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Proactive health apps to push board, embedded systems market

Posted: 04 Oct 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:telehealth? proactive health equipment? embedded computer board?

According to the latest forecast from IHS, strong growth in the markets for telehealth and proactive health equipment will boost demand for embedded computer boards and systems. The market research firm stated that this development will lead to a robust rise in revenue in the next five years.

Global revenue for embedded boards and systems serving the telehealth and proactive health equipment sectors accounts for less than five per cent of the total medical market for these products, estimated to be worth $450 million in 2012. However, the small share at present is forecast to almost double by 2017, with the wider medical business growing also to $760 million.

To be sure, the medical market is already a high-growth sector for embedded boards, systems and industrial PCs given the continuing healthy expansion of revenue from traditional medical applications such as imaging and clinical care. Even so, growth in these applications will be outperformed by sales to telehealth and proactive health equipment, IHS indicated.

The pressures of an ageing population as well as the rising rate of diseases connected to a more affluent lifestyle in many countries are driving a major change in the way healthcare is provided. Most developed countries have set targets for reducing the amount of time patients spend in hospitals, and there is a general move as well towards providing healthcare outside of the traditional hospital environment.

As healthcare costs continue to rise, providers have been looking to reduce costs by shortening patient time in treatment centres. This will be achieved through the use of telehealth remote monitoring.

Initially the home health devices will be fairly simple, but over time the gadgets will increase in complexity, shifting demand to higher-performance products.

The increasing cost of healthcare will also lead to greater emphasis on proactive health. To this end, attempting to lower the number of people requiring hospital treatment through healthier and more active lifestyles is an obvious method of reducing healthcare costs. Investment in proactive health equipment, such as treadmills and other fitness gear, will likely be led by moves in the U.S. from medical insurers offering reduced premiums for individuals who proactively manage their health.

All told, the proactive health market for embedded boards and systems is forecast to grow more slowly than the telehealth space. However both markets will fuel the industry for embedded computer boards and systems in the medical sector.

"The challenge for board and system vendors will be to align their products with the specific requirements of the medical applications," said George Dickinson, analyst for discrete automation group at IHS. "Equipment here will be very different from many of those used in traditional hospital-based applications. As a result, board and system vendors will encounter different challenges."

One example of this is in the telehealth market, where equipment will have to be convenient for use in the home. Such gear will need to be small, lightweight and consume power in low doses, Dickinson observed.

"These considerations will drive original equipment manufacturers to seek small-form-factor boards as well as systems with low-power usage."

With the medical market changing and greater emphasis being placed on dispersed prevention and treatment of illnesses, the nature of equipment to be used will also transform. Such developments are then likely to affect the component suppliers of embedded boards and systems.

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