In 2021 alone, the Big Five of the tech world collectively spent over $3 billion on healthcare-related ventures and research, according to The Economist. Of this massive figure, Alphabet's share makes up the vast majority.
Google and its parent company Alphabet are currently leading in terms of both the amount of investments into healthcare research and development and the number of healthcare-related ventures.
Data provider CB Insights reports that Alphabet has spent $1.7 billion on 'futuristic health ideas' in 2022 so far. This figure dwarfs the $100 million that the other tech behemoths collectively spent on the same.
Wearables and Consumer Devices
The market for wearable technology has grown a lot in the last ten years, with fitness and health tracking features being the main USP of most such devices in the market.
Google’s 2021 acquisition of Fitbit for over $2 billion was their entry into the wearables market. Since then, the Pixel Watch has also entered the ring, with revolutionary new features.
Aside from the basic features like counting steps taken or calories burned, there are also new technologies being introduced like a sensor that can detect irregularities in the wearer’s pulse.
This sensor has recently received FDA approval, The Economist reports. Google’s Pixel phone cameras can detect heart blood oxygen levels using image processing and their smart home devices can monitor sleep patterns by listening to snoring.
Apple is another strong player in this arena, with their whole arsenal of fitness and health tracking features on the Apple Watch and iPhone.
Cloud computing and digital data processing are invaluable technologies when it comes to maintaining healthcare records. Google Health was a health record repository project that saw two separate attempts in 2008 and 2018 respectively before being dismantled.
Since then, Alphabet has entered new territories with ventures such as Care Studio, a records service introduced in 2021 that is used by around 200 doctors and clinics around America.
Apple has also dabbled in the health records field; their goal is to leverage the Apple ecosystem to partner up with healthcare providers and integrate themselves into the healthcare system.
There has been a recent surge in research into the application of machine learning and algorithmic computing in healthcare. From diagnosis to preventive measures, the possibilities are endless.
Google has a separate medical branch of its artificial intelligence wing DeepMind, which was part of an experiment in 2016 to analyse patient records from Britain's National Health Services to create diagnostic tools.
Alphabet also launched Isomorphic Labs in 2021 which is tasked with using AI to facilitate drug discovery.
All of the Big Five tech companies have dipped their hands into research into healthcare and life sciences. Apple has research programmes involving genetics and DNA testing.
Alphabet’s subsidiary Verily, founded in 2015, is a venture dedicated to researching how to extend human longevity. Microsoft Genomics is another genetics research wing that uses computational tools to aid in diagnostics and disease prevention.
Amazon has conducted massive amounts of research in the medical field to enhance its consumer-centric offerings; they have integrated their research into their devices and launched services to make medical supply chains more robust and efficient.
The healthcare industry is growing with costs rising rapidly. With traditional healthcare providers becoming increasingly dependent on technology, it is no secret that big tech will soon become an integral part of the global healthcare system.
(With inputs from The Economist)