Healthcare organizations had already begun adopting IoT several years ago for maintenance and monitoring of physical operations. The next step was to apply this technology to patient monitoring, including using “smart beds” to let staff know when a patient had left their bed, or using wearables to track patient vital signs.
More recently, we have seen the development of “smart pills,” that is, pills featuring ingestible sensors that are activated by stomach acids. These pills allow caregivers to ensure that patients have actually taken their medications. Similarly, doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital have developed a swallowable gut probe. The patient swallows the probe and then onboard cameras allow doctors to examine the health of the patient’s gut, enabling them to quickly diagnose potentially fatal diseases such as environmental enteric dysfunction.
Of course, IoT now extends far beyond factories, service fleets, and hospitals. From Fitbit to Nest and beyond, IoT in recent years has become part of daily life. Cities have been using IoT to become “smarter” about energy usage, public safety, and traffic management. And in the face of COVID-19, healthcare institutions have been looking for ways to put the technology to use in gathering data to understand and potentially manage the pandemic.
From a product innovation perspective, there are two questions product designers need to ask themselves. On one hand, how might we perpetually transform and improve our products based on performance data gathered continuously from IoT sensors? On the other hand, when a product can communicate directly with its environment, what potential design innovations does this introduce? For example, if my luggage becomes autonomous, how does that change the material I use to make it? The handles, the compartments, the wheels? Thinking further out, how does this change closets, hotel rooms, and airports?