What is an IoT health platform and how to use it in digital health?

Author: Sarah Iqbal

What is a platform and what does it mean in the tech world?

In the tech world, a platform is any hardware or software used to host an application or service. It is group of technologies that are used as a base upon which other applications, processes or technologies are developed. An application platform, for example, consists of hardware, an operating system and coordinating programs that uses a set of instructions for a particular processor. In this case, the platform creates a foundation that ensures object code will execute successfully. As a general rule, platforms are designed to support many smaller application programs that actually solve business problems.

In many mature markets, there are often two dominant platform choices and a long tail of smaller players; for example, iOS and Android in mobile (Read our iOS vs Android mHealth development guide), Windows and Mac in desktop operating systems, Google Fit and Apple Health in healthcare applications and PlayStation and Xbox in gaming.

There are IoT platforms of every shape and size that serves different objectives and end goals. There are platforms for specific industries like commercial real estate and family health. Some focus on one type of device such as augmented-reality headsets and others are focused on a particular function, like manufacturing. The healthcare industry, especially the digital health industry has its own underlying platforms as well.

Why do you need a platform if you want to adopt digital technology (in healthcare) ?

The rise of digital health has also prompted the movement of Internet of “medical” Things. Sometimes known as healthcare IoT, it refers to a connected infrastructure of medical devices and software applications that can communicate with various healthcare software systems. In order to get value from the connected digital health environment, especially in the Internet of “medical” Things, it is important to have a platform on which to create and manage applications, to run analytics, and to receive, store and secure your data.

Platforms are helpful because they remove a lot of common functions away from the specific software development. Platforms are able to hold common capabilities for computing power or storage or security, which then allows application developers to focus on the specific problem they are solving and the solution they are developing. Hence, a good platform dramatically reduces the cost of developing and maintaining applications, which in turn helps businesses like yours to carry out its ultimate objective.

As the healthcare industry is progressively moving towards adopting digital technology, having a healthcare platform to hold and manage all other elements of technology is crucial. These elements of technologies includes, but not restricted to applications, dashboards, back-end softwares, integrations, devices, cloud infrastructure and data privacy and security.

How do you choose a platform?

There are three main application considerations when choosing a platform: what applications are available out of the box, what is the application development environment like and what are the common application interfaces.

In the Internet of Things, or in our case theInternet of “medical” things, platforms should be designed to deploy applications that monitor, manage, and control connected devices pertaining to your healthcare goals. It is important that the IoT platforms handle problems like connecting and extracting data from a potentially vast number and variety of endpoints, which are sometimes in inconvenient locations with spotty connectivity.

When choosing a platform, security and data privacy tops nearly everyone’s list of major IoT concerns, especially when dealing with healthcare data. A healthcare IoT platform technology must have enterprise-grade security built into the full IoT spectrum, from connected product to cloud to mobile or web app.

Ideally an IoT platform will include tools for speeding and integrating application development with the rest of the IoT technology. The concept is the same for digital health platforms. In addition, it will also have an ecosystem of dedicated application developers that can do the final customisation and personalisation of your control applications. These healthcare platforms must be built with flexibility and future-proofing in mind. No matter what features, protocols, or new technologies emerge or are required in the future, an IoT platform should ensure that the connected products do not get stuck in technology dead-ends.

Scalability is also very important. This means that the IoT platform has the ability to scale not only in the number of devices, but at the cloud, software-application, data, security, reliability, latency, user-experience, and even the support levels. In digital health, this is important wearable technology and devices play a very important role in health and medical data capture (for e.g. in clinical trials or personal well-being

In terms of connectivity, IoT platform must connect and interoperate with the broadest possible range of other connected products from a variety of manufacturers, as well as service IoT platforms need approaches such as LAN mode to ensure continued operations of connected products, even when there’s no internet connection.

Finally, you will need to work with a trusted partner to develop sophisticated applications and softwares on the platform to solve your business problems. You understand your business problems best. At Biotaware, we understand the dynamic of the digital health landscape. We work in parallel with you as your trusted development partner to make sure that the application-development environment will be compatible with the technologies progressing in the healthcare industry. You may need your platform to interface with other applications, depending on your IoT use cases and we are happy to help you with that.

To get value from IoT across multiple use cases, it helps to use one (and only one) platform in your organisation. Choosing a platform is an important decision, because whatever your end goal is, it’s likely that whatever platform you choose will be with you for a long time.

Biotaware offers a digital health platform for monitoring and capturing data from wearables and devices in digital health environments such as clinical trials and consumer well being.. We also develop data capture solutions on mobile platforms to support this endeavour.

For a more comprehensive understanding on the requirements of a good healthcare platform, read our guide on the 15 things to ask before choosing an Internet of “medical” Things (IoT) Platform in digital health.

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