(Image via Shutterstock)
(Image via Shutterstock)

A white-coated primary care physician walks into an exam room and greets a waiting patient, who promptly lists his symptoms. The doctor listens attentively and maintains eye contact while the Google Glass device she is wearing records the patient’s words. As the patient speaks, the doctor can also see his vitals from the last two visits as well as recent test results and current prescriptions. A blood pressure cuff and heart-rate monitor feed data into the doctor’s field of vision, allowing for comparison with previous monitoring. The doctor notices a pattern that might indicate a dosage problem with a medication could be causing blood pressure to drop. She asks the patient more detailed questions and accesses, via Glass, information about the drug, confirming her suspicions without breaking the flow of patient interaction. She is able to offer analysis and a plan for dosage adjustments. The patient is relieved his symptoms were taken seriously and that he has a plan. After the patient leaves, the doctor moves on, having already transmitted the new prescription to the pharmacy and captured the visit notes in the patient’s electronic medical record.
This scenario is an example of the Internet of Things (IoT) in action. Not yet mainstream, it is feasible with technology from the digital health startup Augmedix. Its hands-free solution can enhance the way physicians and other medical personnel interact with patients.
Technology for capturing patient visits promises to free doctors from the burden of data entry and updating medical records, which consumes more than two hours of the average professional’s workday, Augmedix estimates. Meanwhile, the feed of information into the doctor’s Glass screen promises to let physicians remain present and undistracted during limited patient face time.
As digital health options proliferate, technology will free physicians from back-office burdens and reduce inefficiencies.
What we find most interesting and promising about examples like Augmedix is how they highlight a paradox inherent in connected devices and the Internet of Things: although technology aims to weave data streams without human intervention, its deeper value comes from connecting people. By offloading data capture and information transfer to the background, devices and applications can actually improve human relationships. Practitioners can use technology to get technology out of the way—to move data and information flows to the side and enable better human interaction.
Using data connectivity to better understand and support humans can drive new growth for the companies that develop products and services. Machines and sensors are already continuously and passively gathering, transmitting, and sharing data from which we could derive insights to design new and improved products and services. Mashups of data about individuals, public Big Data, proprietary data, and other internal data sources could enable us to anticipate customer needs based on time and geography and offer new, valuable services.
Yet an analysis of enterprise IoT implementations between 2009 and 2013 reveals that only 13 percent targeted revenue growth on innovation. Instead, most focused on incremental cost saving. Consumer IoT, meanwhile, has focused on wearables and slick interfaces that seem more novelty than solutions to real problems.
Deloitte predicts one billion IoT devices will be sold in 2015—60 percent of them to enterprises. This proliferation of consumer and enterprise connected devices offers an opportunity to build deeper understanding of how we will use a wide range of products.
Consider emerging digital health coaching applications such as Prevent, a pre-diabetes behavioral-modification program from Omada Health, or Rise, a nutrition and weight-loss coaching program. While each currently only pulls data from limited sources, these applications have the potential ability to gather constant, real-time, contextual data streams from largely passive machine-to-machine communications (such as a consumer’s wearable device, smart phone, and digital scale) to inform advice and interventions given by a live health coach. This kind of ongoing data-augmented human assistance could contrast starkly with the limited, self-reported stats and sporadic contact most individuals presently have with health care professionals.
Taken across a sizable population, such constant, real-time contextual data flows should allow better products and services to be developed. IoT applications and consumer-oriented wearables, smart devices, and sensored machines are creating an avalanche of data.
A few months ago, we wrote about the convergence of atoms and bytes, and posited that digital technology is most powerful when it is married back into the physical world in ways that create new value and insights from the collision of disparate data.
Solutions like Augmedix are showing how connected devices can lead companies to more sustained and deeper relationships with customers, business partners, and their own workforce to drive revenue growth, open up new markets, and develop better products and services.
The companies that figure out first how to aggregate relevant data from multiple sources and then nurture broader ecosystems of third party analytics tools to mine this data will have an awesome opportunity. Rather than just “pushing” more products and services to customers, they could become trusted advisors; customers will rely upon them to show how to create more value from the data.
The data aggregation platforms that ultimately emerge from the IoT jungle of today will represent powerful “influence points,” enabling the owners of these platforms to create and capture significant new economic value.

John Hagel III, director at Deloitte Consulting LLP, is the co-chairman of the Deloitte Center for the Edge based in Silicon Valley. John Seely Brown is the independent co-chairman of the Deloitte Center for the Edge.