The Healing Power of the IoT

Johnson & Johnson is applying Internet of Things technologies to streamline production while enhancing patient care. While IoT investments are not segmented as its own category at J&J, sensor-based technology is having a huge impact on how J&J makes its products as well as on how those products might interact with patients.

The company’s supply chain team is responsible for working with J&J’s R&D department to bring to life every product the company makes around the world—more than 300,000 SKUs—and to make those, test those and deliver those to customers worldwide.

One of the key areas where IoT is having an impact at J&J is within its pharmaceutical business. For decades, J&J has produced its tablets and pills through a multi-stage batch process. J&J is the first pharma company to win approval from the FDA to shift a product— Prezista, an HIV medication—from batch to continuous manufacturing. That shift is enabled by in-line sensor technology that allows the company to eliminate the separate testing and sampling steps.

J&J is the first to win FDA approval to switch from an existing batch manufacturing process to continuous manufacturing of solid oral dosage pharmaceuticals.

J&J is the first to win FDA approval to switch from an existing batch manufacturing process to continuous manufacturing of solid oral dosage pharmaceuticals. (Source: IndustryWeek)

In J&J’s vision care business, work is underway on the development of self-correcting contact lenses and other lens platforms that can provide real-time data on the health of a patient’s eyes. The company is also using IoT technology to produce contact lenses using one-third the manufacturing space at twice the rate as previously.

The company is also partnering with HP to apply 3-D printing technologies to healthcare in such areas as eye health, orthopedics and consumer products.  3-D printing could enable distributed manufacturing models and patient-specific products, therapies and solutions that deliver better outcomes, better economics and improved global accessibility.

Other uses of technology include collaborative robots, which enable complete mimicking of human articulation, allowing collaboration with a human. These robots are being used, for instance, in the support of consumer product manufacturing. J&J also has a joint venture with Verily, Google Alphabet’s Alphabet Inc.’s research organization devoted to the study of life sciences. The two companies are developing a new generation of surgical robots that would integrate medical device technology with robotic systems, imaging and data analytics.

On the medical devices front, J&J is exploring the idea of implanting sensors into artificial joints, such as knees or hips, to monitor the range of motion a patient has from the joint while in physical therapy.

IoT extends the supply chain, allowing J&J to gather data—whether it’s scanned at the patient level in a hospital or on a truck in transit to its end destination.  Sensor technology monitors temperature and transmits real-time data in the delivery of vaccines all around the world in various climates.

At the end of the day, when J&J introduces a technology into the healthcare value chain, they have to be able to assure that it will repeatably and correctly do what it purports to do.

Read more by Dave Blanchard, IndustryWeek, September 20, 2016