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We live in a world of rising population. The latest projections by the United Nations suggest that the global population could grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030 and 9.7 billion in 2050. At the same time, life expectancy is increasing. If the global average age was 72.8 years in 2019, it will rise to 77.2 years in 2050.1 This development presents us with major challenges, because we all want to live healthy, vital, and self-determined lives for as long as possible.
In order to prevent a collapse of the healthcare system, the topics of preventive healthcare and well-being are becoming more important. Good health increasingly means taking responsibility of our long-term preventive care rather than sporadically treating acute illnesses. It places great emphasis on enhancing well-being to prevent illness, and it recognizes the role of the home as an important factor in individual health care and, in the event of illness, care.
The role of the IoT for the future of health
Technology, and with it the Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to support the healthcare sector across all levels, for example with predictive prevention and monitoring, in diagnosis and treatment as well as in follow-up care and support in daily life.
There are numerous health and fitness devices able to track key health markers, such as a user’s heart rate or breathing patterns, that may afford users greater awareness of their health and allow them to make pro-active decisions regarding their health and well-being.
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Easy and intuitive health monitoring everywhere
The global IoT market trend in medical devices is clearly moving towards “healthcare is self-care” with a focus on active patient engagement and patient-centric care. The vital signs monitoring segment is expected to grow at the highest rate.
Let’s take smart health devices like fitness wearables as an example: A medical band tracks health and fitness data and enables an efficient monitoring for individuals, doctors, and medical staff. Particularly valuable in critical situations: In the event of conspicuous irregularities, the medical band can advise users to take a certain action first, for example, taking a medication. If serious irregularities develop, the doctor can be contacted or an emergency call can be triggered.
But there are also smart health devices that do not have to be worn on the body, as the example of smart health monitoring solutions for the home shows. The increase in chronic diseases and health problems in our society often entails the need for home care or self-treatment at home. The desire for a self-determined life is just as decisive for this as the lack of suitable facilities in some regions.
This is where the smart home can help with home automation and health monitoring solutions like sleep monitors based on radar technology that are so small and easy to use that they can replace examinations in the artificial environment of a sleep laboratory. Patients can record their sleeping behavior with high precision at home, without external stress factors, in a familiar environment – even when covered by bedding.
Protecting sensitive health data is a prerequisite
The use of digital technologies in health and lifestyle has advanced exponentially. This increase in digitalization makes the safeguarding of health and patient data urgent and is a basic requirement for the functioning of the digital health system. With topics such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Big Data also playing an increasingly important role, it is becoming essential to secure data to prevent the misuse of private and sensitive information.
Equipping smart health devices with the right security solutions from the get-go is key to helping prevent attacks – whether theft, fraud or manipulation. Companies that are looking for a security solution need one that is equally easy to use – in terms of fast integration and time to market – and trustworthy. Unlike software-only solutions a hardware-based solution is strong, tamperproof and provides a solid foundation.
The vital role of semiconductors for innovative, reliable, and secure smart health appliances
Semiconductors from companies like Infineon are essential components in all solutions as they support the design of innovative technologies and devices for health-monitoring, preventive healthcare like sleep monitoring and, in the event of illness, self-treatment and assisted living at home. Sensors record vital data, microcontrollers process and forward it, actuators trigger actions, networking technologies integrate cloud services with medical expertise, and security solutions ensure the protection of extremely sensitive personal data.
1) United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2022): World Population Prospects 2022: Summary of Results. UN DESA/POP/2022/TR/NO. 3.
Original Source: https://spectrum.ieee.org/smart-health-devices