YOKOHAMA, Japan — Omron, a leading electronic component supplier based in Kyoto, is best known among consumers for its home healthcare products.
However, Omron's flagship blood pressure monitor for home-use sports a decidedly low-tech look compared to a host of emerging digital medical electronics such as a wireless patch for ECG monitoring (developed by IMEC), implantable sensors for blood pressure readings (designed by Fiso Technologies), and contact lenses to treat glaucoma (developed by STMicroelectronics).
But don't be fooled, insisted Toshikazu Shiga, Omron's Mr. Healthcare, during his keynote speech on "next-generation smart healthcare" on Thursday, Nov. 21, at the Embedded Technology 2013 conference.
In order to win the next-generation smart healthcare battle, Shiga cautioned, it matters not so much what your technology can sense. More important is the exact data your technology needs to "sense, track, accumulate, analyze, and send" to doctors who are treating patients' chronic, lifestyle illnesses.
Shiga, advisory technology specialist at Omron Healthcare Co.'s R&D dept., joked that new advances such as implantable medical electronics devices pose a serious competitive challenge, at least on the surface. He said that they "look disruptive enough to blow a little company like Omron away."
Toshikazu Shiga, Omron's Mr. Healthcare
In a brief interview with EE Times after his keynote, Shiga added that Omron has been closely tracking each and every emerging medical electronics startup. He acknowledged that Omron sees them as its potential acquisition targets.
Omron is looking specifically for a company or a startup with a strong relationship with mainstream experts in the medical community, Shiga told us. "I am talking about ties with doctors who can play a central role in the medical community, not the ones working in peripherals."
Asked how well Omron itself is wired into the medical community, especially beyond Japan, Shiga said with confidence: "We are not just wired. We take a firm grip on them." He explained that decades of Omron's work on blood pressure monitors have earned the implicit trust of the majority of doctors.
Three industry groups
Shiga laid out in his speech how Omron sees the medical electronics battleground will shake out in the future.
In Omron's view, three distinct industry groups are after the healthcare market: vendors that build home-use sensing devices (e.g., Omron, Panasonic, Samsung, Sharp, Roche); network service providers and those that work on the big data in the cloud (e.g., IBM, Microsoft); and medical technology companies that build systems to control illness (e.g., General Electric, Siemens, Philips, Medtronics).