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How an Aging Population Will Revolutionize IoT and Edge Solutions

The inevitable growth of IoT devices prompts healthcare organizations to consider the simple and complex benefits of edge solutions.

IoT and edge solutions

Source: Thinkstock

By Bill Kleyman

- We’ve been hearing a lot about IoT and edge solutions. We’ve even discussed it here, where edge can really help with things like telemedicine and evolving a distributed healthcare ecosystem.

That being said, it’s important to really look at some real-world use-cases and discuss the concept of IoT.

“Organizations that have embarked on a digital business journey have realized that a more decentralized approach is required to address digital business infrastructure requirements,” says Santhosh Rao, principal research analyst at Gartner. “As the volume and velocity of data increases, so too does the inefficiency of streaming all this information to a cloud or data center for processing.”

The capabilities of edge computing solutions range from basic event filtering to complex-event processing or batch processing.

“A wearable health monitor is an example of a basic edge solution. It can locally analyze data like heart rate or sleep patterns and provide recommendations without a frequent need to connect to the cloud,” says Rao.

READ MORE: Edge, Fog Computing Contribute to IoT, Data Analytics

In the latest AFCOM State of the Data Center Industry study, a report I helped co-author, we found some really fascinating trends when it comes to edge and data center deployment.

Four in 10 respondents have either deployed or planned to deploy edge compute capacity. The typical respondent plans for the following estimated mean number of edge locations over time: 5.6 currently; 6.4 within 12 months; and 12.2 within 3 years.

In that report, we were also very curious as to why data center leaders are investing so much into edge capacity. Their responses where overwhelming. Eighty-one of respondents indicated that the purpose for edge compute capacity was to support and enable IoT.

IoT: Breaking Through a Misconception and Impacts from an Aging Population

I was recently speaking on the topic of IoT and the vast majority of people in the room actually thought that these devices and solutions were mainly being used by young people or within certain types of applications.

READ MORE: The Future of Edge Healthcare Services and HIT Infrastructure

However, the real users of IoT will actually become an aging population. These will be health monitors, sensors, medical devices, and remote – branch – healthcare data processing facilities.

Edge solutions, when coupled with healthcare IoT, are not only there to deliver better healthcare services, they’re there to respond faster to emergencies and even save lives. This is why organizations are investing in edge solutions – to be able to process critical IoT data and services much closer to the user.

Consider this, in 1908 only 1 percent of the population was expected to reach their 100th birthday. However, since 2012, this has risen to 1 in 3.

As people live longer, they will inevitably suffer from a greater number of health issues. Nursing homes, hospitals and even specialized care homes can be exceedingly expensive. They can range between $1,000 to $3,000 per month. Plus, many people would much rather stay in the comfort of their own home rather than have to be at some location.

But, it’s not that easy. Safety becomes a serious concern. And, without good technology tools, it’s very difficult to keep an eye on patients while they’re at home without having either specialized care visits or family members helping out.

READ MORE: How IoT, Edge Computing Can Impact HIT Infrastructure in 2018

This is where new types of healthcare services can help: powered by IoT solutions.

Get Ready for the World of ‘Internet of Healthcare-Enabled Things’

Very recent Research from Accenture Consulting found that 73 percent of healthcare executives think IoT will be “disruptive” within three years. Furthermore, when it comes to IoT adoption, the research found finds that only 49 percent of healthcare executives say “their leaders completely understand what” the IoT means for the industry.

Here’s the big factor to consider from the Accenture report: according to estimates, the value of IoHT will top $163 billion by 2020. Within the next five years the healthcare sector is projected to be number one in the top 10 industries for IoT app development.

And there’s good reason for this level of adoption. There are a lot of powerful use-cases for IoT, edge solutions, and healthcare. This includes:

  • Internet-enabled devices and sensors collecting and analyzing real-time health and fitness data.
  • Connect entire networks of medical devices.
  • Locate healthcare-related assets.
  • Streamline patient care and medical research.
  • Pharmaceutical inventory.
  • Helping elderly patients stay safe in their homes.
  • Powering prescription bottles that remind people when to take their medications.
  • Remote patient monitoring (RPM).
  • Wellness and prevention monitoring.

Remember, there is a lot of value from this data as well. Healthcare experts can work with this information to create better care plans, respond faster to patient needs, and completely evolve their own healthcare services.

In fact, this is where doctors become data scientists. They’ll have unparalleled new abilities to quantify and correlate critical pieces of healthcare data to truly impact the way they serve their patients.

However, getting to this level of interconnectedness still has its challenges.

Breaking Through the IoHT Barriers

As the Accenture report illustrates, healthcare executives cite a number of barriers to IoHT uptake, but no single barrier stands out significantly from the others as a particular inhibitor. In fact, executives see the top two barriers— privacy concerns and legacy systems— as equal hindrances. These top two are only slightly ahead of the next three cited barriers: Security concerns, technology immaturity and lack of budget.

Source: Image Source: Accenture, 2017

Still, in the healthcare world – you can’t let these kinds of opportunities pass you by. Not only are you potentially opening up your business to new opportunities, IoHT solutions can help save lives. In fact, some major vendors and manufactures are already deploying healthcare-specific IoT solutions where real-world adoption is actually happening.

IoT, Edge, and Healthcare – Getting Started

Edge solutions and IoT will absolutely play hand-in-hand. It’s challenging to deploy an IoT architecture without having a localized means to collect and leverage the data. That said, it’ll be important for you to examine your own requirements and work with partners who can help you extend your existing data center resources and build an edge ecosystem. From there, IoT will your next step.

Solutions are taking a very specific aim at the healthcare industry and supporting new kinds of IoHT initiatives. For example, there are solutions that are already being adopted for a variety of use-cases. This includes using IoT healthcare technology to create reliable vaccine transportation in remote locations. Or, leveraging intelligent pharmaceutical fridges for storing treatments. Today, some IoT solutions allow you to support:

  • Monitoring of patient care
  • Monitoring medical assets
  • Maintaining vital equipment
  • Tracking equipment usage

For your own healthcare entity, know that healthcare IoT is going to become a major segment in the industry. Know where it can be applied for your own business and start to build an infrastructure that can support it all.

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