Many M2M analysts forecast that the markets for connected medical devices may not grow as quickly as deployments in areas like automotive telematics and smart grid, but the brain trust at Wi-Fi device manufacturer Lantronix (Irvine, Calif., USA) does not agree. The company has seen embedded systems for medical devices grow to 10% of its $50 million (US) top-line sales, and expects the overall market for such medical connectivity to continue to increase.
The opportunity for connectivity is immense, with the typical U.S. hospital patient encountering 75-80 medical devices per day, according to M2M analyst Harbor Research. The research firm estimates that, in 2009, 6.2 million devices – including all modules used for connecting machines and other manufactured products, both wired and wireless – were shipped. This number is expected to increase to 12.1 million in 2011 by 32.7 million devices by 2014.
One key to the growth of M2M in medical applications will be data aggregation, according to the company. That is, the ability to tie together data from disparate embedded devices – e.g., glucose monitors, thermometers, fusion pumps, and blood pressure gauges – and present those data to physicians in a coherent manner. This data is usually transferred via a hospital’s proprietary network.
“A lot of these medical devices are not network-ready, but they can communicate through USB or serial ports, and that’s where we step in. When you see physicians get access to a complete picture of their patients, in a comprehensible way based on the data, you see their eyes light up,” says Daryl Miller, the company’s VP of engineering.
According to Harbor Research, mobile phones, sensor technology, portable medical devices and wireless health applications will play a larger role in connecting patients with their healthcare providers within the next few years.
Lantronix was founded in 1989, and has been perhaps best known as a provider of connectivity solutions for physical security, industrial automation and IT / data center. The company has seen its medical business expand as an outgrowth of its product line of device servers.