According to the WIPO Technology Trends Report 2021: Assistive Technologies, over 1 billion people currently need assistive technology – a figure expected to double in the next decade as populations age. At the same time, consumer electronics and assistive products are converging, meaning even greater commercialization of these technologies.
The report uses patent and other data to provide solid, factual evidence on innovation in the global assistive tech landscape, creating a knowledge base to inform and support business leaders, researchers and policy-makers in their decision-making. It finds that China, the U.S., Germany, Japan and the Republic of Korea are the five main origins of innovation in assistive technology.
- The Tech Trends report identified more than 130,000 patents related to conventional and emerging assistive technologies published between 1998 and mid 2020, with 15,592 filings on emerging assistive technologies alone in the period.
- Filings in emerging assistive technology – including assistive robots, smart home applications, wearables for visually impaired and smart glasses – have grown three times faster (17% average annual growth rate, or AAGR, during the period 2013-2017 for first filing, with the publication of patent applications occurring 18 or more months later) than in conventional assistive technology. Innovations in conventional technologies include improvements and accessories of well-established products like wheelchair seats or wheels adjusted for different terrains, environmental alarms and Braille-enabled devices.
- Two fast-growing areas in emerging assistive tech are environment (42% AAGR) and mobility (24% AAGR). Emerging environment technologies include navigation aids in public spaces and assistive robots. Emerging mobility tech includes applications like autonomous wheelchairs and advanced prosthetics.
- The assistive technology field is converging with consumer electronic goods and general medical technologies. Technologies developed for persons with functional limitations are increasingly applied to mainstream products. For example, bone conduction technology that can assist with hearing impairment can also be used in runners’ headsets.
- A technology readiness level assessment showed that most emerging assistive technologies are in development phase, while 18% are already commercialized.
- Corporate players are leading the development of assistive technology including specialized assistive tech companies such as WS Audiology, Cochlear, Sonova, Second Sight and Össur. Electronic consumer goods companies (like Panasonic, Samsung, IBM, Google and Hitachi) and car industry companies (Toyota and Honda) are also major players.
- Universities and public research organizations are more prominent in the emerging assistive technology dataset (23% of patent applicants versus 11% in the conventional), and are particularly active in the field of mobility (34% of patent applicants).
Full Text Report
272 pages; PDF
14 pages; PDF.
See Also: More Reports in the Tech Trends Series