The medical devices industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is 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 710,000 patents filed and granted in the medical devices industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Internet of Things in medical: NFC implants. Buy the report here.

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 stabilizing 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.

120+ 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 487,000 patents, there are 120+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, programmable infusion devices, wearable sleep assistance devices, and context-aware patient monitoring are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Remote dialysis monitoring, NFC implants, and medical ERS are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are body area network (BAN), which is 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 90+ 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 applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It 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 Corp 109 Unlock company profile
Nyxoah SA 101 Unlock company profile
Baxter International Inc 65 Unlock company profile
Medtronic Plc 52 Unlock company profile
Cochlear Ltd 49 Unlock company profile
NuCurrent Inc 46 Unlock company profile
Alphabet Inc 44 Unlock company profile
Koninklijke Philips NV 43 Unlock company profile
Abbott Laboratories 43 Unlock company profile
Demant A/S 34 Unlock company profile
The Alfred Mann Foundation 23 Unlock company profile
Samsung Group 23 Unlock company profile
NXP Semiconductors NV 23 Unlock company profile
Sonova Holding AG 21 Unlock company profile
Schleifring und Apparatebau GmbH 21 Unlock company profile
WiTricity Corporation 20 Unlock company profile
Sony Group Corp 18 Unlock company profile
Johnson & Johnson 18 Unlock company profile
Man & Science SA 18 Unlock company profile
Qualcomm Inc 16 Unlock company profile
Align Technology Inc 14 Unlock company profile
EarLens Corp 14 Unlock company profile
Murata Manufacturing Co Ltd 13 Unlock company profile
Enovate Medical 13 Unlock company profile
NeuSpera Medical Inc 13 Unlock company profile
Implantica Patent Ltd 12 Unlock company profile
Nuxcel, Inc. 12 Unlock company profile
Nokia Corp 12 Unlock company profile
British American Tobacco Plc 11 Unlock company profile
ReShape Lifesciences Inc 10 Unlock company profile
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Forderung der Angewandten Forschung eV 10 Unlock company profile
Apple Inc 9 Unlock company profile
WS Audiology AS 9 Unlock company profile
Infineon Technologies AG 9 Unlock company profile
Energous Corporation 8 Unlock company profile
Morgan Stanley 8 Unlock company profile
Stryker Corp 8 Unlock company profile
Starkey Hearing Technologies Inc 7 Unlock company profile
Vascor Ltd 7 Unlock company profile
GSK plc 7 Unlock company profile
Ubiquity Biomedical Corporation 7 Unlock company profile
MED-EL Elektromedizinische Gerate Gesellschaft mbH 7 Unlock company profile
Nalu Medical Inc 7 Unlock company profile
Hangzhou Nanochap Electronics Co., Ltd 7 Unlock company profile
Olympus Corp 6 Unlock company profile
Milux Holding Sa 6 Unlock company profile
Sanofi 6 Unlock company profile
Saluda Medical Pty Ltd 6 Unlock company profile
Altaris Capital Partners LLC 6 Unlock company profile
Toshiba Corp 6 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, Medtronic, Cochlear, NuCurrent, Alphabet, and Abbott Laboratories.

In terms of application diversity, Enovate Medical leads the pack, followed by British American Tobacco and Vascor. With regards to geographic reach, Baxter International holds the top position, followed by Nyxoah and Man & Science in 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.

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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.