Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Microsoft CTO calls for consumer wearables to be brought into mainstream medical care

Steve Rogerson
March 17, 2016

The time has come to consider seriously bringing consumer health and fitness devices into the professional medical world. That was the message from Paul Thomas, Microsoft Services’ CTO for health and care, at a conference this week in Nottingham, UK.


Speaking at “The Future of Proactive Healthtech” conference, part of the Medicity Innovators’ Week, Thomas (pictured) said that health had become a central focus for Microsoft’s strategy.

“We have to look at what we need to do to be really involved in controlling our health, not through medication but through things we do ourselves,” he said. “This is now the time for these consumer devices to be brought into the mainstream of the medical world.”

He gave as examples two projects in which Microsoft was involved. The first was with the police in Cambridgeshire, UK, where individual officers wear a wristband that includes a one button call for assistance but it also does real-time monitoring of stress levels.

The second is an epilepsy trial.

”People lie about their seizures, especially young people who want to go out on a Friday night,” he said. “This wearable sensor can see patterns and predict the onset of a seizure. The band connects to the phone and from there to an analytics engine that can see seizure patterns.

“This has helped them completely change the management of the condition. This has been done using a £160 wearable device and some clever software. This is an example of where I think this is going with the power of big data analytics. This is why we should be seriously looking at bringing consumer devices into the medical world.”

Earlier in the conference, Mike Short, vice president at Telefonica Europe, said the IoT was underpinning a lot of health and wellness activity.

“Wearables may not be for everybody, but they are a real growth area,” he said. “The number of apps is growing and they will become more integrated into devices; they will be preloaded. Wearables is a boom industry.”

He said the move to 5G from 2020 onwards would be key for digital health as it would allow more real-time monitoring.

“This will link community care and healthcare,” he said. “There will be much more healthcare in the community. Digital healthcare is a huge global opportunity. There is more interest in addressing health and wellness than ever before.”

Part of this, he said, was due to the ageing population. However, concerns were expressed at the conference about the difficulties in getting older people to accept the technology. For example, Paul Reading, a former director of product development at over 50s holiday company Saga, pinpointed the age of 75 as a breakpoint.

“People below this age tend to be happy using technology,” he said, “but those above have not really used it in their working lives and are not comfortable with it.”

But Brian Firth, CEO of Fitquest, said: “Not everyone over 75 is the same. Some will find it difficult but some won’t. You have to design it into their everyday lives and not have them use technology for technology’s sake.”