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 digitalization. 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 Internet of Things in Medical Devices: NFC-enabled implants.

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, ingestible sensors, wireless gastric stimulation devices, and remote nerve stimulation devices are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely.  Dosage monitoring inhalators, programmable infusion pumps, and athletic monitoring sensors are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are blood glucose sensors and medical emergency response systems, which are now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for Internet of Things in the medical devices industry

NFC-enabled implants is a key innovation area in Internet of Things

Medical implants, particularly sensory and electric implants to monitor and rehabilitate organ states, are coupled with near-field communication (NFC) chips to allow for short-distance communication with user devices. NFC-enabled implants are particularly beneficial in emergency cardiac care. NFC can be a handy technology for data transfer between two devices that are close to each other. It is more secure than other wireless technologies, such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, since it requires the two devices to be in close contact with one another (less than 10cm).

Machine-to-machine communication in medical devices is increasing in healthcare. As gadgets grow smarter and more networked, the demand for data transfer between devices located outside the body (in vitro) and within the body (in vivo) will rise.

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 40+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established medical devices companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of NFC-enabled implants.

Key players in NFC-enabled implants – 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 NFC-enabled implants

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Boston Scientific 99 Unlock company profile
Nyxoah 96 Unlock company profile
Baxter International 59 Unlock company profile
Cochlear 44 Unlock company profile
NuCurrent 42 Unlock company profile
Alphabet 40 Unlock company profile
Abbott Laboratories 39 Unlock company profile
Medtronic 37 Unlock company profile
Koninklijke Philips 36 Unlock company profile
Demant 30 Unlock company profile
NXP Semiconductors 23 Unlock company profile
Schleifring und Apparatebau 20 Unlock company profile
Sonova Holding 18 Unlock company profile
Enovate Medical 18 Unlock company profile
Man & Science 18 Unlock company profile
Samsung Group 15 Unlock company profile
Nuxcel 14 Unlock company profile
Milux Holding 12 Unlock company profile
EarLens 11 Unlock company profile
Nokia 11 Unlock company profile
Sony Group 11 Unlock company profile
British American Tobacco 10 Unlock company profile
Johnson & Johnson 10 Unlock company profile
ReShape Lifesciences 10 Unlock company profile
Align Technology 9 Unlock company profile
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Forderung der Angewandten Forschung 9 Unlock company profile
WS Audiology 9 Unlock company profile
Qualcomm 8 Unlock company profile
Stryker 8 Unlock company profile
MED-EL Elektromedizinische Gerate Gesellschaft mbH 8 Unlock company profile
Implantica Patent 8 Unlock company profile
Murata Manufacturing 7 Unlock company profile
GSK 7 Unlock company profile
Infineon Technologies 7 Unlock company profile
Hangzhou Nanochap Electronics 7 Unlock company profile
Vascor 7 Unlock company profile
Mortara Instrument 6 Unlock company profile
Siemens 6 Unlock company profile
Olympus 6 Unlock company profile
NewPace 6 Unlock company profile
Syntilla Medical 6 Unlock company profile
Ubiquity Biomedical 6 Unlock company profile
BIONIME 5 Unlock company profile
Altaris Capital Partners 5 Unlock company profile
MyndTec 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Boston Scientific and Nyxoah are two of the leading patent filers in NFC-enabled implants. Some other leading patent filers include Baxter International, Cochlear, NuCurrent, Alphabet, Abbott Laboratories and Medtronic.

In terms of application diversity, British American Tobacco leads the pack, followed by Enovate Medical and Vascor. With regards to geographic reach, WS Audiology holds the top position, followed by Implantica Patent and Ubiquity Biomedical in the second and third spots, respectively.

The importance of a secure communication channel in the medical device realm cannot be overstated, and it is a top priority to ensure communication between medical devices is quick and secure. With its security and communication advantages, NFC is the obvious choice for wireless communication between medical equipment. There are many cases of medical application, such as implanted devices which must be very energy efficient to remain in the body for years. NFC protocols are particularly suited for such applications since the reader can only activate the tag when necessary and can also wirelessly transmit power.

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.