The Internet of Things (IoT) is full of promises to transform everything from transportation to building maintenance to enterprise security. But no field may have more to gain than the healthcare industry. Healthcare providers and device makers are all looking to the IoT to revolutionize the gathering of healthcare data and the delivery of care itself.\nBut while many of those benefits are already becoming reality, others are still on the drawing board. Two very different IoT healthcare stories crossed by desk this month \u2014 taken together they provide a surprisingly nuanced picture of healthcare IoT.\n\nSmart bandages still in prototype\nFirst, I was excited to hear about the development of advanced prototypes of \u201csmart bandages.\u201d Developed by researchers at Tufts University using flexible electronics, these smart bandages not only monitor the conditions of chronic skin wounds, but they also use a microprocessor to analyze that information to electronically deliver the right drugs to promote healing. By tracking temperature and pH of chronic skin wounds, the 3mm-thick smart bandages are designed to deliver tailored treatments (typically antibiotics) to help ward off persistent infections and even amputations, which too often result from non-healing wounds associated with burns, diabetes, and other medical conditions.\nSameer Sonkusale, Ph.D., professor of electrical and computer engineering at Tufts University\u2019s School of Engineering, a co-author of Smart Bandages for Monitoring and Treatment of Chronic Wounds, said in a statement: \u201cBandages have changed little since the beginnings of medicine. We are simply applying modern technology to an ancient art in the hopes of improving outcomes for an intractable problem.\u201d\n Tufts University \n\nResearchers at Tufts University are developing smart bandages to monitor skin wounds and deliver treatments.\n\n\nIt\u2019s unclear if Tufts\u2019 smart bandages will be internet connected, but the potential benefits of an IoT connection here seems obvious. Individual users could have their wounds\u2019 progress monitored more easily, with changes in treatment proscribed as needed, whether or not they\u2019ve been seen by a healthcare provider. Researchers, meanwhile, could gather real-time data on wound healing and the efficacy of various treatments.\nBut while the smart bandages have been tested in the lab, they have yet to undergo clinical trials, and there\u2019s no telling how long it will take for them to reach actual patients, or how much they will cost.\nNot-so-smart speakers give bad medical advice\nWhile the world waits for smart bandages to show up in the local pharmacy, we\u2019re already able to get medical advice from digital assistants and \u201csmart speakers\u201d such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple\u2019s Siri. Unfortunately, it turns out that advice isn\u2019t always very good.\nA recent in-depth article in Quartz warns that Alexa is a terrible doctor. The problem is that IoT devices are connected to the internet, and as authors Katherine Ellen Foley and Youyou Zhou point out, \u201cMany of the internet\u2019s answers to health-related questions tend to be far-reaching or vague.\u201d And asking a smart speaker like Alexa is even worse: \u201cAlthough she is wonderfully helpful with basic questions, her knowledge of the complex medical world is limited, and Alexa generally only serves up one answer.\u201d\nWorse, the source of that answer can vary widely. If you ask Alexa to search on a health-related question, you\u2019ll likely get an answer from Wikipedia or WebMD. But the authors note that there are also 1,000 health-related skills on Amazon, ranging in quality from \u201ccumbersome at best [to] peddlers of pseudoscience at worst.\u201d Many carry disclaimers that their information is \u201cfor entertainment purposes only,\u201d but that\u2019s unlikely to stop people from relying on them for medical advice.\nOne doctor interviewed by the Quartz authors said, \u201cThe treatment advice offered by the Alexa skills was generally fine, but could be dangerously unsuitable for specific groups of patients,\u201d depending on allergies or pre-existing conditions. Another was even more dismissive: \u201cThese answers all sound like they just extract information from Wikipedia (which contains a lot of incorrect information) using very simple \u2018yes\u2019 or \u2018no\u2019 algorithms. Based on my judgment, these are all bad responses.\u201d\nHealthcare IoT stuck in the waiting room\nOK, so relying on your smart speaker for medical advice probably isn\u2019t a good idea. That seems fairly obvious. But that\u2019s basically what the IoT actually offers right now. And those cool smart bandages? Who knows when they\u2019ll be on store shelves. Unfortunately, that dichotomy could describe the overall state of healthcare IoT: lots of cool stuff in development, but be wary of what\u2019s available now.