What was once reserved for the capitals and most innovative cities in the UK, Smart Cities initiatives are quickly becoming ubiquitous. Today, 18 out of the 69 cities in the country are in the process of undertaking a Smart Cities project. That doesn’t mean you can visit each of these cities and be welcomed by a driverless car or witness robots roaming the streets. No, the smart initiatives having the biggest impact often go unseen or unheard of.
It could be said that a truly smart city simply can’t exist without smart buildings. While smart or intelligent buildings have been on the agenda in the construction industry for at least 30 years, they have previously been considered too expensive, or lacking the return on investment opportunities due to ongoing maintenance costs. However, with more innovative, Internet of Things (IoT) driven technology at our fingertips, a smart building – especially in the public sector – is well within reach today.
IoT and healthcare
Arguably the biggest opportunity for Smart Cities, and therefore smart buildings, lies in healthcare - more specifically, the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT). Although the sector has been slower to adopt in comparison to other industries, predictions tell us that the IoMT market will reach $137 billion, with some 3.7 million connected medical devices worldwide by 2021.
IoT has the power to transform how people receive treatment and improve recovery times, while reducing time and cost for healthcare professionals. Connected systems can collect data that helps to monitor, inform and notify carers and healthcare providers, while identifying issues for early intervention.
Connected systems can also be used to monitor patients when they’re outside of the hospital walls – acting as external observation tool. This approach could not only predict and help to treat issues before they arise, but also feed the data back into a central system thus allowing medical experts to analyse patterns and draw insights from them in order to improve healthcare in future.
Smart buildings = smart healthcare
Aside from patient care, smart systems and devices can also improve the way in which a healthcare facility operates. In a smart building setting, this means giving patients more control of their environments, such as lighting, HVAC and entertainment systems, to improve overall satisfaction and recovery time. While IoT is by no means intended to replace the role of a healthcare provider, it will remove some administrative dependence from hospital staff, therefore freeing up time to be spent elsewhere. Using the data that these connected devices generate, staff can get real-time insights to feed into future business decisions and maintenance plans.
5G and healthcare
5G networks promise to take IoT and IoMT to the next level. As the lead of the Liverpool 5G Testbed consortium, we are witnessing some exceptional innovative breakthroughs in health and social care for disadvantaged areas. These technologies are helping people to manage long-term health conditions like diabetes and epilepsy themselves at home, therefore freeing up urgently needed health and social care resources to be used where they are critically needed.
As part of the Liverpool 5G Testbed, Sensor City is home to Defproc Engineering which has developed ‘Push to Talk’ – a loneliness app for isolated carers, which puts them in touch with other carers in a similar position.
Looking to the future
As the number of connected devices continues to increase at an unprecedented pace, healthcare organisations have a job to do in figuring out exactly what it means for them and their services. As new things such as 5G connectivity come to fruition, they will need to adapt quickly to ensure they don’t miss out. They need to have access to the right data and use it in the right way in order to have meaningful outcomes. This will mean administrators, manufacturers, construction professionals and technology providers working together to create an environment and system that works for them, and their patients.