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 Robotics in Medical Devices: Intelligent assistive devices.

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, HUDs for surgical navigation, robotic biopsy endoscope and camera-guided surgical robots are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Robotic exoskeleton, surgical robots, and robotic catheters are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are robotic lower limb rehabilitation and microfluidic lab-on-a-chip, which are now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for robotics in the medical devices industry

Intelligent assistive devices is a key innovation area in robotics

Assistive devices include mobility aids, such as walkers, wheelchairs and crutches, equipped with sensors to notify users in dangerous situations and to communicate with others in the case of a fall, among other things. Incorporating intelligent assistive devices into eldercare may offer opportunities to reduce caregiver burden and improve healthcare services while improving the quality of life among older adults with mild to severe cognitive deficits.

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 50+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established medical devices companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of intelligent assistive devices.

Key players in intelligent assistive devices – 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 intelligent assistive devices

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Samsung Group 159 Unlock company profile
Toyota Motor 116 Unlock company profile
Panasonic 91 Unlock company profile
Murata Manufacturing 89 Unlock company profile
Evolution Technologies 85 Unlock company profile
Funai Electric 55 Unlock company profile
Beijing Electronics Holding 48 Unlock company profile
Wistron 43 Unlock company profile
LG 43 Unlock company profile
JTEKT 39 Unlock company profile
ProtoStar 31 Unlock company profile
Medline Industries 26 Unlock company profile
Otto Bock Holding 25 Unlock company profile
Cyberdyne 25 Unlock company profile
Japan Wool Textile 25 Unlock company profile
Ossur hf 23 Unlock company profile
Parker Hannifin 22 Unlock company profile
Ekso Bionics Holdings 22 Unlock company profile
AMG Medical 22 Unlock company profile
Midea Holding 21 Unlock company profile
Suncall 18 Unlock company profile
Honda Motor 18 Unlock company profile
International Business Machines 16 Unlock company profile
Baxter International 16 Unlock company profile
Sunrise Medical 13 Unlock company profile
HaptX 11 Unlock company profile
OPUM Technologies 10 Unlock company profile
Roam Robotics 10 Unlock company profile
Space Bio-Laboratories 10 Unlock company profile
EW Healthcare Partners 10 Unlock company profile
Toray Industries 9 Unlock company profile
Motivo 9 Unlock company profile
Hocoma 9 Unlock company profile
ReWalk Robotics 9 Unlock company profile
Drive Medical Canada 9 Unlock company profile
BAE Systems 8 Unlock company profile
Sony Group 8 Unlock company profile
Ford Motor 8 Unlock company profile
Yaskawa Electric 8 Unlock company profile
Jgb Collateral 8 Unlock company profile
medica Medizintechnik 7 Unlock company profile
SRI International 7 Unlock company profile
Koninklijke Philips 7 Unlock company profile
Sharp 7 Unlock company profile
NeoSensory 6 Unlock company profile
Invacare 6 Unlock company profile
WearWorks 6 Unlock company profile
Spanish National Research Council 6 Unlock company profile
Fujikura 5 Unlock company profile
NEC 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Samsung Group and Toyota Motor are two of the leading patent filers in intelligent assistive devices. Some other leading patent filers include Panasonic, Murata Manufacturing, Evolution Technologies, NC, Funai Electric, Beijing Electronics Holding, Wistron, and LG.

In terms of application diversity, Baxter International leads the pack, followed by WearWorks and Toray Industries. With regards to geographic reach, EW Healthcare Partners holds the top position, followed by Space Bio-Laboratories and Fujikura in the second and third spots, respectively.

A considerable percentage of caregivers and older individuals lack access to intelligent assistive technologies (IAT) due to a variety of issues, including socioeconomic position, technology literacy, and the ongoing digital divide. Existing and upcoming IATs for caregivers and care recipients must be evaluated for their potential to benefit the overall target group.

To further understand how robotics is disrupting the medical devices industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Robotics in Medical (2021).


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.