The technology industry has had to invent a multitude of buzzwords to describe the phenomenon that computing now goes with you wherever you go, and that furthermore, everything can be a computer. Hence the catch phrase: Internet of Things. These massive changes, brought about in large part by smartphone technology, are working their way into every industry, including many Route 1 area companies.
On Tuesday, April 26, the New Jersey Tech Council will hold an Internet of Things conference at Princeton University. The event will run from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. and feature speakers such as K. Hal Purdy of AT&T Labs research, Thomas Motyka of the New Jersey Innovation Institute, Jay Shapiro, CEO of Appmakr, and Joe Aranda, co-founder of August a smart home company that makes a smart lock and a doorbell camera. Tickets are $50, $125 for nonmembers. For more information, visit www.njtc.org.
Stephen Fox, a technology expert for the New York-based consulting firm Exequor Group, says a number of Route 1-based firms are making advances in the mobile computing sector.
One of the leading adopters of mobile apps in the region is the pharmaceutical business, he says. Bristol-Myers Squibb has developed about 16 apps aimed at patients and doctors. One of its most prominent inventions has the unsexy name of CML Scoring Tool in the Apple App Store. It is a program that helps newly diagnosed patients with chronic myeloid leukemia track the progression of their disease.
Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a division of Johnson & Johnson located on Trenton-Harbourton Road in Hopewell, has developed 116 different mobile apps designed to help patients. Care4Today is a program that gives patients reminders to take their medications. The reminders come in the form of social media or text notifications. It also has images of more than 20,000 different pills and tablets to help people visually identify the medication they are supposed to take — a crucial service, since medicines often change appearance between brand-name and generic versions of a product.
The pharma sector is actually a bit behind the times in adopting mobile technology, since many other industries already offer mobile apps to support their customers. “The pharmaceutical industry is slow,” Fox said. “They are not very innovative. They are basically being forced to jump on to this bandwagon because Google, Apple, FitBit, and IBM and a whole lot of other companies have realized that there is a huge vacuum in healthcare, and with new advances in technology, there is a huge opportunity to improve the way patients are managed, the way disease is diagnosed and treated, and even going back to the way clinical trials are done.”
For example, Novo Nordisk is in the midst of a project to use supercomputer technology to evaluate the effectiveness of different diabetes treatment protocols on different patients. That effort is being led by IBM and its famous Jeopardy-playing Watson computer.
“It’s revolutionary,” Fox said. Born and raised in England, the son of a carpenter and a secretary, Fox nearly took his career in an entirely different direction. While he studied science in school, he has always had a creative streak and is an avid hobby photographer.
Fox earned his bachelor’s and master’s in natural sciences from Cambridge and was the editor of his college paper. The day after he graduated, he had two job interviews: one to be a photographer for a London magazine, and the other to be a medical researcher. The photo editor canceled, so he took the research job instead. Fox went on to work for Merck, Glaxosmith-Kline, Pfizer, and other large pharmaceutical companies, where he specialized in commercial operations and IT. He has lived in America for 30 years, where he has also worked in venture capital funding and with a startup oncology company.
At his current job Fox specializes in advising life science companies. He believes technology being pioneered in Silicon Valley will have a major impact on the healthcare business in the near future.
For example, Novartis and Google have teamed up to create smart contact lenses that can monitor glucose levels by sensing the glucose in tears. The technology could give diabetes patients a better way to measure their blood sugar. Another company, Aprecia, is using 3D printing technology to manufacture high-dosage pills more effectively than traditional methods. Other companies are using virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift to create realistic training simulators for doctors.
The life science sector is just one slice of the numerous Route 1 companies that are driving mobile and Internet of Things technology forward. Universal Display Corporation, on Phillips Boulevard in Ewing, supplies the organic LED display technology used in VR headset (U.S. 1, February 18, 2015.) Car insurance company New Jersey Manufacturers is using apps to help teen drivers be safer (U.S. 1, March 9, 2016) and another startup, VESAG, has created a smart watch marketed to the elderly (U.S. 1, September 30, 2015).