be connected, the same as everything else. Medical product makers will need to consider not only how their device functions, but also how it will communicate with other devices and with remote data servers.

Not only will sensors be in all our machines and gadgets, they’ll also be embedded in objects in our environment. This raises obvious privacy concerns (the impression I get is that our notion of privacy will be gone. We will be tracked continuously via these smart objects and via algorithms that analyze temporal and spatial relationships to impute our habits and all kinds of things about us).

IOT will make ubiquitous, automatic monitoring possible. We won’t need to log data ourselves, it will simply be captured and transmitted for analysis. Been eating too many cheeseburgers and are close to a heart attack? The data will know and will be able to warn you – which would be the most powerful motivator to induce you to change your eating/exercising habits.

What other positive impacts can we expect from connected medical products? Improved patient safety is one. For example, infusion pumps will be able to identify individuals and deliver proper dosing, or lock-out if an inappropriate pain med has been loaded. There are many other areas that will be aided by IOT in medical products: compliance; convenience; proactive maintenance; predictive analysis; EMR accuracy; treatment coordination and integration; device tracking. The list goes on.