NTT Data, the IT services and consulting subsidiary of Japanese telecommunications giant Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT), has bigger ambitions for the healthcare Internet of Things (IoT) market than merely tracking and analyzing footsteps and heart rates.
The company is using Hitoe, a wearable sensor material developed by mobile carrier NTT Docomo, and Toray Industries, a chemistry and textile company, to drive innovation in the healthcare IoT space. On its way medical facilities, the technology and the connected health services it enables mad a pit stop in the IndyCar circuit.
Outfitted with a Hitoe smart shirt, NTT Data helped collect and analyze data from driver Tony Kanaan in a series of tests conducted with Chip Ganassi Racing and NTT Basic Research Laboratories. By correlating Kanaan's heart and muscle biosignals with sensor data produced by his car, his racing team gauged the effects of high-speed turns, their g-forces, and other maneuvers, providing a richer picture of what happens to a driver's body. In turn, those insights can be used to reduce fatigue, enhance driver endurance and help prevent injury.
NTT Data already has its sights set on other sports. Meanwhile, the company is developing a cloud-based platform that captures biosignals and video, along with a big data analytics platform that organizations can use to pump data into their health dashboards.
Sports aside, the company is exploring ways of helping healthcare organizations improve patient care and medical outcomes.
Although the material is electroconductive, Hitoe doesn't contain metal fibers that can degrade in sweat or cause discomfort. In fact, the polymer-based material can be incorporated into wash and wear garments that can survive washing machine cycles and sports use.
Hospitals and rehabilitation centers seem like an obvious target for the technology, but Adam Nelson, COO of Healthcare and Life Sciences at NTT Data Services, told Datamation "big pharma" is also a suitable candidate. Pharmaceutical companies "want to collect real-word data from patients" to capture more detailed information of a drug's effects on the human body, he explained. "They are just as incented to have good, accurate real-time data as your clinician."
In the future, Nelson envisions that technologies like Hitoe, along with the IoT services that give them their smarts, will transform how patients are treated.
After cardiac events, for example, patients may no longer need to strap uncomfortable monitoring equipment onto their bodies or undergo costly procedures to have a sensor implanted, he said. Instead, they can slip on a washable Hitoe undershirt and plug in a compact transmitter.
NTT Data is already moving in that direction. The company has teamed with the Chinese Academy of Sciences on using Hitoe to remotely monitor the health of elderly people.
And there's a good chance that Nelson and his team's efforts will be rewarded. Earlier last year, Grand View Research forecast that the healthcare IoT market will balloon to $410 billion by 2022, up from $58.4 billion in 2014.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.