The following is a guest post from Ian Marks, vice president of R&D Innovation at GlaxoSmithKline.
Do you remember that vision for the home of the future — where everything you could possibly want was delivered at the click of a button? From clothing to banking, food to communications, all would be at your fingertips.
It’s amazing to think this futuristic lifestyle of The Jetsons is nearly our own reality, yet there are benefits to the smart home that we didn’t expect. It’s not just instantly linking its residents to consumer goods and services, it's made a connection to something infinitely more vital.
The "Amazon Effect" is transforming healthcare. Digitization breeds new capabilities, changing how we get care and stay well. Always-on technologies empower us to take control of our own well-being, altering the way we engage with healthcare infrastructure at the DNA level. AI and technology make advances such as videoconferencing doctors, remote patient monitoring and online over-the-counter medication purchasing not only possible, but also the viable basis of a self-care revolution.
In the near future, smart homes will be primary care. There's great unmet need helping to drive that shift. According to a Plextek report, 42% of 35- to 44-year-olds are concerned that their relatives aren't telling them they feel ill. Concern drives innovation: One-third of smart homes will be equipped with health-related tech as more devices gain connectivity in five to 10 years.
The elderly and people with disabilities particularly benefit from smart-homes' ongoing monitoring. Individuals with dementia, chronic pain or mobility difficulties can now stay independent in homes that adapt to their needs. Wearable devices, activity detection, sleep and environment monitoring, online physician consultations and more make real-time monitoring significantly more effective. Without even the touch of a button, loved ones or emergency care can be alerted when help could be needed.
Virtual reality can enhance home-based self-care. Experiential content reminds parents and families of vaccination needs, personal hygiene and healthy habits. Mental health patients can access high-quality therapy in familiar and comfortable surroundings. Injured high school athletes will find VR physiotherapy engaging and noninvasive, thanks to their digital fluency, and the headset may speed recovery by encouraging self-regulated rehabilitation.
Smart homes can also save money and increase productivity. While there's much work needed to realize the vision of connected home health, there's a strong business case to be made for pressing forward.
It's a growth market. Smart devices are projected to grow to 200 billion by 2020, according to Intel. The compounded annual growth rate for smart-home devices is currently +31% but projected to be +42% by 2022.
Substantial year-over-year growth in the number of connected homes is expected to accelerate. Berg Insight predicts the worldwide smart home market will skyrocket from its current valuation at $20 billion to $58 billion by the year 2020.
Beyond their investment potential, smart homes will have a transformative effect on business. A home that keeps its residents healthy ensures more consistent employee performance, and more companies may integrate remote work to invigorate their workforce.
Connected homes can also help hospitals increase efficiency, prioritizing cases based on urgency and freeing-up beds. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90% of the nation's $3.3 trillion annual healthcare expenditure is spent on individuals with chronic and mental health conditions. These patients, with a history of being in and out of hospitals, will finally be able to recuperate where they are most comfortable — at home, helping hospitals save on monitoring and rehabilitation expenses.
Connected home-based self-care carries promising business and healthcare impacts. These can't be resolved with the push of a button; data, technology and ethics issues must be solved before the full benefits of smart homes can be felt by residents and communities. Collaboration among key stakeholders is needed to create policies that protect patients and their families.
Technologists also need to become better communicators and advocates of the connected home. They need to win over a skeptical majority (70%) of those 65 and older and the nine in 10 women who are uninterested in trialing VR. Care providers require education programs to better understand what the smart home can do and see them as a chance to improve care and minimize burnout, not as a threat to employment. Lastly, competitors must collaborate to standardize the interface of individual solutions and infrastructures.
Given the complexities of the AI, IoT devices and Big Data used to make this all possible, integration will be challenging, but the effort will be worth it. A future society with connected homes will save lives and money, increase productivity and augment the capacity of our healthcare system. That vision is clear, and it is within our grasp.