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Helping to Shape the Future of Medical Device Design

Thu, 01/23/2014 - 2:39pm
Renjith Ponnappon, Product Manager, eInfochips

I think mobile device technology is changing the world of medical device design, the components used, and the skills needed to succeed. If you want to help me shape the future of medical device design, or you want to know what other designers think, participate in the Medical Device Developers Survey being conducted by IT Brand Pulse.

The year 2000 saw the introduction of the first smartphone, the Ericsson R380 at a hefty price of $700 dollars (just under a thousand dollar in today’s money). From this device spawned a tsunami of 6 billion mobile phones now in use, with the technology inside the mobile phones now rippling through the medical device industry.

The epic migration to mobile devices is fueled by low power processors and mobile OSs. Low power processors enabled smaller phones to rapidly displace their larger predecessors, and pack the processing power of modern computers. Consider the fact that today’s laptops rival the processing power of the 1993’s biggest supercomputer. Similarly, your smartphone runs more powerful processors than the Mars Curiosity Rover, all while costing less than $400. And your phone, which sees constant abuse from being dropped, sat on, and tossed on the bed—not to mention being accidently doused with coffee from time to time—is expected to be just as reliable as the Mars rover. With mobile phones shipping in the billions, powerful, low-power processors are now readily available and an inexpensive option for medical device designers.

Billions of mobile phones also led to millions of software developers learning how to work with mobile operating systems such as iOS and Android, with spectacular results. The Apple Store opened only five years ago with 500 applications. There are now over one million apps available and over 60 billion apps have been downloaded. These apps running on cheap, powerful phones have profoundly changed our lives. Searching for a restaurant is done in seconds, while browsing the menu, scanning pictures of the restaurant, evaluating recommended dishes, and saving directions is never more than a few touches away. No longer does one open a newspaper to be shocked by last night’s events. In this connected world a volcano eruption in Jakarta five minutes ago shows up on a user’s phone via a news alert sms, along with an analysis on impact to trade routes and a link to The Red Cross, where your donation can be paid using your credit card number already on file with PayPal. Our lifestyles have been changed forever by mobile technology.

Telemedicine and mHealth represent the facets of our lives that are changing for the better because of smartphones. A stone called mobile technology has been dropped in to the sea of medical device design, and the ripples are spreading fast.

Okay, so the rise of reliable, fast, and cheap mobile technology has entered the medical device world. I have my own ideas on mobile’s impact on design goals, mobile processor platforms, mobile operating systems, wearable products, and biggest challenges, but I want to hear what other medical device developers think.

My next blog will cover your answers to the survey.

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