The healthcare industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by telemedicine, real-time diagnostics, smart hospitals and access to digital therapies, and the growing importance of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), augmented reality (AR), robotics and data management practices. In the last three years alone, there have been over 106,000 patents filed and granted in the healthcare industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Internet of Things in Healthcare: Smart surgical instruments.

However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

200+ innovations will shape the healthcare industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the healthcare industry using innovation intensity models built on over 443,000 patents, there are 200+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, smart helmets, body temperature sensors, and Software as a Medical Device (SaMD) are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Smart balloon catheters, point-of-care molecular diagnostics, and automated immunoassay analysers are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are Smart contact lenses and GPS integrated fitness monitors, which are now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for Internet of Things in the healthcare industry

Smart surgical instruments is a key innovation area in Internet of Things

Smart surgical instruments are the next generation of medical tools with soft electronic systems, sensors and actuators, that enable surgeons to perform surgical procedures in a minimally invasive manner with improved accuracy, diagnostics and accessibility. These multifunctional instruments reduce tissue damage and scarring and could serve as a substitute for traditional surgery tools that require extensive training to be used.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 30+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established healthcare companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of smart surgical instruments.

Key players in smart surgical instruments – a disruptive innovation in the healthcare industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to smart surgical instruments

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Johnson & Johnson 1189 Unlock company profile
Medtronic 225 Unlock company profile
Waters 175 Unlock company profile
Koninklijke Philips 166 Unlock company profile
Boston Scientific 105 Unlock company profile
Olympus 85 Unlock company profile
Intuitive Surgical 76 Unlock company profile
Aerin Medical 66 Unlock company profile
Abbott Laboratories 59 Unlock company profile
Kardium 57 Unlock company profile
Shifamed 43 Unlock company profile
Stryker 24 Unlock company profile
Medlumics 18 Unlock company profile
ERBE Elektromedizin 17 Unlock company profile
Thermo Fisher Scientific 15 Unlock company profile
Creo Medical Group 14 Unlock company profile
Becton Dickinson and Co 14 Unlock company profile
Monteris Medical 14 Unlock company profile
FIAB 12 Unlock company profile
Smith & Nephew 12 Unlock company profile
Autonomix Medical 11 Unlock company profile
Siemens 10 Unlock company profile
Avanos Medical 9 Unlock company profile
Kawasaki Heavy Industries 9 Unlock company profile
Autonomix 8 Unlock company profile
Medicaroid 8 Unlock company profile
3DT Holdings 8 Unlock company profile
CathRx 8 Unlock company profile
US Patent Innovations 7 Unlock company profile
Bracco 7 Unlock company profile
Acutus Medical 6 Unlock company profile
Rainbow Medical 6 Unlock company profile
Advanced Cardiac Therapeutics 6 Unlock company profile
CINOGY 5 Unlock company profile
APN Health 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Johnson & Johnson is the leading patent filer in the smart surgical instruments market. Some other leading patent filers include Medtronic and Waters.

In terms of application diversity, CINOGY leads, followed by Waters and Creo Medical Group. With regards to geographic reach, Autonomix Medical leads, followed by Creo Medical Group and Acutus Medical.

The surgical industry is currently being transformed by new innovations in smart surgical instruments that will dramatically advance the way surgeries are performed. These instruments provide customised therapeutic function and real-time feedback, thereby leading to a shorter surgery time. The future goal is to make them cheaper and more accessible, in order to augment surgeon’s skills and revolutionise the efficacy and speed of surgical procedures.

To further understand how Internet of Things is disrupting the healthcare industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Internet of Things (IoT) in Healthcare.


GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.