Tech innovations have transformed the healthcare segment over the last decade, and there’s no telling what the next few years hold in store. Diagnostic and surgical instruments are now more precise and cost-effective than ever before. Equally noteworthy is the relatively recent trend of tech brands adding healthcare-related functionalities to their newest gadgets. The Big Four of the tech world—Apple, Samsung, Google and Microsoft—have all invested in dedicated R&D wings for finding ways to combine personal technology with the most useful advances in healthcare. Their products are fitted with medical apps and sensors that can record personal health data and issue alerts. Listed here are examples of how the lines between medical and personal technology are getting blurred.
Earlier this year, Apple launched their most talked about wearable, the Apple Watch Series 4. The highlight of this iteration of the Apple Watch is that it can take FDA-approved ECG readings—an unprecedented advance that leaves all the existing fitness trackers far behind. The device can also monitor the user’s heart rate, record the data and can even share the reports directly with the physician if and when required. The new Apple Watch can also make emergency calls on your behalf in case of you suffer an accidental fall, which is detected by special sensors that read wrist movement. After 60 seconds of this notification, the watch automatically sends an SOS message to the listed emergency contacts along with the user’s exact location.
Another thing that we are going to witness soon in these watches are UV light sensors. Apple is going introduce this never-before-seen feature in the next edition of the Apple Watch. If the user is exposed to higher-than-normal levels of UV rays—the underlying cause for serious skin ailments—the watch can issue an alert.
Recently, the South Korean brand Samsung launched a pilot project called #VoiceForever, where researchers made use of the AI assistant Bixby to help preserve the voice a patient suffering from motor neuron disease (MND). They substitute the default Bixby voice with the patient’s voice “so that her loved ones can continue to hear her voice even after its gone”.
Samsung also released a short online film on this project. “At Samsung, we are focused on transforming people’s lives with innovative technologies. The endeavour is to solve real-life problems of consumers through meaningful innovations. This film depicts how Samsung can make the seemingly impossible, possible by using its AI voice assistant, Bixby to preserve the voice of a mother who is diagnosed with MND,” said Ranjivjit Singh, Chief Marketing Officer, Samsung India.
Samsung’s business stakes in the healthcare industry in general are well-known. The brand manufactures a range of diagnostic and imaging tools that medical practitioners swear by.
Back in 2013, Google unveiled the Google Glass, which comes with an in-built smart camera and a touchpad with which users can attend phone calls, browse photographs, connect with friends and so on. The device is also of great value for medical practitioners. Doctors can live-stream surgeries using Google Glass, for the benefit of medical students.
The tech giant has also partnered with a British firm, DeepMind Technologies, to further develop an AI-powered medical app called Streams. This app basically makes life easier for doctors, by storing medical data and test results on a cloud server, which can be accessed at the click of a button. Streams is an AI assistant meant for doctors and nurses, connecting them to a vast network of diagnostic labs, hospitals and clinics.
According to the official website of DeepMind, “Our vision is for Streams to now become an AI-powered assistant for nurses and doctors everywhere—combining the best algorithms with intuitive design, all backed up by rigorous evidence. The team working within Google, alongside brilliant colleagues from across the organisation, will help make this vision a reality.”
Evidently, Google is expanding its reach in healthcare. They have come up with a new AI technology which can help in early detection of breast cancer.
The IT giant Microsoft has made significant contributions to the healthcare sector through their cloud software. In 2017, the brand launched Healthcare NExT, an initiative that aims to encourage doctors to make better use of cloud technology. An AI Network is also in the works, which is being developed in partnership with India’s Apollo Hospitals.
According to an official blog published by Microsoft, “Several themes emerge at the convergence of healthcare and technology. The explosion of data, incredible advances in computational biology, genomics and medical imaging have created vast amounts of data well beyond the ability of humans to comprehend… It’s why our focus is threefold: developing foundations for precision health care, enabling the health industry’s move to the cloud, and empowering the people that make healthcare work.”