There is more to be made of the ubiquitous nature of smartphones today than the simple need to be connected or entertained constantly. Smartphones and tablet PCs alike have dramatically increased mobility, and while we first think of that as being a work and personal communication opportunity, the importance of smartphone ubiquity for personal health, fitness and mediccal monitoring is poised to increase tremendously.
As I wrote about in early September, medical electronics continues to be on a strong and steady compound annual growth (CAGR) of roughly 6% for the period 2011-2015. This represents a significant CAGR contribution to overall semiconductor and electronics industry growth. If we consider the opportunities presented by leveraging smartphones and tablet PCs for medical, health and fitness monitoring, the growth possibilities are nothing short of skyrocketing.
Transforming smartphone apps are the new eHealth
But how do smartphones and medical electronics form a synergistic moment? Quite simply, the hardware found in smartphones and tablet PCs are leading edge. Leveraging the capabilities of the various components housed in these devices with targeted software applications (medical apps) and secured connections, the ability to provide readily available medical support, monitoring, and on-the-spot information about a patient can turn your smartphone into a life-saver or at least a medical life-line.
One break-through example of this market synergy is the new medical app from SpiroSmart which allows people (children to adults) with pulmonary function problems to monitor their lung function by having their smartphone's microphone mimic a spirometer within 5.1% error – a device which costs thousands of dollars. Rather than having to wait for semi-annual doctor visits, this new app allows for on-the-spot testing and reading of pulmonary function, particularly important for cases of asthma, cystic fibrosis, pulmonary problems, and vocal chord dysfunctions. The ability to monitor and measure this critical function can save lives as well as provide information necessary to know when emergency room visit is warranted.
It's what's inside
Of course, the ability to pursue these types of advanced capabilities relies of advanced technology in the smartphone or tablet PC device itself. And so we find that synergy in the latest set of devices on and entering the market from leading-edge smartphone and tablet PC OEMs. Importantly are the improved processors (such as Apple's A6), sensors (MEMS), microphones, Recent tear-downs of the iPhone 5 reveal the bill of materials (BOM) and the component substrates for this latest market entry. But the iPhone 5 is not the only one to house the components necessary to support sophisticated eHealth apps, of course. One final thought though, it is not the device alone that makes it possible to provide remote medical monitoring, the ability to connect remotely with medical professionals in the case of remote monitoring devices, requires that the service carrier and the device be able to handle the data at speeds that make sense (see CNet's comparison).
For more on the importance of the growing medical electronics and eHealth sectors for the semiconductor and electronics industry, watch for the upcoming article in Smith's MarketWatch Quarterly providing in-depth discussion and market analysis. MarketWatch Quarterly will be sent to subscribers free within a week, and made available publically later in October.