As the branch of electronics that designs, implements, and uses electrical devices and equipment for medical purposes, the medical device market is growing quickly and is on target to reach $56.5 billion by 2020, according to research from MarketandMarkets. The market includes both components (sensor, battery, memory device, display, and microprocessor/MCU) and applications (imaging, medical therapeutics, diagnosis, monitoring, and fitness/wellness).
Cumulatively, the medical electronics market—which is dominated by large firms like Siemens AG, Analog Devices, Texas Instruments, and ON Semiconductor—is growing at an annual rate of 5.5%. Portable medical electronic products are particularly hot right now and on track to grow to around $68.7 billion by 2022, according to Brisk Insights. One key driver of innovation in the portable sector is the increasing number of chronic diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disorders, cancer, diabetes, and Crohn’s disease that are affecting people globally.
High Rate of Innovation
A closer look at the medical electronics market reveals a high rate of innovation in a number of different areas. In July, for example, Mobius Bionics developed the first prosthetic arm to be cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Developed by DEKA Research & Development Corp., the LUKE arm incorporates electronics, motors, batteries, and materials. “This arm’s functionality far surpasses anything that I’ve had so far,” said a participant who used the arm in DEKA’s clinical study.
The LUKE arm includes features that give amputees a powered shoulder and elbow, a multi-movement wrist, and a hand that is built with four independent motors. “Up to this point, design in prosthetic arms has been limited to incremental changes,” said Dean Kamen, DEKA’s president, in a company statement. “We developed the LUKE arm to change the game for amputees—creating an innovative, integrated system that offers greater functionality and independence to our wounded warriors and other amputees.”
Innovation also continues in the wearables market, where companies like Accutronics have developed credit-card sized batteries for use in wearable medical devices. Used to power devices that are worn by patients, the devices that run on these batteries can monitor health and/or provide medication when the patient requires it.
“With the right power management, design and production controls, and when used under the guidance and on the recommendation of a healthcare professional, wearable devices can become a key asset in improving the health of our increasingly aging population,” writes Accutronics’ Neil Oliver in Peek into the future of wearable medical electronics. For example, diabetics can use a peripheral, plug-in gadget to monitor blood glucose, chronic kidney patients can avoid time-consuming visits to the doctor by testing at home, and patients with cumbersome pill regimens can track their exact intake with a smartphone application.
“The ability to create cheap devices that don’t require heavy on-board processing—rather, outsourcing this to a server in the sky—means that nearly every household object in sight can now be equipped with a sensor and a screen,” Oliver writes, “giving up-to-date information on any number of ailments or long-term conditions.”
Monitoring Vital Signs
Medical electronics are also being used by the U.S. Armed Forces. In July, Profusa Inc., announced that it had received a $7.5 million Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) grant to develop tissue-based biosensors for continuous monitoring of multiple body chemistries. The grant will be used to develop implantable biosensors for the simultaneous, continuous monitoring of multiple body chemistries.
Placed just under the skin with a specially designed injector, each biosensor is a flexible fiber, 2 mm-to-5 mm long and 200-500 microns in diameter. Rather than being isolated from the body, Profusa’s biosensors are integrated within the body's tissue—without any metal device or electronics—overcoming the effects of the foreign body response for more than one year.
“Profusa's vision is to replace a point-in-time chemistry panel that measures multiple biomarkers, such as oxygen, glucose, lactate, urea, and ions with a biosensor that provides a continuous stream of wireless data,” said Ben Hwang, Ph.D., Profusa's chairman and CEO, in a statement.
More Innovation Ahead
Expect to see even more innovation from the medical electronics market for the remainder of 2016 and into next year. “The demand for medical equipment and devices continues to grow worldwide, and electronic technologies are increasingly important components of these products,” writes Inemi’s Bill Bader.
“The medical electronics sector is not only a high-growth market,” Bader concludes, “but one in which both the business and technology landscapes are rapidly changing.”