Matt Ream Of Blue Spark Technologies On The Future of The Internet of Things (IoT), And How It May Improve Our Health & Our Lives

An Interview With David Leichner

David Leichner, CMO at Cybellum
Authority Magazine
15 min readDec 17, 2022

--

Learn that not all IoT technology is created equal. Be thoughtful about the projects you get involved in from the start. Just because you can connect something doesn’t mean it should. Only invest your time in technology that you believe will make people’s lives better and easier.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is beginning to become more mainstream. Millions of people use Fitbit health trackers, Nest smart thermostats, and Ring doorbell cameras, which are early examples of IoT. These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential commercial applications of IoT. IoT has the potential to change the way cities are run, the way our healthcare is managed, the way our cars communicate, and the way our supply chains and manufacturing are utilized. But how exactly will IoT improve our lives? How can it improve our health? What are the new IoT technologies that we should expect to see around the corner? How does one create a successful career in the IoT industry? In this interview series, we are talking to business leaders who are incorporating IoT into their business or who are developing IoT applications, who can share stories and perspectives about the future of IoT. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Matt Ream.

Matt Ream serves as Executive Vice President, Marketing and Innovation at Blue Spark Technologies. He is an entrepreneur with deep experience in bringing new IoT technologies to market in both large public corporations and startups. He has a BSEET in Engineering from DeVry

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started in the IoT industry?

You might say that I’ve been into the Internet of Things, since before it was called IoT for short. I’ve been a part of the IoT field since the beginning, and I’ve seen it evolve.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), which uses electromagnetic pulses to identify and trace tags on objects, was the founding technology of the IoT field, and a technology which I’ve been involved with since my early days at Omron in the 1990s. That said, IoT didn’t really take off until 2004, when Walmart announced they were going to use RFID tags to facilitate supply chain logistics and track everything in their inventory. That was really the birth of birth of IoT as we know it today.

After that, IoT kept on expanding. Initially, the term was just synonymous with RFID. But over time, it began to mean more. Technologies like Bluetooth started coming out, and we started seeing more and more connected devices. Over time, the concept of IoT morphed and expanded to include the software and features on connected devices. Today, IoT means anything that you interact with that can exchange data with other devices.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

One of the craziest moments in my career happened in the early days of Blue Spark. Our flagship product is TempTraq®, a wireless, Bluetooth-connected, adhesive patch that can be worn to continuously measure body temperature. After developing TempTraq, we decided to bring it to market. From the beginning, we’d envisioned it to be a clinical healthcare device, but we also thought there was some applicability in the retail market. We knew it would take time and clinical studies for our product to be of interest to the clinical market, whereas for retail, we could start exploring that market right away. So, back in 2015, we decided to launch TempTraq at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

We were in stealth mode with the product right up until the pre-press event, called CES Unveiled. Our website had only gone live two days before that. The morning of the CES Unveiled event, I did a Google search for TempTraq, but the search returned almost nothing. The only thing that came up was a rejected trademark application — our website didn’t even show up. But then, roughly 2 hours after we attended this huge pre-press event –with a thousand members of the press attending — I checked again: we had over 240,000 search hits on Google.

People’s interest in TempTraq was huge. One of the people who came by our booth was Joanna Stern from The Wall Street Journal. She was a tech reporter at the time and was lukewarm on the idea of kids using wearables. But then she came to our booth. She saw our product, she did a video, and in it she said “This is the future of healthcare.” That night our popularity exploded.

So, I would say, going from a product — an idea — that nobody knew about on a Friday, to a Monday morning when I was scrolling on CNN after the show and saw TempTraq listed as a top new product of 2015; that was an incredible, surreal moment for us.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell our readers about the most interesting IoT projects you are working on now?

Establishing and growing TempTraq’s presence in the clinical space has been such an interesting journey because we get to see the many ways people are using our product to improve healthcare and advance research. It’s more than a wearable continuous body temperature monitoring device: we developed it so that it could be applicable to as many people and in as many settings as possible. It’s HIPAA compliant, designed for use in both inpatient and outpatient settings, as well as being FDA- and EU-cleared for people of all ages and a Class II medical device. It’s also soft, comfortable, and sticks using an extremely gentle adhesive, so it can be worn by patients of all ages, even infants, to capture data for up to 72 hours.

We designed TempTraq to improve temperature monitoring workflows in hospitals, and the device has actually been shown to detect fever sooner than the current standard of care, which involves a nurse taking manual measurements every four hours. With TempTraq, the real-time data collected is wirelessly transmitted to the TempTraq Connect platform, which feeds into a hospital’s central monitoring station and can be accessed remotely via an app, ultimately providing more frequent and reliable temperature monitoring than the current standard.

TempTraq has already made an impact in the field of oncology, particularly for patients receiving high-dose chemotherapy, bone marrow transplant, or immunotherapy. These patients are at risk of developing life-threatening conditions that often cause a fever. For best outcomes and lower mortality rates, patients should be treated within an hour of developing a fever. With the current standard of temperature monitoring only every 4 hours, it’s unlikely that these patients get treatments at the rate that they need. In a 2021 study published in Cancer Cell, TempTraq identified a fever in cancer patients with infections an average of 18.5 hours earlier than the standard of care, triggering medical care sooner, too. Getting treatment sooner means patients are less likely to become severely ill before receiving treatment, they’re less likely to wind up in the ICU, and they’re more likely to survive the episode.

This is just one example of how using TempTraq can lead to a better standard of care and hopefully save lives in the process. We also see great potential for TempTraq to support patient care post-surgery, when risk of developing sepsis is high. Since sepsis is a severe condition that requires rapid antibiotic treatment and is associated with changes in body temperature, we hope TempTraq can be used to avert the need for ICU care and possibly death.

How do you think this might change the world?

TempTraq is part of the remote patient monitoring movement that has already begun to change the world, catalyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic, telehealth was a novelty, not thought of as something that could replace a patient coming into the office. But the pandemic changed the way that healthcare professionals approached healthcare. Facilities began using wearables to monitor patients to minimize contact and protect everyone’s safety — and they found that strategy worked really, really well. Patients liked it too, because it meant they could receive care from the comfort of their own homes. It’s all about improving the standard of care for patients and making healthcare workers’ jobs easier, and TempTraq has been at the forefront of this movement.

For example, TempTraq was used in a study carried out in March 2020, where the Sydney Local Health District created a virtual, 24/7 care facility that offered telemedicine and remote patient monitoring services to 162 COVID-positive people. Telemedicine visits happened three times a day, and the patients’ vital signs — including pulse, blood oxygen, and temperature — were measured remotely. Abnormalities in vitals triggered a visit to the doctor. In the end, this virtual program enabled meaningful care while reducing COVID-19 transmission risk to the care team. Similarly, patient outcomes were positive: very few patients required an ambulance or a visit to the emergency room, and not a single patient died. This study was just one early example of the feasibility of delivering high quality care in a mostly remote setting.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks of this technology that people should think more deeply about?

On its own, I can’t think of any Black Mirror-type drawbacks associated with the TempTraq patch; but, body temperature is just one component of a larger mechanism for monitoring patient health that is being adapted to IoT technology. Speaking as someone who’s been engrained in IoT from the beginning, and as an engineer, there’s the old adage: just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. I think that if connectedness proliferated out of control, resulting in connecting things that don’t really need to be connected, that could become a drawback. Eventually, too much connectivity could make life more complicated for everyone than it needs to be. Do you really need to get a text from your toaster when your toast is ready?

What are the three things that most excite you about the IoT industry? Why?

Right now, I’m so excited about the rate of adoption of innovative new IoT technologies and how this movement is enabling us to use existing technology in new ways.

I think it’s also really cool how some technologies that were initially developed for the consumer space are finding their ways into clinical health care spaces. In this new capacity, IoT technologies are being combined into something that can deliver more than the sum of its parts. Take a look at TempTraq, for instance: it’s a temperature sensor, but when married with a blood pressure sensor and pulse oximetry, those devices give a way better view of what’s going on with the patient as a whole.

And then a third thing I find really exciting is how we’re layering machine learning and artificial intelligence on top of IoT technology and using them to identify patterns in the data. This approach, in the healthcare space, gives providers insight into the patient’s condition that they might not have seen by looking at the data from any one of these devices in a vacuum.

What are the three things that concern you about the IoT industry? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?

One concern I have about the IoT industry is that sometimes we may be too connected. We should absolutely use connected technology to augment our lives, but using it should never complicate our lives or take away our autonomy. The best way to address this is by integrating any new technology into our everyday lives in such a way that it is simple to use and serves its purpose, while maintaining the ability to accomplish necessary tasks by alternative means in the event the technology breaks down or is temporarily unavailable.

Related to this, a second concern I have is in regards to the interface of any new technology: we can’t benefit from technologies that are difficult to use or that overwhelm us with notifications, because at some point, we’ll just stop using them. To ensure that connected technologies are benefiting us by giving us useful, usable information, we have to ensure that they are always thoughtfully designed to integrate seamlessly into their roles and into our lives

Can you share with our readers a few of the exciting future applications of IoT that you have seen?

Ultimately, the use of wearable technology makes it possible for healthcare providers to treat patients in the home where they’re most comfortable, and this leads to a few exciting possibilities:

  • Hospital In The Home — Hospitals are already driving to send patients home as early as possible. IoT enabled wearable technologies are enabling clinicians to treat patients fully in the home in the first place. Wearable technologies allow them to do this while enabling providers to deliver excellent care.
  • We all know that undergoing a medical procedure can be expensive, but part of that cost can be due to time spent as an inpatient. By making it possible for patients to go home sooner, it’ll be possible to provide healthcare at a lower cost with an equivalent standard of care.
  • Lastly, I want to zoom in on sepsis: a serious condition often the result of infection developing after surgery. Sepsis is the number one cost to hospitals worldwide, and it’s the number one cause of death for anyone who’s been in the hospital within in the last 8 days. Many instances of sepsis could be deescalated through the use of real time monitoring with wearables paired with AI and machine learning software. I’m excited to think that one day, patients might go home after surgery with software that assesses their vital signs and alerts their physician to give them antibiotics before their condition becomes serious. This kind of software has the potential to save countless lives.

Can you help articulate to our readers a few of the ways that IoT can improve our health and improve our lives?

Wearable technologies as a whole have done a lot to promote the public health initiative, not just in the hospital, but as personal devices, too. They’ve enabled people to take control of their own day-to-day health, for example through technology that helps with diabetes management, heart health, weight management. Connected devices have also done so much to encourage us to take up preventative health measures, even just getting up and moving around regularly — a simple habit that people are calling Tigger feet. By encouraging people to take charge of their own well-being and adopt better habits, IoT technology has empowered our society in a huge way.

My expertise is in product security, so I’m particularly passionate about this question. In today’s environment, hackers break into the software running IoT devices, for ransomware, to damage brands, or for other malicious purposes. Based on your experience, what should IoT manufacturing companies do to uncover vulnerabilities in the development process to safeguard their IoT products?

I think IoT developers have to follow industry best practices with respect to security of the devices, the software, and network connectivity. Organizations like the FDA have guidance on security and best practices for development of connected as well as software as a medical device. Any IoT manufacturing company should always follow those standards. Companies may also benefit from engaging with third party security firms that will do independent audits of the code and software and can do evaluations like penetration testing.

In our case, we operate in the medical device space, and product security is our number one priority with respect to the development of our systems. We developed our device and software security in accordance with the FDA’s standards. Security is also the number one priority of our customers: hospitals and pharmaceutical companies. So, as we are actively selling to those firms and we regularly undergo security audits by them.

What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The IoT Industry?

It may be easiest to share my five pointers and then tie them all together with a story afterwards. In my opinion, to create a highly successful career in the IoT industry:

  • First you need a passion for the technology to begin building your foundation. Start learning about the history of IoT, and keep in mind that it’s a dynamic field that started off as one thing, RFID, and has become much more. Now, there are also many different verticals and markets that you can go into, from MedTech devices to connected toilets. Do your research to get a feel for where you want to end up.
  • Participate in industry network networking as soon as possible. Reach out and start learning from guys like me.
  • Attend trade shows to get a sense of what people are doing right now. Keep in mind that tradeshows cater to a variety of audiences: IoT suppliers, the consumer space, the healthcare space, every different vertical, and more. If you really want to see what this technology can do, choose shows that interest you and take the opportunity to play with the technology.
  • Join some of the industry associations and organizations. These usually have annual meetings, educational resources and opportunities for you to get involved in the field. The associations you choose to join will be dependent on your company or area of interest.
  • Lastly, learn that not all IoT technology is created equal. Be thoughtful about the projects you get involved in from the start. Just because you can connect something doesn’t mean it should. Only invest your time in technology that you believe will make people’s lives better and easier.

To tie it all together, here’s my story, and this shows how entrenched I was with IoT from the start. I got my start in IoT back in the 90’s when I was hired as an RFID product manager for Japanese industrial automation firm Omron. At that time, RFID tags were selling for $250 and were used for tracking production in manufacturing. I didn’t know much about RFID at the time, but my sensei (mentor) Hiroshi ‘Chinu’ Otsuka taught me about the technology and the applications. He holds some of the earliest patents on RFID for Omron, and inspired me to get patents of my own at Zebra and Blue Spark.

In time, I got involved in the International Standards Organization (ISO), specifically working on IoT standards for RFID. I was on the U.S. groups and international groups that set some of the RFID standards that are being used in retail today, like the EPC standards. Getting involved in ISO and being involved in the process of establishing standards, I learned a lot. It also gave me the opportunity to network with other like-minded people in the industry in places like Marseilles, France, which was a good gig.

I also sat on another industry organization that focused on RFID for retail, which today is called GS1. It was the old Uniform Code Council that created the UPC code (the bar code). It’s a great organization for those entering the field to join and now encompasses barcode and RFID. By getting involved in those two groups when I did, I was on the bodies that were setting some of the earliest RFID standards.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I may be biased, but I think if I could inspire a movement, it would be to improve the healthcare industry through IoT technology. I think that IoT, including our TempTraq patch, has the opportunity to change lives, to change habits, and to provide real clinical benefits to patients if adopted in the right way. The right way, again, is not making things more complicated for patients or providers, but rather making health care better and more streamlined in general. And in time, I think that movement is going to have a significant impact on society in general.

From the normalization of telehealth and remote patient monitoring in healthcare, we’ll start seeing more diversity in health care and clinical trials. Right now, a lot of the clinical trials are based around the fact that you have to be within an hour of a major city to be part of a clinical trial, which excludes a lot of patient populations. But increasingly, the use of wearable, remote patient monitor technology is enabling decentralized clinical trials, which ultimately will give broader access to clinical trials and enable clinical research to tap into a more diverse patient population. This should allow for the development of drugs that are applicable to a much broader swath of society.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/mattream/

https://temptraq.healthcare/

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.

About The Interviewer: David Leichner is a veteran of the Israeli high-tech industry with significant experience in the areas of cyber and security, enterprise software and communications. At Cybellum, a leading provider of Product Security Lifecycle Management, David is responsible for creating and executing the marketing strategy and managing the global marketing team that forms the foundation for Cybellum’s product and market penetration. Prior to Cybellum, David was CMO at SQream and VP Sales and Marketing at endpoint protection vendor, Cynet. David is the Chairman of the Friends of Israel and Member of the Board of Trustees of the Jerusalem Technology College. He holds a BA in Information Systems Management and an MBA in International Business from the City University of New York.

--

--

David Leichner, CMO at Cybellum
Authority Magazine

David Leichner is a veteran of the high-tech industry with significant experience in the areas of cyber and security, enterprise software and communications