According to a forecast by Gartner, the Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to swell to as many as 26 billion devices by 2020. Interrupting the market’s collective celebration are security experts who pronounce that IoT could become the year’s biggest security concern. All the new connected devices give hackers a veritable movable feast of potential entry points to break into home products such as security systems, monitoring cameras, smart TVs and even connected baby monitors.
But inconsistent standards can prohibit interconnectivity, creating another roadblock for the IoT industry.
Currently the interconnection of medical devices is in its total infancy. Most interaction is done through (believe it or not) TTL 5v pulses. Did I hear a collective analog gasp? This is essentially a binary connection (on/off), and does not allow for sophisticated data transfer. A lack of standards impedes the ability for products to interface with other solutions.
“The whole idea of IoT is supposed to be products that interact with each other. And today there is not a lot of interaction,” said John McGuire, CEO of an IoT company, GAME GOLF.
McGuire’s product is a miniature data gathering device (worn on the belt of a golfer) that digitally tracks golf performance. “The problem is that if I wanted to use input from somebody else’s device into my system to be able to log information — maybe somebody had a heartbeat monitor — I can’t do it,” said McGuire. “It would be wonderful if there were some standards that would allow companies to share information so that we could share hardware and software from various groups. And today we don’t have that.”
Peter Lucas, the COO of Epic Medical Concepts & Innovations (EMCI), a company that translates scientific research into IoT-ready medical devices, believes the IoT market introduces particularly exciting possibilities in the life sciences industry. The interconnection of technology can identify trends, improve response times, and locate small problems before they become big problems. But he agrees with McGuire that inconsistent standards remain a challenge.
“In an emerging field, it's always difficult for everyone to agree on how things will communicate with each other - what types of data can/will be shared, and how security will be handled,” said Lucas. “This is certainly even more important in medical devices with HIPAA regulations.”
According to Lucas, there will be a need for close collaboration between industry leaders in order to create open standards for communication, security, and methodology. Updating a medical device's firmware is more than modifying the program. It requires testing, validation, and in some cases, review by regulatory agencies. “This means we are highly sensitive to any meandering of tech standards, and avoid areas in which there is no clear route,” says Lucas.
“Because of quickly changing standards, product lifecycle management (PLM) is a must for implementation as we can immediately see exactly what the cascade of affected items and documents are when we make a change to one thing,” said Lucas. “With Arena PLM manufacturers and industry leaders alike can view each other's information in real time, thereby allowing open discussion about these issues and identifying roadblocks early.”
As tech advances and medical device companies expand collaboration, more and more interconnectivity is expected to emerge. Additionally, the security issues impacting the IoT market today should be reduced in the future with a greater awareness of potential risks.
What other challenges do you think are in store for companies in the IoT space?