The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is fast approaching after a landmark year for tech companies. In light of this event, it seems fitting to look back at some of the most significant moments in consumer electronics this year. One of the most significant trends throughout 2020 was Big Tech’s eagerness to work with health care professionals amid the pandemic.
It’s hard to talk about 2020 without at least mentioning COVID-19. It’s the reason why CES 2021 will be all-digital, and it led to some monumental partnerships between consumer tech companies and the medical industry. With that in mind, here are five of the most notable consumer tech brands working with the health care sector.
2020 saw two pandemics — one of a deadly virus and one of misinformation. Google fought both by allocating a quarter of a billion worth of ad space to health care authorities. With this platform, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other officials could raise awareness about COVID-19 and how to slow its spread.
Google also partnered with rival Apple to create a contact tracing system. The system used phones’ Bluetooth technology to discover if people may have been exposed to the virus. It then alerts affected users so they can seek medical attention or quarantine.
Apple joined Google in enabling smartphone-based contact tracing, but it didn’t stop there. In early April, the tech giant announced that it would create face shields for frontline health care workers. These pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) can ship 100 flat in a box and be assembled in under two minutes.
The millions of face shields Apple shipped weren’t the end of the company’s use to health care, either. As going to the hospital became an increasingly risky endeavor, Apple’s devices provided an ideal platform for remote consultations.
Sony recognized the utility of using Apple devices for telehealth and acted on it. The company updated its medical imaging platform NUCLeUS to support remote access. With this update, doctors and nurses could use an iPad or their phone to check on patients, oversee treatment or view medical data.
Telemedicine services like this were crucial throughout 2020 as hospitals grew overcrowded. With government aid expansions allowing Medicare to pay for telehealth visits, services like this one from Sony could finally catch on.
With COVID cases skyrocketing, many hospitals found themselves understaffed and underprepared. Companies like Panasonic helped by manufacturing hospital robots to fill in the gaps while staff was busy with patients. Panasonic’s bots cleaned rooms and transported drugs so doctors and nurses could focus on treatment.
Panasonic plans on commercializing these robots in the future, but for now, it’s keeping them where they’re needed most. The health care industry’s embrace of robotics this year is a trend that will likely bleed into 2021 as well.
A more recent example of consumer tech companies partnering with health care professionals is Microsoft’s new medical AI. In October, Microsoft revealed a partnership with several other tech companies to develop a computing platform for clinical algorithms. This system will enable health care organizations to create and test potentially life-saving AI systems.
This platform will help create resources like an algorithm that determines which patients are in the most urgent need of a blood transfusion. When more hospitals use these AI tools, they can allocate their resources more effectively. Microsoft’s Azure cloud server also ensures that the system will remain secure, complying with HIPAA laws.
The Tech Industry Has Been Critical in 2020
2020 has been a challenging year for many people, and unquestionably for the health care industry. Without the support of tech companies like these, it could’ve been a lot worse. As CES draws nearer and we see the next generation of tech, it’s important to remember how it can help the most vulnerable systems.
Devin Partida is a technology writer and blogger. She is the Editor-in-Chief at ReHack.com, where she covers consumer electronics, apps and tech trends.
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