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Scientific Discovery and the Future of Medicine
January 27, 2015

Digital Medical Tools and Sensors

Author Affiliations
  • 1The Scripps Translational Science Institute, La Jolla, California
  • 2Scripps Health, La Jolla, California
  • 3The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California
JAMA. 2015;313(4):353-354. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.17125

Until now, most of the effect of the digital era in the practice of medicine has been confined to electronic health records. But that is about to undergo a radical transformation in the next 5 years.

Moore’s law, the prediction in 1965 that there would be a doubling of transistors in a chip every 2 years, has relentlessly marched on. Now, in parallel, there is a doubling every 5 years of the number of mobile devices connected via the Internet, leading to approximately 50 billion in 20201 (Table). This leads to the projection that in the next 5 years there will be almost 7 connected devices per individual. Part of the exponential growth of the Internet of Things (advanced interconnectivity between systems and services) comprises sensors, which are increasingly being embedded into smartphones and wearable devices. That it is now possible to pack 19 million transistors into 16 nm explains how there are more than 2 billion transistors in some current smartphone models. It is not just about the hypercompression of transistors into integrated circuits; it is the remarkable decline in cost. That combination has led to smartphones that cost $35 with all the essential capabilities of the ones that are priced at more than $500 and to the projection that more than 90% of all individuals in the world older than 6 years will have a mobile phone device by 2020.2

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