::: nBlog :::
My car from 2003, like most cars today, has a standard Electronic Control Unit (ECU), a 400MHz computer with 120+ digital inputs and control outputs. In addition, it has similar units for automatic transmission and security system. During normal engine usage, the ECU adjusts fuel/air mixture, ignition timing and a load of other parameters more than 100 times per second in order to obtain best performance and lowest emission rates. In addition, it collects and stores long-term performance information readable by service personnel. The ECUs program, which is already at its 94th version, is about 1.7 megabytes.
This kind of computing has made car engines some 60% more resource efficient during the last 30 years, which is remarkable in this kind of mass production industry. Regulation has had an important part to play in form of very tight CO2 emission targets, forcing e.g. sports car manufacturers to move into electric motors in order to offer performance their customers are used to.
Now when we look at far bigger and more important industry what comes to human happiness – healthcare – advances in ubiquitous and affordable computing have had a much narrower impact. Yes, areas such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and genetic research greatly benefit from high-performance computing (HPC) and Big Data, but when looking from individual perspective, my blood pressure medication is just as rudimentary as it was 30 years ago. Doctors prescribe bulky dosages with trial-and-error method, until a suitable ingredient for the patient is found. Little data is collected after clinical trials, and most people just live with the (sometimes undignifying) side effects of e.g. beta blockers.
As a human is far more valuable than a car, I find it peculiar that healthcare industry is not moving faster into precision medicines and treatments based on the real-time information collected from millions of people. Technologies, such as our Platform and tiny organic sensors are there already.
Health is a very complex system and it deserves more technological attention. I envision that within the next 5 years, we’ll see the first consumer-grade devices administering medicines exactly based on the individual requirements, at sub-milligram accuracy, taking into account everything else from personal exercise records to daily dietary habits.
I often hear statements that in healthcare everything takes that 10-15 years to mature. This is a paradigm we can and must break, in case we think that people are more valuable than e.g. cars.