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4 things to do now to get ready for the Internet of Things

Robert L. Mitchell | April 22, 2014
As CIO at Boeing, Ted Colbert is no stranger to the Internet of Things. For more than a decade, the aerospace giant has deployed thousands of communications-enabled smart devices to sense, control and exchange data across the factory floor, on the battlefield, and within the company's 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

At Partners HealthCare, Noga faces the challenge of integrating data from consumer-based sensors such as IP-enabled blood pressure cuffs and weight scales into the overall IT architecture. That presents data exchange challenges. Moreover, home devices can't be tested for accuracy and recalibrated the way professional hospital equipment can. Because clinicians can't be sure that the data is correct, they must review all data before it's input into a patient's record. IT also preps the data using decision-support algorithms before clinicians see it. "No clinician wants to review hundreds of normal blood pressure readings," says Joseph Kvedar, director of the Center for Connected Health, a Partners HealthCare R&D organization.

But there are consumer products that meet professional healthcare standards, and the economics of using such tools are compelling. For example, healthcare products maker iHealth offers an FDA-approved blood pressure monitor that consumers can find at Best Buy. "We give patients a coupon to buy one, and there's no hub and no data charges. That starts to lower our costs," Kvedar says.

McKenna-Doyle would like to tap into IoT devices that football fans use in order to deepen the level of engagement between fans and their favorite teams. "The emerging [tech] for us is around wearable fitness for the conditioning and management of the overall health of players," she says. The next step might be to let fans with smart bands go online and, say, compare their heart rates and times in the 40-yard dash with those of star players. But capturing that data raises questions about privacy and governance. "There's a discussion as to whether that's medical data," she says. Data from IP-enabled smart devices needs to be classified so that IT can determine whether or not it needs reside on a private network.

3. Get Involved in R&D

The best way to get in front of IoT projects is to place IT at the forefront of product development. "IT can be the engine around which prototyping is done with these new sensor opportunities. It can be a big player in vetting ideas before a major investment is made," Curran says.

For McKenna-Doyle, that means supporting R&D initiatives for projects to embed sensors on footballs, players, the field and helmets. And IT has uncovered many challenges along the way.

Sensors can be used to track who's on the field, map play activity and gather game statistics. But how do you recalibrate field sensors that may get moved — or removed — between games? And how do you overcome bandwidth issues in a stadium packed with 70,000 fans? "This is all R&D," she says. "Most CIOs don't have a lot of experience in R&D, but if you want to be successful, you'd better start looking at how you can try some of this stuff."

 

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