The medical devices industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by increased need for homecare, preventative treatments, early diagnosis, reducing patient recovery times and improving outcomes, as well as a growing importance in technologies such as machine learning, augmented reality, 5G and digitalisation. In the last three years alone, there have been over 450,000 patents filed and granted in the medical devices industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Artificial Intelligence in Medical Devices: Athletic motion analysis.

However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

150+ innovations will shape the medical devices industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the medical devices industry using innovation intensity models built on over 550,000 patents, there are 150+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, AI-assisted radiology, motion artefact analysis, and treatment evaluation models are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. MRI image smoothing, AI-assisted EHR/EMR, and AI-assisted CT imaging are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are computer-assisted surgeries and 3D endoscopy, which are now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for artificial intelligence in the medical devices industry

Athletic motion analysis is a key innovation area in artificial intelligence

Athletic motion analysis is an area of sports science that has come to the forefront over the last decade. Typically, motion capture cameras are used to analyse the movement and gait based on key points of the body identified through placement of bulbs, in order to improve their technique and understand or avoid injury or to improve fitness. The cost of the cameras and associated equipment has been a hindrance to utilisation by some athletes and their coaches. Artificial Intelligence (AI) though makes it possible to use ordinary Smart Phone cameras for motion capture, opening up the possibility of improving performance in amateur athletes.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies.  According to GlobalData, there are 30+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established medical devices companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of athletic motion analysis.

Key players in athletic motion analysis – a disruptive innovation in the medical devices industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to athletic motion analysis

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
NIKE 182 Unlock company profile
adidas 104 Unlock company profile
Koninklijke Philips 55 Unlock company profile
Polar Electro 51 Unlock company profile
LG 46 Unlock company profile
Baxter International 43 Unlock company profile
Alphabet 41 Unlock company profile
Omron 29 Unlock company profile
Isolynx 28 Unlock company profile
ROM Technologies 27 Unlock company profile
GyroGear 22 Unlock company profile
Samsung Group 22 Unlock company profile
Whoop 19 Unlock company profile
Casio Computer 16 Unlock company profile
Apple 16 Unlock company profile
AlterG 15 Unlock company profile
Lululemon Athletica 13 Unlock company profile
Superflex 12 Unlock company profile
TritonWear 11 Unlock company profile
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Forderung der Angewandten Forschung 10 Unlock company profile
EW Healthcare Partners 10 Unlock company profile
Analytica 9 Unlock company profile
System Instruments 9 Unlock company profile
Recovery Force 8 Unlock company profile
Tau Orthopedics 8 Unlock company profile
Blast Motion 8 Unlock company profile
FitStar Labs 8 Unlock company profile
KEBA 8 Unlock company profile
Seiko Epson 7 Unlock company profile
breathe with b 6 Unlock company profile
Smiths Group 6 Unlock company profile
Deep Science 6 Unlock company profile
MTG 5 Unlock company profile
Intel 5 Unlock company profile
Trudell Medical International 5 Unlock company profile
Ventrk 5 Unlock company profile
Microsoft 5 Unlock company profile
Huizhou TCL Mobile Communication 5 Unlock company profile
KAYO 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

NIKE is one of the leading patent filers in the field of athletic motion analysis. Some other key patent filers in the field include Alphabet, Apple, Whoop and Lululemon Athletica.

In terms of application diversity, Fitstar Labs leads the pack, followed by Apple and Whoop, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Lululemon Athletica held the top position, with EW Healthcare Partners and NIKE in the second and third spots, respectively.

AI has the potential to both improve existing motion analysis used by professional athletes as well as opening up sports science to the amateur sports person. Application of AI will likely result in increased performance in the athletic arena, without resorting to drug-induced enhancements, but will also result in fewer sports injuries as athletes better understand the influence of gait and other factors on joint wear and muscle fatigue.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the medical devices industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Medical Devices.


GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.