Bluetooth Smart, used on medical devices powered by button-cell batteries, will gain momentum over other wireless technologies despite a slow start for wireless monitoring, according to IMS Research.
With its low power consumption, Bluetooth
Smart will be the dominant wireless technology on consumer medical devices
by 2016 despite the reality that only 5 percent of medical devices have
wireless connectivity at all as of 2012, IMS Research revealed.
In the report "Wireless Opportunities in
Health and Wellness Monitoring2012 Edition," IMS found that more than 35
percent of all wireless-enabled consumer medical devices shipping in 2016 will feature Bluetooth
Smart technology, yet only 9 percent of medical devices will feature any type
of wireless technology at that time.
Bluetooth medical equipment has been slow to
catch on in health care because of a higher cost over unconnected devices.
Providers have been satisfied with viewing measurements from devices such as
heart rate monitors without connecting them to other equipment, Lisa
Arrowsmith, senior analyst for IMS
Research, told eWEEK.
Health care organizations prefer the cheaper
devices, she said. "A lot of them don't necessarily have the need to
"The cost of a wireless consumer medical
device is a lot higher than the standard [equipment] where you'd record your
own measurements, so cost has really been prohibitive," said Arrowsmith.
Bluetooth Smart can be found on devices such
as glucometers and blood pressure monitors and run on button-cell batteries.
More than 10.3 million Bluetooth Smart
devices will ship worldwide between 2012 and 2016, and more than 4.7 million in
2016 alone, according to IMS.
The majority will be in Europe, the United
States and some Asian markets, said Arrowsmith.
Bluetooth Smart devices collect vital data
and then transfer the information to a Bluetooth Smart Ready device, such as a
laptop, smartphone or tablet. These consumer devices can then transfer the data
using cellular networks or WiFi to a cloud platform such as Microsoft
HealthVault so that doctors can monitor a patient's condition.
The new Apple
iPad and Samsung Galaxy S III are Bluetooth Smart Ready, and Windows 8
tablets will feature the technology.
Bluetooth Smart Ready is the new term for
Bluetooth Low-Energy devices introduced by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group
(SIG) in the fall of 2011.
Currently, the health care industry uses
Classic Bluetooth and proprietary wireless systems, according to Arrowsmith.
"Longer term, device manufacturers want
to move to Bluetooth Smart Ready because it does have a lower power
consumption," she said.
Consumers also use Bluetooth in fitness to
track heart rate, speed and elevation during workouts.
Bluetooth Smart Ready in consumer devices
will enable medical equipment to connect to cloud platforms and mobile apps,
according to Lisa Arrowsmith, IMS Research senior analyst.
IMS published the report in March 2012, and
released its Bluetooth Smart data on June 25.
Ant+, an ultra-low-power 2.4GHz wireless
technology, offers an alternative to Bluetooth, but consumers are less familiar
with that wireless standard, said Arrowsmith. It may find a role in managed
telehealth with the separate gateways those providers operate, she said.
Power consumption is a key consideration for
health care organizations considering Bluetooth medical devices, said
Long design cycles and government regulations
on medical devices will slow the move from Classic Bluetooth to Bluetooth
Smart, according to Arrowsmith.
It takes 12 to 18 months for new medical
devices to be approved for consumer use, she noted.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify predictions on devices containing Bluetooth Smart in 2016.
Brian T. Horowitz is a freelance technology and health writer as well as a copy editor. Brian has worked on the tech beat since 1996 and covered health care IT and rugged mobile computing for eWEEK since 2010. He has contributed to more than 20 publications, including Computer Shopper, Fast Company, FOXNews.com, More, NYSE Magazine, Parents, ScientificAmerican.com, USA Weekend and Womansday.com, as well as other consumer and trade publications. Brian holds a B.A. from Hofstra University in New York.