Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

10 ways mobile technology will save your life in the future

By medical futurist Bertalan Mesko, Special to CNN
February 25, 2014 -- Updated 1025 GMT (1825 HKT)
A 3D printed prosthetic arm is displayed in the Science Museum on October 8, 2013 in London, England.
A 3D printed prosthetic arm is displayed in the Science Museum on October 8, 2013 in London, England.
  • Augmented reality, 3D printing and nanorobots help advance medical care
  • The future should balance innovative technologies with the human touch, Mesko says
  • He outlines the tech trends most likely to change our lives, now or in the near future

Editor's note: Bertalan Mesko is a medical futurist, geneticist, international speaker and consultant. He is the founder of, a site that curates medical social media resources for patients and medical professionals, the author of the Social Media in Clinical Practice handbook. Follow him on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely his.

(CNN) -- The medical and healthcare sectors are in the midst of rapid change, and it can be difficult to see which new technologies will have a long-lasting impact.

Ideally, the future of healthcare will balance innovative medical technologies with the human touch. Here, I've outlined the trends most likely to change our lives, now or in the near future.

Augmented reality becomes real

Bertalan Mesko
Bertalan Mesko

Google Glass has already been used to live-stream a surgery, from the surgeon's perspective. Such augmented reality devices will in the future be able to display the patient's electronic medical records real-time, organize live consultations and call the ambulance to the exact GPS location in emergency situations.

While Google Glass can be controlled through voice and hand gestures, digital contact lenses will be controlled with brain waves. Patients could go through an upcoming operation step-by-step via virtual reality or choose a hospital based on its "virtual experience" package.

Artificial intelligence in medical decision-making

The knowledge of even the most acclaimed professors cannot compete with cognitive computers. The amount of medical information is growing exponentially, and the use of such solutions in assisting medical decision-making is inevitable.

Robot offers doctors a helping hand
Doctor's office in a box
New tech toys from the future

IBM's supercomputer "Watson" can process over 200 million pages in one second and is being used by more and more institutions.

Nanorobots in the bloodstream

For years, nanotechnology has presented the possibility of using nanotech devices in treating diseases. Now, it is time for nanotechnology to live up to expectations. Nanorobots in the bloodstream could intervene even before the disease appears. They could keep tissues safely oxygenated after a heart attack, specifically target cancer cells, or remove platelets.

Eventually, modules that self-assemble inside the stomach could perform more sophisticated diagnosis and treatment.

The 3D printing revolution comes to medicine

As 3D printing becomes mainstream, it will upend the pharmaceutical industry and the world of biotechnology -- although regulation will be a challenge.

3D printing will enable the creation of medical devices in underdeveloped areas, and customize prostheses and exoskeletons. It will also enable the production of biomaterials such as kidney or heart tissues, drugs and eventually living cells.

Printing out organs that can replace a non-functioning organ in its full physiological capacity will eradicate waiting lists.

Free genome sequencing for everyone

Printing out organs that can replace a non-functioning organ in its full physiological capacity will eradicate waiting lists.
Bertalan Mesko

As the cost of sequencing the human genome has been declining and the availability of sequencers has been rising, accessing our own genome will not only be cheaper than a routine blood test, but will eventually be free -- although analysis will still be expensive. In the future personal genomics can be applied to patients, meaning they will get drugs and dosages customized to their own genomic code.

Eventually it will be possible to detect preventable diseases in fetal DNA obtained from the mother's bloodstream.

Real-time diagnostics

The intelligent surgical knife, iKnife, identifies in real-time whether the tissue is malignant.

This means a biopsy will not have to be sent to the pathology lab. It is hoped the Tricorder XPrize will lead to the development of a portable, wireless device that can monitor and diagnose several diseases, as seen in the TV series Star Trek. The ultimate goal is to give individuals more choices in their own health.

The wearable laboratory

An era of wearable medical devices is coming. Scanadu can measure basic health parameters such as body temperature or blood pressure by putting it to the forehead. AliveCor measures ECG, Tellspec detects allergens, chemicals and nutrients in the food, tooth-embedded sensors can recognize jaw movements and even smoking.

Plenty of laboratory methods and procedures will be available at home which could also mean the detection of diseases at an early stage, making intervention more effective. Patients will bring the data to the doctor on any device they use, creating a new role of digital health data analyst.

CNN Explains: 3-D printing
High-tech strategies to fight STDs

Call a nurse or a humanoid robot

With the growing number of elderly patients and the global shortage of caregivers, humanoid robots could be able to provide basic care, for example serving as companions for sick children or teaching kids with autism.

A robot nurse assistant will be able to combines robotics and image-analysis technology to find a good vein on the patient's arm and draw blood in a safe way. Robots will also be used in remote surgery, simulation and training.

Operating rooms will have no people inside except the patient, and surgical instruments will be so precise that instead of manual control, mechatronic tools will be needed to reach the required accuracy.

The connected global brain

Medical communication affects patients and medical professionals worldwide, without exception. Social media, along with connected digital healthcare devices and services, have the potential to become a huge "digital brain" making it possible to transmit, share, crowdsource and store medical pieces of information.

In the near future, whether it is medical information, curated dynamic resources or medical records, the required information will be available to everyone.

This will be the most important development in the history of medicine, and this is why we have to train doctors do be ready for the digital era.

Predictive algorithms and gamification in medical records

Gamification seems to be the key in persuading people to live a healthy lifestyle, or stick to the therapy they have been prescribed. HapiFork measures whether you eat properly, while a smart bra spots cancer in time.

FitBit, Shine and Lumosity are designed to help us live a healthy life by measuring our lifestyle and gamifying the steps required for making positive changes.

Read more: This is your future
Read more: What will the next 10 years of innovation reveal?
Read more: From Star Trek to Siri

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Bertalan Mesko.

Part of complete coverage on
Mobile World Congress
March 13, 2014 -- Updated 1157 GMT (1957 HKT)
Mobile World Congress spans the full spectrum of untethered gadgetry, from the next generation of mobile phone networks to wireless charging technology.
February 26, 2014 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
Big Data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it.
February 26, 2014 -- Updated 1106 GMT (1906 HKT)
After three-plus years, the world's largest social media outlet is pulling the plug on its little-used e-mail service.
February 26, 2014 -- Updated 1446 GMT (2246 HKT)
Mobile World Congress returned to form this year, with Samsung, Sony, and Huawei all choosing to launch flagship devices in Barcelona. These are my picks from the show:
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
Mobile World Congress begins in Barcelona Monday and amid the hoopla of new super-phones, largely unknown technologies will be revealed. And it will be these that change our lives.
February 24, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
With a lack of gender diversity in the tech sector, the time has come to make women in ICT a norm rather than the exception
February 25, 2014 -- Updated 1025 GMT (1825 HKT)
The medical and healthcare sectors are in the midst of rapid change, and it can be difficult to see which new technologies will have a long-lasting impact.
February 25, 2014 -- Updated 2026 GMT (0426 HKT)
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said WhatsApp was "worth more than $19 billion" during a speech given at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona Monday.
February 24, 2014 -- Updated 1944 GMT (0344 HKT)
Sony has announced a tie-up with the estate of Michael Jackson, allowing them to use his music to promote the release of a new smartphone.
May 1, 2014 -- Updated 1929 GMT (0329 HKT)
Financial transactions have always been at the heart of our society, but growing smartphone and Internet penetration are inspiring new, disruptive approaches.
February 24, 2014 -- Updated 1039 GMT (1839 HKT)
Google has heard all the concerns about Glass, its digital headset expected to hit the market by the end of the year.
February 18, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
Looking for a new way to reach your fitness goals? Now's the time to check out some of the hottest fitness apps as 2014 gets underway.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1710 GMT (0110 HKT)
What if Facebook spent $19 billion on something and most people never noticed?
The Philips Fluid concept phone has a bendy organic light-emitting diode, which means it can be wrapped around the wrist as a watch or bracelet or used as a normal mobile phone.
See full coverage from the world's biggest mobile technology conference in Barcelona, Spain.