Who Will Build The Highways?

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I first became aware of Smart Vision Labs because of an editorial submission that landed in my inbox. A quick Google and I realized we were neighbors (by New York City standards) and so I set up a visit to see their latest gizmo, the SVOne, in action.

On the 16th floor of a blocky Madison Avenue behemoth overlooking Grand Central Station I met Smart Vision Labs co-founder Yaopeng Zhou. Zhou, an engineer who met his co-founder Marc Albanese at Boston University, guided me through a labyrinth of desks on a floor that had recently been turned into a co-working space for start ups and small businesses. Smart Vision Labs – about a dozen desks clustered humbly in the corner – have built a handheld, iOS-based tool that can measure vision imperfection and generate refraction in a matter of seconds. In other words, imagine no longer needing to schedule an eye doctor appointment when you’re scrambling for contacts and need a new prescription. Did I mention that their $4000 device replaces a machine that costs $20,000?

At this point, I was impressed. Zhou had tested the SVOne on me and within seconds told me I was a touch nearsighted, but didn’t need glasses just yet. But it wasn’t until Zhou took me into a smaller inner room that I really appreciated what they had accomplished. In this compact, nondescript office, two men sat at desks carefully arrayed with frighteningly small machine parts. One man was designing new parts digitally which would then be built in a factory in Boston. These tiny metal pieces would, by a turn of engineering magic, eventually be able to measure distances within the eye at the micron level.

In a world of software services and algorithm-driven applications, a few companies stand out as truly inventing the hardware that will redefine healthcare. In addition to the challenges of server space and flat UX design, these companies iron out the complexities of supply chain, custom factory build-outs and material shortages.

There’s nothing slight about what has been accomplished by software companies in the telemedicine space. In this issue we celebrate many of them, from Groove tele-fertility to Rezoom tele-rehab to Doctify, a specialist booking site.  These services are game changers, each it their own right.

Yet the question remains: who will build telemedicine’s physical infrastructure? Who will fashion the new bridges and roads over which big – and bigger – data will travel? If you’re on a remote island off the coast of Maryland what you need more than software is towers in order to improve bandwidth. And if you’re manning an ICU in a rural hospital in North Dakota, you may need a tele-connected robot that can go on rounds with you.

In this, our sixth issue, we celebrate the inventors, the engineers and the programmers reimagining healthcare and building the tools to get us there. We look at the women and men inventing the machines which will gather data that has never been gathered before, at a price never before imagined.

As always, if you have an editorial pitch – or simply want to drop by our new Brooklyn offices to say hello – drop me a line at Logan@telemedmag.com.


Logan has created, edited and designed healthcare publications since 2005. After redesigning and managing Emergency Physicians Monthly, he founded Emergency Physicians International in 2010, and then launched Telemedicine Magazine in 2015 where he served as writer/editor until 2018. Logan is the co-founder of The mHealth Toolbox, a project that brings practicing physicians into the conversation about innovative medical technology. Logan also served as the Director of Communications for The IFEM Foundation, the leading non-profit supporting global emergency care development.

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