Technology looking to improve the human condition

-December 13, 2016

This article is part of EDN and EE Times’ Hot Technologies: Looking ahead to 2017 feature, where our editors examine some of the hot trends and technologies in 2016 that promise to shape technology news in 2017 and beyond.

The medical electronics field has high barriers to entry, is conservative by nature, and requires the utmost in quality, safety, and user "interface," in both the UI and physical senses of the word, depending on the technology in question. So you've got to hand it to the companies that put themselves out there in order to advance the state of the art and improve the human condition.

Here are some technologies – many of which we've looked at before – that will hopefully start making their mark in 2017.

The biggest medtech story of 2017 may be the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE wrap-up. The field has narrowed to seven finalists, who have designed portable medical devices similar to Star Trek's fictional tricorder. The devices, which are required to be capable of continuously reading five vital signs and diagnosing 13 conditions without the help of a physician, are being tested with real patients and doctors. The finalists include engineers from around the world on seven teams: Final Frontier Medical Devices, DMI, Aezon, Scanadu/Intelesens, CloudDX, Danvantri, and Dynamical Biomarkers Group. Winners to be announced in early 2017.

Another advanced technology, Watson, the cognitive computing platform from IBM, continues its inexorable march toward world domination. In the medical arena, Watson applications are supporting research, patient care, and more, and its analytics could soon be predicting medical issues for patients.

Medical sensors often come attached to wires – sometimes, a lot of them. In 2017, expect more wireless sensors, in both clinical and personal health settings, making home health and fitness more practical, and hospital stays a bit more bearable.

For example, HMicro and STMicroelectronics recently announced a disposable clinical-grade biosensor patch that can communicate wirelessly to replace wired wearable sensors in such applications as electrocardiogram and vital-sign monitors. The HC1100 WiPoint patch is currently available from HMicro.




Wearable sensors will continue to expand their repertoire in 2017 as ECG, respiration, skin temperature, GSR, and even sweat analysis sensors, will figure in designs.

As the medical/fitness market grows, emphasis toward smaller, lighter, cheaper, lower-power designs will push IC makers to increase integration and application-specific development. Expect chips like ECG AFEs and ultrasound subsystems to become more common.

As for all other connected devices, security for medical devices will continue to be a cornerstone of designs, and will continue to, on occasion, fail spectacularly. For better and/or worse, the "cloud" will figure prominently in 2017's medical systems. For just one example, check out Tricorder XPRIZE finalist Cloud DX and their evolving remote monitoring and diagnostic lineup.


Also see:


Also watching:
  • Alternative PCB prototyping methods (such as Squink) continue to come, and sometimes to go. In 2017, we'll be paying particular attention to new arrival Printem, which has developed a Polaroid-like flex PCB material that users run through a regular printer, expose, then just peel apart. Voilà – instant PCB.
  • You still have time to register for another XPRIZE. The IBM Watson AI competition registration deadline is January 19, 2017, and we'll be eagerly awaiting progress reports in 2017 and beyond.

Read more of EDN and EE Times' Hot Technologies: Looking ahead to 2017:

 
 
 

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