SAN JOSE, Calif. — Digital healthcare will reshape hospitals, says a leading cardiologist and medical researcher. That's perhaps the brightest of many big promises from the ongoing revolution in semiconductors speakers shared at an annual industry gala here.
Sensors in and around the body could enable real-time, mobile medicine tailored to the individual, said Eric Topol, author of The Creative Destruction of Medicine, speaking at the annual and routinely inspiring awards dinner of the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA). The promise is far from the reality today, but it's still very real, he said.
"Were so far behind in healthcare, but there's something big going on," Topol told several hundred chip executives. "We haven’t even begun to leverage Moore's Law or low-cost gene sequencing, but that’s going to happen, and it will change healthcare forever."
Among a flood of still-emerging advances, Topol demonstrated the AliveCor device, displaying his cardiograph in real-time on his smartphone. "You can diagnose a heart attack at 30,000 feet -- I get emails from patients saying 'I have an arrhythmia, now what do I do?' "
He showed the results of animal research at CalTech on nano-sensors in the blood stream that can detect cells that are precursors of a heart attack. "You could know days or weeks before having a heart attack, and get a special heart-attack ring tone that hopefully won't give you a heart attack," he quipped.
Topol showed his real-time cardiograpm on a smartphone.
Genome sequencing promises personalized and thus more effective cancer treatments for tumors that vary with each patient. "We've been stuck in a 1960s view of the disease. Everything in medicine is stuck in the 1960s, but your technology will change that," he told chipmakers.
Michael Splinter, chairman of Applied Materials, called the underlying transistor "the greatest invention of the modern age." Chipmakers shrunk the key device from 10 microns to 10 nanometers in his 40-year career, making it "the most productive industry in the history of the planet," he said, picking up the SIA's annual Robert Noyce award.
"Almost every system can be made better with ICs," said Splinter who advised against making predictions that Moore's Law scaling will end. "We will always come up with new ways to increase the density of computing because the world wants and needs it -- I don't see the end of anything," said the 64-year old who made his first transistor while a college freshman at the age of 18.
The industry will spawn "huge new business opportunities from mobile, cloud, social, the Internet of Things, and the convergence of these technologies, creating data sizes we've never seen before," said John Kelly III, incoming SIA chairman and senior vice president of research at IBM. "We are just at the beginning of something great again."
I walked out of the annual event a few inches off the ground, buoyed up by the rhetoric, the roast lamb, chocolate mousse, and chardonnay. Now, a few sober days later, I still think CMOS scaling faces unprecedented challenges getting to sub-10nm, and as far as I have heard there's nothing much beyond.
That said, I'm damned proud to be even just a witness, standing on the sidelines for the past 21 years, watching the progress in this industry. And at 56 I'm ready for one of those real-time nano-sensors to monitor my heart.
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times