I have the privilege to attend EmTech Hong Kong 2016 on June 7 and 8. The event is organised by MIT Technology Review and Koelnmesse. It covers some of the most important emerging technologies including robotics, blockchains, mobile technology and manufacturing 4.0. Many of the speakers are founders of start-ups who are eager to bring advanced technology to the mass market. What particularly excites me is that several speakers are from the health care industry. From them I see a convergence of internet of things and health care that will have significant impact on our quality of life.
A body is nothing but a giant machine, connected by neurones, controlled by electrical signals generated by the brain. Prof. Charles Sodini from MIT is researching technologies to monitor electrical signals from our brain, our heart and blood vessels. The major advantage is that the technologies are non-intrusive. By placing small sensors on our bodies, the hospital or medical centres can monitor our body functioning on a continuous and real time basis. Combined with the advance in data analytics, many fatal diseases can be prevented. Better cure can be invented. Currently we have wearables like Apple Watch and Fitbit. But their application is quite limited. Imagine a world that you body is monitored by medical professionals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Prevention is allays better than cure.
Sleeping disorder is a major problem to many people. However, the problems are often hard to detect as it requires a monitoring of a patient’s sleep pattern and it can only be done at a dedicated facility. Shazam Gollakota, co-founder of Jeeva Wireless, discusses using your mobile phone to monitor your sleep. By sending out a low frequency signal from your mobile phone, your phone can actually function as a motion sensor. Again, then the data can be sent directly to medical centre for diagnosis.
With an ageing population, there has been a big push to develop bionics/exoskeletions that can help seniors to walk and move better. Japan and Germany are leaders in this field. In japan, the technology is deemed essential as they face a declining population and the Government wants to extend the working age of their people as much as possible. In the US, exoskeleton development is heavily funded by the military with the goal of creating better soldiers. However, while exoskeleton is already here, it is quite expensive. Homayoon Kazerooni, Founder and CEO of suitX, has a passion to apply the technology to not only the seniors, but those workers involved in heavy lifting and to the disabled. While the technology is developed in the US, the manufacturing is done in Shanghai. By lowering the manufacturing cost, it is hoped that more people can enjoy the benefits. I am particularly impressed by Mr. Kazerooni because like me, he was an ex-academic. Mr. Kazeronni shows the successful transition from academic to business.
Technology is always disruptive. It strives to cut cost and improve efficiency. It cuts out the middle persons. Health care is certainly ready to be transformed by technology.