Wireless, mobile products in short supply at massive Medica show

The massive Radiological Society of North America is underway in Chicago now--without your Chicago-based editor, who's not back from Thanksgiving travels yet--but the 60,000 people who visit that event every year are a mere pittance compared to the 137,200 in attendance at Medica, the world's largest medical trade show, that took place last week in Düsseldorf, Germany. We didn't make the trip, and apparently for good reason.

There were a few wireless devices on display among the 4,400 exhibitors (enough to put the HIMSS roster of just 900 or so vendors to shame), but not enough to impress "wireless evangelist" and consultant Nick Hunn, who chronicled his experience on his Creative Connectivity blog. Almost all of what he saw was Bluetooth, and many of the Bluetooth applications were simply cable replacements that otherwise ran on proprietary--read "non-interoperable--protocols. "Wi-Fi was there in a few products, but mostly confined to tags for asset management, and I failed to find a single ZigBee medical device. There also seemed to be very little profile for the Continua [Health] Alliance in terms of products or signage. Even the Intel stand was conspicuously Continua-free," Hunn reports.

Hunn does have some reason to be optimistic, though. "Of course, adding Bluetooth to a medical device doesn't do any more than replace a cable. What makes it a lot more interesting is when you connect it up to a health hub or mobile phone, collect the data and feed it into an application that provides useful input to a clinician or carer, or compelling feedback to the patient themselves. A number of companies have developed down these routes and were displaying real commercial systems using Bluetooth-enabled medical product," Hunn writes.

But, alas, he estimates that companies with wireless products accounted for less than 1 percent of the vendors. "That may be partly due to the fact that Medica is still very much an equipment show. Most of the visitors still go there to buy hardware for their current medical business model, not to look at the potential disruption of a new, patient-centric one," he says.

"The other thing missing from Medica was medical and health apps for smartphones," Hunn adds. "It will take time for a critical mass of these products [wirelessly connected to smartphones] to appear, but when they do, Medica and the industry as a whole will face a greater change than any they have seen in the last 50 years."

For more:
- read Hunn's post on his Creative Connectivity blog