Smart and Connected Communities: Saving Lives with IoT and Smart Cities

May 15, 2018

14 grand engineering challenges face modern and future populations. Among them are big healthcare concerns: how do we improve community health, enhance medical care and streamline medical systems, all at the same time? “Smart and connected communities” may be just the answer. Defined by intersectional development using fusions of technology, these communities use big data to benefit everyone involved.

Integrating intelligent healthcare with smart city infrastructure is one example of this new urban paradigm. Intelligent healthcare addresses many issues. It streamlines the chain of care and reduces the burden of insurance. Intelligent care also ameliorates personal healthcare anxiety and makes health decisions easier. As a whole, it decreases the pressure on the medical workforce, which suffers from huge labor gaps, such as the anticipated physician workforce deficit. However, these successes tend to be isolated to hospital systems. Intelligent healthcare in partnership with urban governance enables success on a community level. Cities, with their various services and direct access to population data, have a unique opportunity to create solutions in multiple areas via smart technology.

Smart and Connected Communities: Real world examples

The recent announcement by Uber and Lyft about their healthcare ride-hailing services is a mainstream example of a smart and connected community. Partnering with health insurance and electronic records companies, these services transport individuals to medical appointments. People with or without smartphones may use them, unlike other app-based models, as providers can request the ride for the patient.

Their plans create huge potential for driverless vehicles, especially IoT integrated cars, and indicate a future of constant healthcare supervision for crisis management. Imagine future vehicles interfacing with medical cloud networks and passively recording health data. If a rider becomes ill, vehicles can contact medical providers. In a crisis, communication with a traffic control system may optimize traffic conditions, like for an ambulance, and warn hospital officials of incoming emergencies.

Alternatively, smart and connected communities may enhance predictive healthcare. Consider an urban population. A few people have wearable healthcare monitoring devices. Patterns among wearers with only their neighborhood in common show a rise in heart disease. Tests on other residents without the devices reveal similar issues. The medical event correlates to the opening of a popular fast food franchise in their area. Predicting that a larger portion of the population will soon be affected, this information is relayed to city officials in a streamlined data flow chain. From there, the city implements health education programs in a targeted manner, encouraging residents to visit general physicians and develop health plans to achieve heart health.

Intelligent healthcare and smart city technologies make it possible

Intelligent healthcare, sometimes known as “connected care,” uses technology to achieve three main goals: consistently acquire health information with precise, accurate methods; manage patient stats more effectively and harness health data for better care. The three primary technology tools utilized in intelligent healthcare are IoT, cloud computing and data analytics.

IoT provides benefits on every organizational level. Real-time collection increases safety by avoiding the latency associated with self-reporting and lowers costs by reducing the need for inconvenient inpatient monitoring. IoT smart rooms have made inpatient hospital care safer and more effective. Medical facility management have used IoT to make supportive services from laundry to energy management more efficient.

Cloud computing with IoT creates a better health care data management system. Digital data files follow patients if they move and, within common operating environments, transition between specialists. A cloud can be programmed to track its errors, which allows for improvement and precision care. This streamlined chain of care helps manage and illuminate medical dark data as well, improving care systematically and not just individually.

Data analytics gives entities the ability to harness collected health data for better patient care outcomes. Public entities, such as national or local health agencies, can use traditional and AI analytics to anticipate population trends. Private hospitals and medical technology engineers may also use it to enhance their services and products.

Smart cities rely on similar technology as intelligent healthcare, but their applications serve to optimize the urban experience and improve quality of life. Instead of connecting medical devices, smart cities have connected urban services. These may include intelligent waste disposal, smart water management, and automated lighting, along with hundreds of other potential smart applications.

How to make your community smart and connected

These paradigm shifts are the cutting edge of technology. However, they are not uniformly present around the world. There is plenty of opportunity to begin this process on either a private enterprise or public governance level. Many governments have begun research on the feasibility of applying these technologies.

If you have a design for a technology tool, whether hardware or software, that would make your medical chain of care smarter or connected, reach out to us. Our electronic design and manufacturing services team may be able to bring your vision to life.