Connecting Life: The Role of IoT in Assisted Reproduction

IoT – Internet of Things – have become familiar words in modern technology. They have been described as “a network connecting physical objects with sensors, software and internet connectivity for data exchange.” Usually, we assume that these refer to businesses, factories and homes where items like smart switches offer comfort and convenience.

However, the limit to the Internet of Things is never ending. It even extends to healthcare and Assisted Reproduction! The need for accuracy and reliability is most important when dealing with fragile physical items such as embryos. The elements that sense, decipher, measure, scrutinise and connect are important factors in an ART (artificial reproduction technology) laboratories.

IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) involves combining a woman’s egg with a man’s sperm in a laboratory. The embryos created by these labs require control of factors such as an artificial womb, temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, as even tiny changes in the conditions can affect the embryos. With the facilities provided by IoT, laboratories can be provided with accurate data, easy accessibility, control points and alarm systems. High tech chips and sensors are lodged in the equipment which scan and record the data, allowing accurate and ready attainability at any time. For real-time monitoring (continuously updated data where there is minimal delay between data collection and analysis), IoT systems present graphic data, based on cloud or web applications. This makes it easier to understand how the system works.

The alarm system can notify the relevant people via automated calls, SMS or email. In case there is no response, it can alert senior management as well. Data collected on an automated, actual insight system prevents the risk of human errors. The technology can maintain quality control at all times.

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Blockchain technology is a progressive database appliance which shares transparent information within a network. As the name implies, the database stores data in blocks which are connected by a chain. According to the National Institute of Health, “Commercial blockchain solutions are already seeking to provide distributed frameworks to enable privacy-preserving, collaborative machine learning, and guarantee traceability and authenticity of data using a distributed ledger in assisted reproduction.”

MEMS (Micro electro mechanical systems) are used in various sensors such as pressure, vibration, temperature and chemical. They enable the wearable IoT – “smart” devices which, when worn, can track biometric data such as heart rate, daily exercise, sleep patterns, etc.

Cyber security applications protect devices and data from cyber attacks, such as hackers. Encrypting (protecting data with a code) while the data is in transit between the IoT appliance and the final system makes the data inaccessible.

However, even with all the modern technology and progressive methods, risks of security and internet failure should always be taken into account. IoT devices are a target for botnets, by infecting malware into systems. That is why it is imperative that, even with IoT support, the professional embryologists should ensure that their knowledge and expertise is updated at all times.

We, at Andrology Center, play a part in the process of ART (assisted reproduction technology) by carrying out the basic semen analysis test and an additional advanced DFI (sperm DNA fragmentation) test. We are the only laboratory in India authorised to provide the genuine SCSA® (Sperm chromatin structure assay) test. Our state of the art equipment and technology ensure that accurate results are guaranteed and standardised, clinically relevant reports are provided. These, in turn, help the fertility specialist and clients to make a choice of the best treatment method.