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Autonomous systems in healthcare

Raising market value of Artificial Intelligence in health care, segmented in software, services and hardware, with services showing the highest growth. Source: Tractica

I am working, with several other people, in the preparation of the third White Paper on Symbiotic Autonomous Systems focussing on today’s use, after the first White Paper addressing the Vision and the second detailing the Roadmaps, and I am looking for contribution from industry in addition to the ones that have already joined in its preparation. If you are interested in providing a concrete testimony of use of autonomous systems please let me know and if you have updated market data please share them!

In these series of post, started few days ago discussing cobots market in manufacturing, I am setting the stage. In this post today I am looking at the health care market.


Autonomous systems in healthcare are primarily robots (including autonomous implanted devices operating on –sophisticated- algorithms fed by local sensors data, like insulin delivery reservoirs), however there is a growing interest in soft robots (software systems) that can provide health care assistance.

Artificial Intelligence is a growing component in autonomous systems for the health care domain expected to lead to a global market value of 34 billion $ by 2025 (2 billion $ in 2018) – see figure.

Autonomous robots in healthcare can be segmented in assistive, rehabilitation, humanoid, delivery, implanted, surveillance and security (these latter obviously apply to other sectors as well).

The global assistive robot market value was 359 million $ in 2018 and it is expected to reach 1.2 billion $ in 2024. A further expansion of the assistive robot market may come from humanoid robots, so far an area of research with several demonstrations, raising significant interest in Far East Asia. There is expectation of reaching a market value exceeding 5 billion $ in 2024. It is clearly a market dominated by artificial intelligence, affective computing and autonomous systems whose uptake is rooted in specific culture and that, if successful, expand to other cultures.

The global rehabilitation robot markets, 641m$ in 2018 (with cognitive and motor skill rehab having a 87.1 million $ market value in 2017), is expected to grow significantly reaching 6.4 billion $ in 2025 as autonomous robots are expected to replace part of the human therapist.  A further push in this direction might result from the emergence of digital twins, mimicking the patient functionality “before” the pathology/trauma and with applications using that starting point to develop the customised rehab protocol to be assisted by the robot.

These figures do not include exoskeleton based rehab (130 million in 2018 including exoskeleton acting as prosthetics, with several –mostly US- companies on the market), that may also gain traction in the next decade. Most of exoskeleton market is focussing in augmentation (fatigue relief) in industry, manufacturing and maintenance primarily (see 2.3).

The market of non-surgery robots in operation in the healthcare sector is expected to reach 60,000 units by 2025, from 15,000 in 2018.

The implantable device market in healthcare is huge, expected to reach 49.8 billion $ in 2024 (from 34.7 billion in 2018). Clearly, many of these devices are not smart autonomous systems but the general trend is to equip them with sensors and processing capability to support more and more sophisticated protocols.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.