A wearable sensor device for home health monitoring from Philips.
Philips

A new way of thinking about R&D has prompted Philips to move its U.S. R&D center to Cambridge, Mass.

By Stacey Higginbotham
May 19, 2015

Dutch company Philips is heading to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge. The company has signed a $25 million, five-year research alliance with the university and is moving its U.S. R&D headquarters to Cambridge, Mass. from its current headquarters in Westchester County, New York where it’s been for the last 67 years.

“The old headquarters were founded very much on this older philosophy of R&D where you needed to be in a quiet place for research and then you handed your ideas to the business for commercialization,” said Henk van Houten, executive vice president & general manager, Philips Research.

But now that philosophy has changed and R&D must be more integrated with the business, as well as with startups and other potential partners in big businesses and academia. Given that Philips will focus on lighting and healthcare technology for its R&D, Boston makes a considerable amount of sense, especially on the health side. There are plenty of academics who can parse data as well as research hospitals willing to explore how the combination of sensors, connected technology, and predictive algorithms can come together to help deliver better patient care, especially in the home.

Remote patient monitoring and helping address the management of chronic diseases, such as Philips’ work with managing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), are top research priorities. Other projects might include helping develop better machine learning for ultrasound, so it can be used as a diagnostic tool by those who are not doctors, said van Houten. On the connected lighting front, the main research areas would center around smart cities initiatives, where street lighting takes on multiple roles.

For example, when a city replaces a street light with an LED, it may also add a sensor that monitors air quality or traffic. Those new sensors can add context to the streetscape that help city managers understand the life of the city a bit better and react accordingly. In some cities police can be called to manage crowds before problems develop, and in others the lights can automatically brighten in response to the presence of people walking on the sidewalks below.

With the help of MIT scientists, who knows what else Philips can come up with?

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