IoT-Aided Robotics and Healthcare’s New Revolution
The combination of IoT and robotics are improving many aspects of the world’s healthcare system
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The Internet of Things (or IoT)
5G enables us to better integrate “things” together. Like how your Ring Doorbell and your Nest-Controlled A/C unit are both connected to your phone, which is also connected to your car, etc. The essence of the “internet of things,” or IoT as it’s commonly referred to, is that all devices connect in various degrees. See our article on How Smart Homes Could Revolutionize Healthcare for a prime example of the IoT in action. The concept continues to grow too, and now we have the Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIoT) and the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), both of which are related to robotics in healthcare.
Mobile-based 5G services launched back in October 2018, which allowed companies to forge ahead in their implementation of IoT medical devices for diagnosis, treatment, remote patient monitoring, and testing. The combination of innovative technology and a robust network optimizes healthcare delivery to and from remote locations, and with ease.
According to Statista, industry will utilize more than 75 billion IoT-connected devices by 2025. By that time, since 5G will upgrade to 6G technology, we will see an upgrade in cost efficiency, energy, intelligence, and security; every indication points to smart communities being in full force by 2029.
Healthcare’s Evolution Has Turned Into a Revolution
Healthcare was evolving at its own pace. Albeit, since technology moves so quickly, so did medicine’s growth. However, COVID-19’s emergence created an enormous need for even more rapid changes, and thus ushered in an era more akin to “revolution.” The virus, plus an industry on the verge of making numerous leaps, was the very push needed to stimulate IoT healthcare advancements.
What do I mean by this?
COVID-19 turned the world upside down. Additionally, sedentary lifestyles are worsening, populations are increasing, and more health issues arise every day. In fact, the WHO says that about 2 million deaths per year can be attributed to physical inactivity (it’s one of the top ten leading causes of death and disability in the world).
The rise in demand for the expansion of healthcare capabilities coincides with our needs; you’ve heard terms like “big data,” “artificial intelligence,” “computer vision,” “cloud computing,” etc. Well, those are the technologies responsible for medicine’s growth.
The Role of IoT-Aided Robotic Systems in the Healthcare Revolution
**Pushes glasses up on nose**
IoT-aided robotic systems operate by establishing a connection between physical, network, and application layers. The physical layer consists of the sensors and/or actuators used to collect vital health information from the patient via smart devices like watches and rings. The robots then connect to form a multi-robot network of those sensors or actuators. In the network layer, the interconnections are improved to communicate effectively with controllers and network protocols. The application layer then takes the information, which is from the physical layer and retrieved via the network layer, and performs specified tasks accordingly. See the image below.
How IoT-aided Robotics Work
The properties that comprise IoT-aided healthcare robotic devices include but are not limited to decision-making, perception, manipulation and adaptation, cognition, interaction, and motion abilities. Take a look at the next figure below.
Basic Functionalities of IoT-aided Robotic Systems
A Few of the Ways IoT Robotic Devices Are Revolutionizing Healthcare
Health challenges like stroke, tremor, chronic pain, and brain injury are the most common causes of motor disability. Patient rehabilitation is challenging since it requires the constant assistance of trained professionals, who are in short supply.
Other obstacles are cost and geographical barriers, which IoT-aided robotic devices can also help mitigate. Some of them are the Amadeo, Bimanutrak, G-EO, Gait Trainer, Lokomat, and the ROBIN (Rehabilitation of Brain Injuries) System.
To illustrate one example, the ROBIN System provides stability to the body’s trunk during changes in positions. Simultaneously, it encourages patients to initiate simple hand movements like reaching for and grasping items.
The IoT-aided robotic devices can make the surgical process more accurate (see our article on telesurgery). Although the debates rage on regarding the safety of assistive robots and robot-based surgeons in the operating room, their adoption has increased from 1.8% in 2012 to about 15.1% in 2018, with Europe and North America recording the highest rates.
Utilizing IoT-based technology, robotic surgeons can communicate with external devices, doctors, and nurses. Accordingly, surgeons can effectively connect with telesurgery centers and manipulate robotics via the internet, without being physically present.
IoT-aided telesurgeries have been used extensively in microsurgery, assistive-minimal invasive surgery, and remote surgery. Ishak and Kit successfully invented a robotic arm that assists during procedures. Developed using Android Studio, experts can control it with a smartphone.
Healthcare Applications of IoT-aided Robotic Systems
Developing the right prosthetics takes time. It is a complex process that must account for the high variability in the size of the lost body part and the patient’s response. IoT-aided robotic devices are assisting in this area as well.
The Hand of Hope project saw Lee et al. develop a multi-fingered robotic hand that mimics hand movement. Designed with four fingers on each hand and 12 joints that consist of linked knuckles and linear actuators, it has a grasp control mechanism that can perform catch functions.
In another study, researchers designed a prosthetic hand that looks real. Covered with a layer of artificial skin that lends a natural feel and appearance, it can lift small weights up to 1.5kg.
Statistics show that by 2050, the number of people above the age of 60 will exceed 2 billion. Thus, there will be an even higher demand for caregivers in the future. Maintaining a healthy life at an advanced age is easier with external support from humans and devices.
This is where IoT-based devices will come into play. Smart homes are the solution to our lack of nursing homes, and patients can stay monitored and healthy while retaining a feeling of independence.
Some companion or services robots include PT2, JoHOBBIT, CAESAR, Aibo, and Care-o-Bot. With IoT technology, they combine sensors and wearable devices and work together to stay on top of health, detect falls, interface with home appliances, and connect seniors with their care providers and loved ones.
The Key Three (Takeaways)
1. The IoT connects all the “things” around us together, which enables comprehensive solutions to all kinds of healthcare challenges.
2. Faster internet, better technology, and COVID-19 turned healthcare’s “evolution” into a “revolution.”
3. Among many of their uses, IoT-aided robotics can assist patients in recovering from injuries, facilitate more accurate surgical procedures and telesurgery, aid in prosthetic creations, and promote healthy and independent living for seniors.
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