Reflecting on the Connected Things Forum

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Thought leaders from healthcare, retail, security, cleantech, automotive and industrial sectors gathered for Connected Things 2015, a half-day forum hosted by the MIT Enterprise Forum at the Media Lab. The first keynote speaker, Dr. Alan Messer, VP of Advanced Software Technologies at Samsung Technologies, set the tone of the afternoon by exposing all that is encompassed in the phrase “the internet of things” (IoT) and highlighting the real complexities of integrating connected solutions. Instead of adding to the IoT hype with romanticized visions of a simplified future, Messer dove straight into large technological challenges we face with connectivity, security, interoperability, and scalability.

In the breakout sessions, the barriers to finding a heterogeneous and adaptable platform for all “connected things,” became more tangible when using healthcare IoT as a lens. Connected devices in healthcare are even more complicated than in other industries due to regulation and privacy concerns, yet there exists a potential for widespread systemic change. Funding in the digital health space has more than doubled in 2014 and new startups are popping up daily, creating a buzz around mhealth, connected health, and telehealth. The success of connected solutions rides on an ability to understand the patients’ needs and provide targeted information. This focused personalization is what will improve patient outcomes and increases medical service efficiency.

Not to be left out of this movement, hospitals are also rethinking healthcare solutions they offer, creating internal incubator programs to spark innovation and drive ideas from concept to completion. Panelists from Brigham & Women’s, Beth Israel Deaconess and Boston Children’s Hospitals spoke on the impact of connected devices in their contexts and the efforts they make to nurture and build in-house solutions. Hospitals have, at their fingertips, first-hand patient and health provider insight on inefficiencies or inconsistencies in patient engagement, medical costs, and health management. The challenge from the clinical perspective is to efficiently filter and translate ideas into developed tools with the high level of design needed for a successful user experience. Design thinkers could fill this gap and help advance the practice of medicine by partnering with hospitals to provide the discipline and focus essential to visualizing, strategizing, building and iterating on healthcare delivery solutions.