Understanding New & Emerging Technology To Capitalize On Its Potential

Your guide to strengthen your approach

It’s exciting to consider the next wave of products built upon new and emerging technology. To ensure your company approaches new technology in the most efficient way, we have created this guide to capture insights around some of the latest and greatest trends.

Chapter 1: Networking Wonders – 5 Things Engineers Need To Know About IoMT

The future of healthcare is proactive, marking a shift in focus from treating illnesses to preventing them. Medical self-monitoring is a booming trend and the networks that connect patients to machines to practitioners are increasingly complex, enabling multidirectional flows of information. Patients are empowered to monitor and manage their health. Health portals, communities, platforms and devices themselves enable them to take steps to prevent a number of conditions instead of relying completely on medical professionals to treat and cure them.

More-with-Less Healthcare

Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) devices interact not only with their users, but also directly with other devices or platforms. Think of smart prescription bottles that send an alert to a patient’s phone when they’ve missed a dose, or a mattress sensor that turns any bedroom into a sleep clinic by identifying sleep habits and disturbances. These belong to massive family of devices that collect and transmit information to health providers or to intelligent systems for medical analysis.

IoMT Market Potential

Worth just under $45 billion in 2018, by next year the global IoMT market is expected to breach $150 billion by next year then soar to $350 billion by 2027. Regionally, North America still leads in IoMT use, but that is expected to change with Asia Pacific taking the greatest slice of the market by 2022. All regions are predicted to at least triple their expenditure by next year.

While prospects are exciting, developing and manufacturing a quality IoMT device is harder than many developers anticipate. Here are five things that can hamper a successful entry into this lucrative market.

5 Things Engineers Need to Know

1

IoMT devices rely on evolving network technologies.

The 2G (second generation) cellular networks that supported calls and sent our SMSs on “dumb phones” for decades have already been entirely shut down in many countries and even 3G networks are being phased out. While 4G provides the speed and bandwidth for most of today’s needs, groundwork is already being laid for 5G and even 6G networks.

LTE-M (Long Term Evolution – Machine) and NB-IoT (Narrow Bandwidth -Internet of Things) are two relatively new connectivity technologies specifically created to support IoT. Built on 4G networks, they transfer small amounts of data (as opposed to the large amounts needed, say, for high-resolution live streaming) and consume very little power, allowing for an exceptionally long battery life. They have built-in security protocols and are both forward compatible with 5G.

Engineers planning IoMT devices need to know what type of network their customers use and what upgrades are planned. They need to be aware of geographical restrictions: China and much of Eastern Europe use NB-IOT networks exclusively, while some carriers in some countries offer both.

There are also key differences in the two technologies. NB-IOT components are cheaper and more energy efficient but are not capable of handover. In other words, if an NB-IOT enabled device crosses out of an area covered by one cell tower, data transmissions are interrupted while it connects to the next tower.  LTE-M supports mobility so signals won’t be lost or delayed when, for example, a patient is being rushed to hospital in an ambulance.

2

Blockchain will be key to IoMT data privacy, security and scalability

Implementing legislation is a slow process whereas new technologies arrive in the blink of an eye. Because of this, laws are forever trying to catch up with new tech, and when it does, in-use devices may suddenly find themselves noncompliant.

To minimize risk of eventual device recall, engineers have to plan for likely futures. These include adhering to expected new data privacy regulations, but also in terms of scaling manufacturing in case of increased demand.

While conversations about blockchain have been dominated by the financial industry, this same distributed ledger technology (DLT) used to secure cryptocurrency has found applications in healthcare. Data is protected with sophisticated encryption algorithms and distributed across multiple sites or regions, reducing the risk that comes with keeping all patient information in a single location. In addition, who can access, amend or remove data is strictly controlled.

3

How to choose the right sensor

Sensors that measure your blood pressure are different from sensors that can pick up on shifts in your coordination or the strength of your grasp. When designing an IoMT device, engineers have to look at numerous variables to make sure they have ordered the most appropriate, cost-effective and efficient sensor for their device. With innovations constantly spilling into the competitive IoMT market, it is also necessary to think about product agility. Will your sensor have to be able to handle software updates? Asking these questions at the development phase of the lifecycle ensure your products fulfil both current and future customer needs.

4

Technology is only one part of IoMT devices

Granted, it’s the part that everyone talks about and also the most complex part of a device. While, yes, it is critical to get the electronics right, engineers who get caught up in getting the inner workings of a device right without considering the outer shell (casing) find themselves in deep trouble later on.

For instance, they may find that the “right” casing for their tech is too expensive or impossible to manufacture. Or the final design may be for a product too bulky, misshapen or awkward to use.

A well-designed product is one that takes every aspect of design into account from the start.

Read more about getting things right at the design stage with:

5

IoMT devices rely on evolving network technologies.

The 2G (second generation) cellular networks that supported calls and sent our SMSs on “dumb phones” for decades have already been entirely shut down in many countries and even 3G networks are being phased out. While 4G provides the speed and bandwidth for most of today’s needs, groundwork is already being laid for 5G and even 6G networks.

LTE-M (Long Term Evolution – Machine) and NB-IoT (Narrow Bandwidth -Internet of Things) are two relatively new connectivity technologies specifically created to support IoT. Built on 4G networks, they transfer small amounts of data (as opposed to the large amounts needed, say, for high-resolution live streaming) and consume very little power, allowing for an exceptionally long battery life. They have built-in security protocols and are both forward compatible with 5G.

Engineers planning IoMT devices need to know what type of network their customers use and what upgrades are planned. They need to be aware of geographical restrictions: China and much of Eastern Europe use NB-IOT networks exclusively, while some carriers in some countries offer both.

There are also key differences in the two technologies. NB-IOT components are cheaper and more energy efficient but are not capable of handover. In other words, if an NB-IOT enabled device crosses out of an area covered by one cell tower, data transmissions are interrupted while it connects to the next tower.  LTE-M supports mobility so signals won’t be lost or delayed when, for example, a patient is being rushed to hospital in an ambulance.

Which takes us to the sixth thing engineers need to know…

You Don’t Have Time to Scale This Steep Learning Curve Alone

How quickly you get your device to market makes a make-or-break difference in sales. If you do not have the in-house expertise to get your device to market quickly, consider partnering with a CM who can remove common IoMT manufacturing risks, including:

checkDesign errors

Everything, including software, hardware, assembly, etc. is planned at the design stage, including manufacturing and assembly, ensuring there are no costly “back-to-the-drawing board” incidences.

checkTechnical gaps

Your CM should be fully certified, fully equipped and experienced in developing and manufacturing class I and II IoMT devices.

checkScheduling issues

Your partner will help you choose and procure the best fit-for-purpose components to eliminate risk of delays during manufacturing.

checkBudget overruns

IoMT projects are notorious for running over budget, mainly due to lack of experience. An experienced CM knows how to prevent this from happening.

Even as we look forward to hospital capacity returning to pre-pandemic levels, there is no indication that IoMT devices will become anything but a permanent fixture. In the US alone, they have been predicted to national healthcare costs by hundreds of billions of dollars every year. Working with the right CM partner will put you on the right track – and fast track – to getting your IoMT device to a very hungry market.

Chapter 2: A Spectrum of Possibilities – Medical and Cosmetic Applications of Light Therapy

For millennia, sunlight was revered for promoting good health. Then, it was discovered that too much sun drastically aged skin and increased the risk of skin cancer. New wisdom advised people to stay out of the sun…until it was found that more health issues around the world were caused by underexposure than by overexposure.

Breaking down the sun

Light therapy moved on from the idea of “light” as an all or nothing deal. Sunlight is made up of a full spectrum of visible and invisible light and, within that spectrum, different wavelengths have been shown affect moods and the body differently.

Light therapy isolates the beneficial properties of wavelengths within the spectrum to deliver the amount and type of light an individual requires for healing and overall health. Most light therapy devices steer clear of “harmful” ultraviolet light, while others – such as those used to treat vitiligo – harness it. Where white and blue light trigger migraines, green light devices have been shown to reduce their frequency and severity.

Common Uses of Light Therapy by Color

color chart

This list is far from exhaustive. When effective, light therapy is an excellent alternative to medications and other treatments because it is generally safe, pain free, non-invasive, and devoid of side effects.

Thanks to an upsurge in interest by the scientific and medical communities, new and ongoing studies are giving hope to people with dementia, brain injuries and bipolar disorders. In 2020, trials started in France to find out whether light could be used to reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Other research has explored the potential of both blue and red light therapies in the fight against Covid-19.

How to reach people with the right light

There are a number of light therapy devices for both professional and personal use. The range and popularity of personal use devices is apparent from a quick search on consumer shopping sites such as Amazon.com, which returns in a listing of thousands of products, many with hundreds or thousands of user reviews. The most common types of light therapy devices are lamps, lightboxes, hand held devices and wearables.

  • Lamps are light tubes, bulbs or armatures and typically treat a patient by treating their surroundings. Hospitals install them in intensive care units to support their patient’s circadian rhythm (thereby avoiding common complications such as insomnia, digestive problems and mood problems) or in operating rooms to aid in disinfection.
  • Lightboxes are portable appliances with panels that give off concentrated light of a specific wavelength. Many are designed for home use – they frequently come equipped with a timer to deliver the right amount of exposure. Among the most common types of lightboxes are those that mimic daylight in order to prevent seasonal affective disorders and lightboxes to promote healthy skin tone and texture.
  • Hand held devices can be easily manoeuvred to target specific problem areas. Widely used in dermatology, they treat acne, remove unwanted hair and reduce scarring.
  • Wearables come into direct contact with the user and include LED-fitted glasses to lessen the effects of jet lag and face masks for skin beauty routines. Of increasing popularity are blue light devices that are worn in the mouth to activate the teeth whitening properties of special gels.

It is important to note, that because these devices are pain-free and non-invasive, they are generally considered safe for treating people of all ages, including children.

Hitting the Right Wave

While laypeople have become more familiar with terms such as “red light therapy” and “blue light therapy”, science requires devices to be far more exact. Color as we perceive it depends on wavelength which is measured in nanometers (nm). The visible light spectrum runs from 380nm to 700nm which, considering that 10 million nanometers equals one centimeter, is a very small band.

Effective light therapy is about finding and applying the optimal frequencies to specific conditions. It has been proven, for instance, that neonatal jaundice is best treated by 460 to 490nm “blue” light.

Effective light therapy device manufacturing then, depends on getting the wavelength right. Only 510-530nm “green” light has been shown to prevent migraines while most other types of light make the symptoms worse. A small deviation from the right wavelength and a device intended to heal scars could cause burns instead.

Manufacturing Challenges and Opportunities

As with any technology, engineers have to be aware of the their best current options. Many halogen and fluorescent light devices, for example, are now using LED lights, which reduce costs and extend a product’s life.

Engineers also need to understand the technical complexities of nailing down the right frequency for their device, not to mention keeping it there. Maintaining the correct frequency is tricky, since the delicate balance can be upset by any number of external factors, from machine vibrations to handling to humidity to temperature to radio waves from nearby equipment. Internally, a part or component within the same device can also sabotage its efficacy by interfering with the frequency.  Device casing must be carefully designed and consist of protective layers of the right materials to ensure long term stability.

Not that this should prevent companies to developing their light therapy concept. As of last year, the global light therapy market was worth $874 million. That number is expected to reach $1 billion in 2025 and surpass $1.2 billion by 2027. Understanding (or having a partner who understands) what is needed in terms of engineering, technology, manufacturing and assembly offers endless opportunities to enter this lucrative and expanding market.

Transparency and trust

It is tough to hand over your project to a CM if you believe that means losing control over a big chunk of your supply chain. With document-supported communication, your right-fit CM partner will ensure that all processes are so transparent that you’ll likely have even more visibility over the end-to-end design and production process than most manufacturers have when they do things in-house.

Communication is often the unsung hero of an effective supply chain. A contract manufacturer who takes communication seriously can help you avoid costly errors and delays. They improve product quality and speed to market by ensuring your diverse team is always rowing in the same direction. They protect you from reputational damage and fines that result from shoddy or incomplete documentation. They build trust, work with you to find better alternatives and encourage partnership-driven innovations.

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About Providence Enterprise

Providence Enterprise is a Hong Kong medical device contract manufacturer of Class I and II medical devices with manufacturing in China & Vietnam. We specialize in electro-mechanical assemblies and high-volume disposables. We are FDA registered and ISO 13485, ISO 14971, ISO 14001, ISO 27001 certified. Our capabilities include fabricating tooling for silicone rubber and injection molded plastics, clean room injection molding, electronics, clean room assembly, and sterilization.

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