When you consider healthcare and Internet of Things technology, or IoT, most people automatically think of Fitbits and other wearable tech devices.  However, it’s important to know that the IoT is being integrated across multiple healthcare sectors and is poised to revolutionize the way healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and home care are managed and delivered.

The growing infrastructure that’s bringing connectivity to patient care is set to make the health and pharmaceutical industries more efficient and productive.  To put numbers to this statement, it’s estimated that the value of the IoT sector within the healthcare industry will top $163 billion by 2020, making it one of the fastest growing tech sectors.

A healthcare prospectus report from last November notes the exponential growth that the sector can expect over the next five years.

“The healthcare-specific IoT market is expected to grow from $32.47 billion in 2015 to $163.24 billion by the end of the decade, driven largely by North American investments,” reads the report. “With both sides to the marketplace – device development and big data management – ripe for applications within the remote patient monitoring and chronic disease management fields.”

The pharmaceutical sector will also benefit variously from the integration of IoT technology. From patient treatment monitoring to supply chain management, IoT connectivity is expected to provide enhanced tools for everyone from caregivers to pharmaceutical companies.  Connectivity will also reduce a broad range of costs.

Consider the manufacturing of medicines as one example.

It’s believed that the increased use of sensors on the production floor of pharmaceutical manufacturers will bring far-reaching changes to company operations, translating into trillions of dollars’ worth of savings.

Apotex, the largest Canadian-owned pharmaceutical company, is already rolling out IoT technology in their manufacturing and supply chains, with the company paying a particular focus on implementing more automation processes. The tools Apotex use are designed to increase productivity, while simultaneously providing enhanced communications and real time data.

Some of the automation tools currently used by Apotex include guided vehicles, RFID tracking, and sorting and process flow tracking; all tools that have enabled Apotex to ensure consistent batch production throughout their facilities.

When it comes to patient use, IoT capabilities are also aiding in the monitoring and administration of lifesaving drugs.  Amiko, a smart IoT connected device, allows people with asthma and COPD to control and monitor dosages and can even schedule and notify patients when they need to refill a prescription.  Devices like Amiko will play a vital role in prolonging quality of life and fostering autonomy as North America’s population ages.

Not only is the Internet of Things changing the way healthcare is delivered today, the technology will also play a fundamental role in shaping how care is provided in the future.

American-based Proteus Digital Health, a company backed by Novartis and Oracle, has already received FDA clearance to proceed with an ingestible sensor devices that will transmit real time data from within a patient. The device will transmit pertinent data like blood sugar levels, heart rate, medication saturation, blood oxygenation and so on to a smart device monitored by both the patient, doctor and potentially the pharmacist as well.