Internet of Body: The Next Big Thing for Medical

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During SMTA International, I sat down for an interview with Titu Botos, Ph.D., the VP of engineering at NeuronicWorks. We discuss the next big thing to come after the Internet of Things (IoT), which Titu believes is the Internet of Body (IoB). IoB could include implantables and ingestible medical devices to monitor your body better. Overall, it’s a great time for medical electronics.

Nolan Johnson: I’m here with Titu Botos from NeuronicWorks in North York, Canada. Where is North York?

Titu Botos: It’s about 14–20 kilometers away from downtown Toronto.

Johnson: Let’s start with a quick overview of what NeuronicWorks does for its customers.

Botos: We’re an engineering house and a design shop. We take an idea and bring it to life. When a customer comes to us, they leave functional products as well as blueprints for manufacturing; we call that the “cookbook.” Although we strive to help them after that for the manufacturing itself, they are fit to go anywhere they want to. In other words, our business model is that when everything is said and done, they have the intellectual property (IP); they can do with the IP whatever and wherever they please. That’s our business model.

Johnson: And they can go from an idea or a concept all the way through the engineering methodologies for all of the pieces to a finished product, or they can manufacture where they want.

Botos: Yes. We have in-house design for PCB electronics, firmware—which is low-level software—and high-level software from the cloud. We complement these three main skills with industrial, graphical, and mechanical design. On the other side, we have apps, the Internet, and the cloud. All of that comes under one roof, and we are able to serve the customer fully. We call those “full-house” projects.

Johnson: What are some of the industries that you serve with these design services?

Neuronicworks-Titu Botos.jpgBotos: We started 10 years ago from an industrial control background surrounding any type of motors—valves, pressure, temperature, etc. We do not use a programmable logic controller (PLC), but we can design a PLC and do the electronics and the firmware for a controller to make it work. After starting this way, we expanded into a few automotive projects, and medical more recently, which means another set of troubles and challenges.

Besides these three main paths, we are very interested in wearables, which you might call our fourth industry. I believe it’s the next big thing to come because on the industrial side right now—even automotive and medical—we ride the IoT wave where everything gets connected. Every node brings data into the cloud. We have a collection of information that we can peruse, digest, and make a decision based on.

This is the current trend, and I hope we can still ride that wave for a while. However, it will die down, like anything else, because everything has a beginning and an end. After IoT goes down, I hope IoB will come up and propel us forward further. IoB is a similar concept to IoT, but right now, we have a sensor attached to the body of the person, which will be the new wave. First, it was the PC, and then it was cellular, dot com, etc. Now it’s IoT. What’s the next trend? We think it will be IoB.

Johnson: Do you have customers coming to you with IoT projects at this point?

Botos: IoT is the thing now, and it’s huge. We have project after project going into the cloud right now. There are two types of customers: startups that want to make the next little gadget that collects some data, and then other types of enterprises and businesses that have been established for years that do pumps or controls, but were never in or reported to the cloud before.

There is a shift in the business. Customers try to change their positioning so that they charge for the service as much as possible. For example, for reading temperature or pressure, they may even think to give a sensor, including the transducer, electronics, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi. All of those options can be used for free and guaranteed to work for five years, but every time anyone accesses your pressure, you come to our cloud or web portal and are charged 0.00 something. With IoT, everything is connected to the cloud. It’s a huge amount of data that can be used afterward to find trends and convey messages to see what happens.

Johnson: How do you see IoB and medical merging in the future?

Botos: They are very closely related because they all touch the body. IoB and medical sense what happened to the body—primary signals. They pull up signals and send what happens to the body, such as heart rate.

For me, IoB is beyond wearables like the Fitbit. All due respect for Fitbit—there is nothing wrong with them—but there are many other medical devices right now that get attached to your wrist or placed in your ear that can tell you things besides the heartbeat. Some wearables can even tell you about your stress level. Right now, my stress level might be off the chart, but it’s going there because by analyzing the signals the body puts out, you are able to infer quite a few things.



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