Can IoT healthcare devices help in a pandemic?

As the NHS battle to save thousands of lives across the country, we’re looking to how technology could help. Could IoT healthcare devices be the future of patient care? This blog post looks at some of the LoRaWAN devices available, and how they could benefit the NHS.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve seen technology take centre stage as we try to continue life as normal. From online PE lessons for kids who aren’t at school, to Zoom conversations with family members; we’re all using the internet more than ever.

LoRaWAN sensors don’t use wifi (so you can save your bandwidth for your video calls and streaming). They use a completely different network. They also use very little data, and very little power. These devices are also relatively affordable.

iot healthcare lorawan medical devices

So how could we use them to develop an IoT healthcare strategy to help the NHS?

1. Emergency buttons for the elderly and vulnerable

COVID-19 has very serious health implications for over 70s and those with existing health conditions. Many of our most vulnerable members of society have been asked to self-isolate for up to 12 weeks.

But how do we check on them? What if they’re unable to get to a phone? Providing those at home with an emergency button that they could push if they needed urgent care could potentially save lives. LoRaWAN technology means that these devices could have a battery life of up to 5 years (based on transmitting data every hour).

2. Asset tracking for medical equipment

One of the biggest issues with the COVID-19 crisis has been lack of ventilators. Manufacturers around the world are scrambling together to produce enough ventilators and respirators to enable our doctors and nurses to care for their patients.

Ventilation equipment is very expensive (£120 per mask and £4,000 per machine, according to 2016 figures from Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust). Keeping track of all of these machines using GPS would allow the NHS to find out whether there are unused ventilators available across the country. LoRaWAN asset trackers could also be used to alert staff when a ventilator machine is removed from hospital premises.

3. Parking sensors for ambulance bays

Parking sensors have been developed for smart cities. The sensors detect whether or not a parking space is occupied.

The same technology could be used in an IoT healthcare setting by identifying empty ambulance bays. You could then direct ambulances to the nearest available bay. This could have a huge impact on time-critical emergencies, helping to save lives.

4. Desk sensors adapted for hospital beds

Lack of available beds is an ongoing issue for the NHS. During the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve seen thousands of extra beds provided in emergency hospitals. Having a better picture of where beds are available could help many hospital departments.

Desk sensors have been developed to monitor desk occupancy in a commercial environment. They measure motion, temperature, light and humidity. But they also have a thermopile sensor that can detect body heat. Perfect for patients who aren’t able to move around.

5. Temperature sensors for medical storage

Some medications need to be stored at specific temperatures. Installing temperature sensors in fridges and freezers can alert staff to any changes in temperature. If a fridge door is left open accidentally, an alert will be triggered when the inside of the fridge goes outside the normal temperature range. This could prevent vital supplies from being spoiled, and ensure medication is kept under the right conditions.

There are hundreds of ways that technology can be used for IoT healthcare applications. LoRaWAN technology is so versatile thanks to it’s long battery life, affordability and low data usage. If you’d like more information on how we could help you to develop IoT healthcare solutions, get in touch with our technical team.

Best LoRaWAN Sensors for 2020

After last week’s visit to The Things Conference in Amsterdam, our technical team gave us a little run down of the “ones to watch” for 2020. We talked about the best LoRaWAN sensors on show at the conference, and how they might change our lives in the not-too-distant future!

best lorawan sensors
Our team at The Things Conference

Smart Parking Sensors

The latest addition to the smart city scene is smart parking sensors. We’re currently testing a product made by Bosch. It works using radar and a magnetometer to detect whether or not there’s a car above it. It then reports the parking space status as “available” or “occupied” using LoRaWAN technology. The best bit for car park operators? The battery lasts for up to 5 years, so minimal maintenance!

We envisage the best use of this LoRaWAN sensor will be guided parking systems. We all know how frustrating it is when you’re looking for a space. In busy city centres, you can spend up to 20 minutes searching for a place to park. That’s 20 minutes of clogging up the traffic and the air with your engine running. This sensor could combine with a lighting system to highlight available spaces, or direct you to a multi-storey level where there are spaces. It could also be used to highlight available eCharging stations for electric cars.

People were impressed by the small size and overall design of this product when we displayed it in the flesh in Amsterdam. We have these available now.

Waste Monitoring

We’ve been talking to Tekelek about their waste bin sensor. We think it’s great for a range of applications; from waste management companies to local councils, and even charity collection bins.

The LoRaWAN sensor can be positioned inside the bin and uses ultrasound to measure the level of waste. This allows you to optimise waste collections, adding or removing collections when you need them. This type of LoRaWAN sensor is already being trialled in the Netherlands and promises to cut costs and improve accountability for hazardous waste.

This particular sensor boasts a battery life of up to 14 years, thanks to LoRaWAN technology. It also has a communication range of up to 15km to the nearest gateway. We think this is one of the best LoRaWAN sensors for waste management and recycling.

Air Quality Monitoring

There are a wide range of air quality monitoring sensors on the market. Which is the best LoRaWAN sensor for air quality depends on what you want to measure:

  • CO2. We already offer a carbon dioxide monitor that also measures temperature and humidity. Measuring carbon dioxide can give you an idea of how well your ventilation systems are working. Research suggests that increased CO2 levels in the workplace can decrease productivity!
  • Carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide can be toxic in high concentrations. Many homes and commercial buildings have carbon monoxide monitors surrounding equipment such as boilers or heating equipment. This is a safety precaution, but using LoRaWAN CO sensors can help your systems to alert you more quickly to changes in carbon monoxide levels.
  • VOCs. VOC stands for volatile organic compound. It’s a measure of potentially harmful substances in the air, and a fairly standard method of defining air quality.
  • Particulate matter. This is a useful way of measuring pollution levels in an outdoor environment. Particles from car exhausts, smoke and other sources can reduce the quality of the air we breathe.

At The Things Conference there were a few different manufacturers who supply different air quality monitors. We’re looking to collaborate with some of them over the coming months to supply sensors to our European client base.

We loved the concept of adding air quality sensors to street lighting; another tool for smart cities of the future. They can also be a great method for monitoring and improving air quality in workplaces, hospitals and schools.

LoRaWAN People Counting Sensor

Knowing how many people are visiting your premises or passing by the front can be really helpful. You can actively measure your busiest times and ensure that staffing levels are adapted accordingly. You can measure footfall in specific areas accurately and tailor your marketing strategies. There are all sorts of possibilities for commercial applications.

We liked the idea of being able to measure the number of people without using cameras. And, like all LoRaWAN sensors, we love the long battery life. We liked the look of the PCR2, made by Swiss company Parametric. They have a range of indoor and outdoor sensors that we’re launching now.

Conference Highlights

We had a great time at last week’s conference and we’re really excited about the future of LoRaWAN technology. We particularly enjoyed a presentation by Edge Impulse, which involved Johan Stokking (CTO The Things Industries) dressing up as a sheep:

Not only was it an engaging presentation, the concept of a programmable activity tracker that can “learn” different activities and transmit data via LoRaWAN is pretty amazing! We look forward to seeing it at work in the world of smart agriculture – just hope we don’t catch our sheep drinking beer!

If you met us at The Things Conference 2020, we’d love to hear from you again. Get in touch to find out more about the products we have on offer and our in-house test methods.