The medical electronics field has high barriers to entry, is conservative by nature and requires the utmost in quality, safety and user "interface," in both the UI and physical senses of the word, depending on the technology in question. So you've got to hand it to companies that put themselves out there in order to advance the state of the art and improve human condition.

Here are some technologies that will hopefully start making their mark in 2017.

The biggest medtech story of 2017 may be the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE wrap-up. The field has narrowed to seven finalists, who have designed portable medical devices similar to Star Trek's fictional tricorder. The devices, which are required to be capable of continuously reading five vital signs and diagnosing 13 conditions without the help of a physician, are being tested with real patients and doctors. The finalists include engineers from around the world on seven teams: Final Frontier Medical Devices, DMI, Aezon, Scanadu/Intelesens, CloudDX, Danvantri and Dynamical Biomarkers Group. Winners will be announced in early 2017.

Another advanced technology, Watson, the cognitive computing platform from IBM, continues its inexorable march toward world domination. In the medical arena, Watson applications are supporting research, patient care and more. Its analytics could soon be predicting medical issues for patients.

Medical sensors often come attached to wires–sometimes, a lot of them. In 2017, expect more wireless sensors, in both clinical and personal health settings, making home health and fitness more practical and hospital stays a bit more bearable.

HMicro and STMicroelectronics recently announced a disposable clinical-grade biosensor patch that can communicate wirelessly to replace wired wearable sensors in such applications as electrocardiogram and vital-sign monitors. The HC1100 WiPoint patch is currently available from HMicro.

 
HMicro biosensor patch cr Figure 1: HMicro's HC1100 WiPoint biosensor patch.  

Wearable sensors will continue to expand their repertoire in 2017 as ECG, respiration, skin temperature, GSR and even sweat analysis sensors, will figure in designs.

As the medical/fitness market grows, emphasis toward smaller, lighter, cheaper, lower-power designs will push IC makers to increase integration and application-specific development. Expect chips like ECG AFEs and ultrasound subsystems to become more common.

As for all other connected devices, security for medical devices will continue to be a cornerstone of designs and will continue to, on occasion, fail spectacularly. For better and or worse, the "cloud" will figure prominently in 2017 medical systems as Tricorder XPRIZE finalist Cloud DX and its remote monitoring and diagnostic line-up seem to hint.

First published by EDN.