Founded in 1985, WinterGreen Research provides strategic insights on a wide range of markets including telecommunications, healthcare, energy generation and storage, the Internet and advanced computer technology.
We asked Susan a few questions about some of the technology industry’s biggest segments and the technological developments set to revolutionize healthcare.
Q1. In your opinion, what are the three biggest challenges facing the technology industry in 2016? How will these changes influence the industry and how will market players respond?
Susan: To understand the challenges, we need to address the sectors with the most opportunity: robotics, drones, and medical. Automated process for every industry depends on robotics. The challenge is to take the processor chips that were used to create the PC industry and adapt them to the automated process in every industry. When the processors are used to run machines, they are called robots, when they help fly a device around they are called drones.
The challenge facing the industry is to continue to iterate what has already been implemented. The industrial robots are being extended to provide flexible function. Instead of being able to do one job repeatedly, they are now being used to perform composite tasks.
In agriculture we see robots doing the same work humans once did with the human overseeing the process. The same is true with self-driving cars. The car makes the decision about how to drive and where, once programmed.
The market players willing to invest in innovation and with a flexible research culture will dominate the market. New approaches to an existing product set are needed to adjust to change in the market. Companies that are first to market often end up dominating a segment.
Q2. What are the key trends of the drone market in 2016? Are you seeing a bigger demand for consumer drones or professional drones (agriculture, military etc)? Why do you think this is and will it continue?
Susan: Drones are based on aerial robotic platform technology; the technology has reached a level of maturity that puts drone systems at the forefront of aerospace manufacturing. Drones leverage robotic platforms. The platforms support cameras and control panels that provide independent navigation based on GPS input. Smart commercial drones connect seamlessly and securely to the Internet and to each other. The emergence of flight collision avoidance systems makes market maturity a certainty. Collision avoidance systems are needed to achieve highways in the sky, flight paths that avoid drones from colliding with each other and hurting something or someone on the ground.
The emergence of rigid flight airframes and octopod rotors provide stable flight paths. A stable flight supports imaging and video that is useful. Shaky video or blurred images are not useful. Drone technology needs to provide a stable image so the camera can work properly.
Photography drone markets at $2 billion in 2015 are anticipated to reach $21.5 billion by 2022. This growth is the result of the entertainment appeal of each owner being able to create images and video from the air.
Agricultural drones are used to improve efficiency in agriculture. Drone technology is ideal for capturing crop images, as a large area of a field or several fields can be captured in a single flight. Drone images are then downloaded into a cloud and analytics software is used to stitch together multispectral images.
The resulting map creates a presentation that permits diagnosis of the health of crops in a field. The use of drones in agriculture is creating efficiencies that improve crop yield, minimize run-off, prevent damage to the environment, and save time and money on scouting fields. Drones offer more efficient visualization than photographing on foot or paying someone to fly the fields and capture video.
- Use cases for drones are evolving rapidly for video: specialized video, targeted video, and remote controlled real time video are the most compelling aspects of drone use.
- Use cases for package delivery systems depend on sophisticated navigation systems.
- Use cases for the military and for law enforcement often require arming the drone with a bomb or guns. These can be used in law enforcement to detect and negotiate with law breakers. Drones are used in the global war on terrorism.
Q3. Where do you see the robotics market heading in the next five years? What other industry (healthcare, manufacturing etc.) do you think robotics will have the biggest impact on?
Susan: We believe the biggest market growth will be in industrial robots and industrial logistics robots, where complex processes and workloads are evolving. As vendor companies improve efficiency, their customers are able to operate more efficiently. Surgical robots promise to have enormous growth in the next five years, with open surgery completely replaced by surgical robots. Vendors have devices that work pretty well, virtually all bugs have been worked out, but the devices are complex to use. Different situations require different techniques for using surgical robots and physicians need to learn all. Because surgical robots are able to provide a more precise surgery with less complications for the patient, they have been extremely well received by expert surgeons using them.
The cost of training is the primary barrier to widespread adoption. The high cost of the devices is offset by the lower overall costs of patient care. Fewer complications and better lifestyle all contribute to rapid adoption scenarios.
The agricultural robot market and the self-driving car market illustrate huge new robotic markets that will evolve as vendors invest in sensors and software that improve performance. A great deal of work remains in defining the products, evolving reasonable specifications, and developing functionality that meets those specifications.
Q4. What have been the most important technological developments in the healthcare industry over the last decade? How will these developments guide the industry in the coming years and what can we expect to see?
Susan: Technology in healthcare holds the promise to decrease the cost of care delivery, making it more available to everyone, while increasing the quality of care. spinal surgical robots are just two of the many types of robotics being used to improve the healthcare industry.
Medtronic plc’s one-year results from a real-world study of patients who had a cryptogenic stroke, or stroke of unknown cause, found that the Reveal LINQ(TM) Insertable Cardiac Monitor (ICM) detected atrial fibrillation (AF) at a greater rate than previously reported in a randomized controlled clinical trial. AF is a common cardiac condition that occurs when the heart beats irregularly or rapidly. Patients with this are five times more likely to have a stroke.
Patient monitoring is a dynamic aspect of healthcare delivery. Market driving forces for multi-parameter and specialized vital signs patient monitors relate to more societal willingness to pay for vigilance, an increase in vigilance of sick people at risk. Cardiac and respiratory symptoms are measured as vital sign shifts by patient monitors. Symptoms are represented by shifts in vital sign monitoring that measures disease conditions impacted deterioration of patient well-being. The monitoring is frequently done in conjunction with blood work.
There is a lot of complexity in determining the meaning of the patient monitor vital signs measurements. Shortness of breath is a common symptom of cardiac disease. It is frequently misdiagnosed as a respiratory symptom or ignored by patients and is not even considered a symptom. Vital signs monitoring is a way to get a window into patient condition that can provide alerts when a small change signals a possible shift in patient condition. Hospital cardiac patient monitoring technology is a vital aid in providing treatment for severely ill patients.
Alerts can be used to take action before a patient gets even more seriously ill. Hospital and outpatient cardiac patient monitoring can detect arrhythmias and get people to treatment faster before it is too late to correct heart failure. Early detection of a problem in the home is a way to avoid a hospital stay. Appropriate treatment of chronic conditions is difficult and is essential to helping people protect quality of life after recovery from a serious illness.
Medical oxygen markets are promising to expand to huge consumer oxygen markets. We have written about medical oxygen markets since 1985, producing three 700 page studies a year on topics related to oxygen including a new study, “White Paper: Supplemental Oxygen Can Remedy both Low and High Carbon Dioxide Blood Levels to Improve Endurance”.
The conventional wisdom that we have all heard “exercise more and lose weight” is quite well established in our medical community at this time, but very few people succeeded with this seeming simple piece of advice. This white paper suggests that often more is needed in order to succeed with this simple statement. It is the straightforward addition of supplemental recreational oxygen that helps the body remove any excess carbon dioxide, replace any lost oxygen, and form carbon dioxide to aid delivery of oxygen to the cells. Therefore, the supplemental oxygen establishes a balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide inside the body.
Q5. What other industry do you find the most interesting outside of the ones you cover? Have you ever considered covering this industry?
Susan: Agricultural equipment markets are poised to change dramatically. There are many aspects of this market into which WinterGreen research will develop more insight and contribute more studies. In addition to new agricultural robots and agricultural drone studies, we plan to write about grow lights, but these products promise further technological development resulting in a need for more detailed research.
We see the quantity of healthy food production as a problem as the population worldwide grows. Technology will be used to solve these problems of providing enough highly nutritional food for everyone. While the US military projects shortages in food to be the cause of new worldwide wars, advancing grow lights and plant factories is a better solution to this problem than shooting people.
We seek to write studies that detail the LED configurations that really work for growing food and the best fertilizers to use in plant factories.
As Susan pointed out in the Q&A, the drone market is fast approaching market maturity thanks to the emergence of flight collision avoidance systems. Drones will take on a greater role in the agriculture and military industries, while photography drones will increase market size due to their entertainment appeal. Surgical robots are set to transform the healthcare industry and patient monitoring technology will be implemented on a widespread scale.
We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Susan for her time and providing us with such revealing insights.
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About the Analyst:
Susan Eustis, President, co-founder of WinterGreen Research is a senior analyst. She has completed research in robots, drones, agricultural equipment, patient monitoring, communications and computer markets and applications. She holds several patents in microcomputing and parallel processing. She has the original patents in electronic voting machines. She has new patent applications in format varying, multiprocessing, and electronic voting. She is the author of recent studies of the Solar Renewable Energy, Wind Energy, Thin Film Batteries, Business Process Management marketing strategies, Internet equipment, biometrics, a study of Internet Equipment, Worldwide Telecommunications Equipment, Top Ten Telecommunications, Digital Loop Carrier, Web Hosting, Web Services, and Application Integration markets. Ms. Eustis is a graduate of Barnard College. Worldwide Who’s Who named her Top Female CEO of 2012.
*Members of the WinterGreen Research analyst team contributed to this report.