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Medical device manufacturers are braced for the first fatality due to hacking and expect this to drive more hardcore regulation, Anita Finnegan, chief executive of medical device security firm Nova Leah has warned.

Finnegan was speaking at a panel debate about the Internet of Things or as she styled her sector, the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) at an investors’ event hosted by Suir Valley Ventures and Sure Ventures.

She said the US was taking an approach of allowing the Food and Drug Administration and device manufacturers to take an interactive approach to building their ‘cyber-security posture’.

A fatality will drive regulation

However, a fatality due to a hack would change things dramatically.

She added: “They are also preparing very soon for there to be a fatality due to a cyber security attack. If that happens, they are going to kick into gear with a hardcore programme for medical device manufacturers.”

Nova Leah, spun out of the Dundalk Institute of Technology, allows manufacturers to risk assess their products – identifying vulnerabilities and alerting them to potential mitigations and security controls.

She said that the biggest challenge for these firms now comes after the sale of a product.

“To get a product into the market, they have to provide evidence they have conducted a cyber security risk assessment. But they also need to conduct post market monitoring which is very resource heavy. They need to demonstrate they are doing this on a continuous basis say for example with an MRI scanner connected to a healthcare network.”

“We have discussed the benefits of IoT. There are disadvantages. The healthcare industry wasn’t prepared for connectivity and the need for security controls.

“It was thought initially that nobody would hack into a healthcare device. But since then we have realised there is a lot of monetary value in doing that. Patient health records are more valuable than a credit card record particularly for younger people. Cyber security expertise doesn’t live in our domain, so we are now almost a cyber-security consultant.”

However, she said the market has enormous potential to transform healthcare.

“The healthcare IoT is expected to grow to US $140bn by 2021. The IoMT is expected to be growing at an annual rate of 25% by 2023 and may reach US $70bn. It is making a huge impact on healthcare services. We know there are 3.7 billion users of connected medical devices.

“We are expecting a huge surge in that. It is transforming healthcare, the efficiencies of operations, the cost, where it is delivered, how doctors administer healthcare, how patients are diagnosed.”

Fleets of devices

Conall Laverty, founder and CEO of IoT platform Wia says that the IoT is now better connected itself. He said: “A lot of people in the industry used to say that it stood for the internet of theories – now we are seeing massive changes. All the pieces of the puzzle are starting to come together – software, hardware and connectivity. It is much easier to build a fleet of 10,000 or 100,000 devices which you couldn’t do before,” he said.

He suggested that some things were still missing from the IoT ecosystem.

“No-one is looking at the end-to-end experience. People are looking at just the cloud or just the devices or just the connectivity. We want to know how to put all those blocks together to offer one IoT product.”

He said his firm with its design-led approach and in-house expertise was dramatically reducing the time it took for a firm bring the first hardware device to market from around two years to as few as three months.

Data points worth millions

The strength of the IoT was making use of small data points. Wia has, for example, worked with a US agricultural firm to detect whether cattle are interacting with vitamin blocks distributed around their farms using existing ID tags.

“That could be worth millions – a little simple data point. It is worth a lot because using the IoT, it is linked in to a central ecosystem and value is derived from that.”

Gary Leyden, commercial director at Irish accelerator NDRC suggested that as the market has developed, it is becoming more suitable for specialists.

“A couple of years ago if you wanted to launch an IoT business, you had to be good at the hardware, good at the connectivity and good at the software. Now we are seeing experts in AI or machine learning leveraging off-the-shelf hardware and partnering with key stakeholders on connectivity, then focusing on what they are really good at.”

IoT meets the bottom line

He also suggested the market had moved out of the pilot stage.

“We have seen a shift in activity in the enterprise space from pilots where they were trying to understand IoT to real commercial traction.

“The make-up has changed from technical people who just wanted to connect lots of things, to people with deep domain expertise who understand how this connects with the bottom line.”

“As an accelerator – all our companies are at the frontier. We are looking for tipping points. We have seen founders having to push into a market, but now we are seeing a pull from healthcare to agriculture where the market is now educated [in the IoT]. That is a great time for investors.

Disrupting the fleet market 

Mervyn O’Callaghan, managing director of ProVision set out how the transport fleet market including leasing and insurance is ripe for disruption.

He said: “Within the transportation industry, telematics has been around for some time, but there has not been a great deal of innovation beyond reporting models to differentiate. Companies are now looking at camera technology, smart sensors and average traffic data (ATD) and how you add that on top of traditional telematics information. The fleet industry see this as valuable information which is far more practical and far more usable.”

He added that his firm currently installed hardware into vehicles but eventually it will expect to be reading information direct from the vehicles.

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