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 of 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 Innovation in Medical Devices: Handheld ultrasound systems.

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, neurostimulation therapy, smart physiotherapy devices, and real-time IR thermographic imaging are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Precision radiotherapy, electric atomisers, and bio-active prosthesis coating are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are bioresorbable stent coating and cryogenic tissue treatment, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the medical devices industry

Handheld ultrasound systems is a key innovation area in the medical devices industry

Handheld ultrasound systems are mobile scanning devices that can be carried from one place to another for point-of-care diagnosis. They are available in three basic configurations, including hand-held, laptop, and tablet. These lightweight and wireless systems are successfully implemented for whole-body scanning and are steadily replacing conventional cart-based ultrasound machines.

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 handheld ultrasound systems.

Key players in handheld ultrasound systems – 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 handheld ultrasound systems

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Koninklijke Philips 293 Unlock company profile
Samsung Group 247 Unlock company profile
Magic Leap 118 Unlock company profile
Fujifilm Holdings 101 Unlock company profile
General Electric 70 Unlock company profile
Canon 56 Unlock company profile
Hitachi 50 Unlock company profile
Enlitic 36 Unlock company profile
Siemens 30 Unlock company profile
Nihon Kohden 25 Unlock company profile
Olympus 25 Unlock company profile
Butterfly Network 18 Unlock company profile
JointVue 18 Unlock company profile
Healcerion 15 Unlock company profile
Shenzhen Mindray Bio-Medical Electronics 14 Unlock company profile
Monovo 13 Unlock company profile
Clarius Mobile Health 13 Unlock company profile
TytoCare 12 Unlock company profile
Caption Health 12 Unlock company profile
Teratech 12 Unlock company profile
Mobisante 12 Unlock company profile
Hologic 11 Unlock company profile
Altaris Capital Partners 11 Unlock company profile
Konica Minolta 9 Unlock company profile
Toshiba Medical Systems 9 Unlock company profile
NetScientific 9 Unlock company profile
Liminal Sciences 8 Unlock company profile
Toshiba 8 Unlock company profile
Viatris 8 Unlock company profile
Texas Instruments 8 Unlock company profile
PulseNmore 7 Unlock company profile
GE Healthcare 7 Unlock company profile
Hyperfine Research 7 Unlock company profile
QView Medical 7 Unlock company profile
Avanos Medical 6 Unlock company profile
Tietronix Software 6 Unlock company profile
Nippon Koden Kogyo 6 Unlock company profile
Onex 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Koninklijke Philips is one of the leading patent filers in the field of handheld ultrasound systems. Some other key patent filers in the field include Samsung Group, Magic Leap, Fujifilm Holdings, and General Electric.

In terms of application diversity, Enlitic leads the pack, followed by Hyperfine Research and Texas Instruments. By means of geographic reach, PulseNmore held the top position, followed by QView Medical and Hyperfine Research in the second and third spots, respectively.

Hand-held ultrasound systems have shown satisfactory results for disease diagnosis in emergency settings where an immediate diagnosis and treatment decision are required, further supporting the case for their adoption. Furthermore, they are inexpensive, flexible and portable, and deliver crystal-clear images without exposing patients to radiation. Future developments must involve devices that can offer a high degree of accuracy regardless of the target area and simplify the clinical workflow.

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.