During a keynote at the CTIA Wireless event here in Las Vegas, Verizon Chairman and CEO Ivan Seidenberg mentioned the mHealth opportunity for the wireless industry a number of times. It could help push the industry to 500 percent penetration, he said.
Seidenberg announced that Verizon Wireless, which Verizon partially owns, is launching a new 4G innovation center for its next generation network in partnership with Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson. The center aims to foster products for the healthcare, utility and security verticals. Seidenberg said the center will follow the model of its Open Development Lab, which launched two years ago. The ODL has certified 36 devices to date, Seidenberg said, including a device for utility companies that monitors energy consumption and a wireless tablet for the healthcare industry, which helps clinicians access patient data in real-time from a portable medical chart. Motion Computing just announced that its F5 rugged tablet PC and the C5 Mobile Clinical Assistant are available for use on the Verizon Wireless mobile broadband network--it seems likely Seidenberg was referencing Motion's C5.
While Verizon Wireless has yet to disclose expectation for download speeds on its 4G network powered by Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology, the carrier announced earlier this year that field trials had demonstrated download rates of 50 to 60 megabits per second. The LTE network should see a commercial launch next year. Does that mean it's soon time for mobile video consultations with doctors? We'll see.
Seidenberg also noted that while the U.S. is fast approaching a penetration rate north of 90 percent of the population using mobile phones, the opportunity to reach 500 percent penetration is possible thanks to embedded devices and machine-to-machine (M2M) services. Seidenberg specifically pointed to connected medical devices like wireless-enabled glucose monitors as just one example of an embedded device that could increase the wireless penetration rate to 500 percent in the next few years. Sounds good for wireless carriers--five devices or connected "things" per person in the U.S., but hopefully many of the mHealth services leverage peripherals that connect to a common platform and master device like a smartphone.