Qualcomm has been developing its wireless health strategy for the past decade --grooming health startups along the way, supporting a number of major mobile health events, co-founding various wireless health industry associations, and lobbying policymakers on the pertinent issues. That makes its announcement this week all the more important. It also means the industry should take note of its timing. Why now? Because, after a decade of planning, Qualcomm apparently thinks that the time is right.
This week it launched a major initiative: Qualcomm Life, a new, wholly-owned subsidiary of the company, focused on wireless health. Its first product: 2net.
"2net is a cloud-based end-to-end connectivity platform that enables us to get the data to a place where it can be accessible to application developers, service providers, and other device manufacturers," Qualcomm Life's Vice President and General Manager Rick Valencia told MobiHealthNews in a recent interview.
"This is an enabling platform," Qualcomm's Vice President of wireless health, global strategy and market development Don Jones told MobiHealthNews. "It's a b-to-b play from Qualcomm and the implication down the road here is not only making it easy to connect things to the Internet for a single device but also to make it easy for any one patient to have multiple devices simultaneously connected, simultaneously sending information, to a backend system that provides software interfaces that enable patients to self-manage and share information about their health conditions." It's also designed to meet HIPAA security requirements and is ISO 13485 certified.
Few companies have been as instrumental in guiding the development of the budding mobile health industry as Qualcomm, which is why its move to create a new wholly-owned subsidiary focused exclusively on wireless health this week was the biggest news to come out of the mHealth Summit.
Along with the 2net platform, Qualcomm Life is offering up four ways to connect health devices and medical information to the new platform. Qualcomm describes these as the four "gateways" to connecting to their platform: through a Class I FDA-listed, standalone gateway called the 2net Hub; an embedded cellular connectivity component; medical data sent from mobile phones; and an API that enables service integration between the 2net platform and a service provider's own platform.
The 2net Hub is designed to be very easy to use. For one, it's a nightlight, which is reminiscent of the gateway used by Vitality for its GlowCap medication adherence offering. When the 2net hub device is plugged in and it connects to the patient's health device, a light turns on to indicate the connection. Qualcomm said it plans to work with device manufacturers to ship the hub with the device so that the two (or more) devices are pre-paired.
Qualcomm said that the 2net hub is the best gateway for health devices that require episodic downloading of information instead of continuous or near-real-time data transmissions. Embedding cellular makes sense for devices that require more frequent data transmissions and for data that needs to be acted upon quickly -- typically critical care applications.
During the past year it seems that a new connected health device or platform has launched each week. Take your pick of wireless connectivity options -- Bluetooth, WiFi, ANT+, 3G -- and you can find at least one personal health device for managing each of the major chronic conditions that leverages it.
"The hub enables us to wirelessly enable existing devices that are in the market today without requiring manufacturers to go back through a development cycle or back through an FDA clearance process," Valencia said. Some medical device companies with Bluetooth-enabled devices in the market have many patient users that have never leveraged their device's connectivity because they don't have WiFi or other means of connectivity at home. "This hub can connect those devices," Valencia said.
Some of the 40 companies that have already signed on as partners for Qualcomm Life include: A&D Medical, Advanced Warning Systems, AirStrip Technologies, Asthmapolis, AT&T, BiancaMed, BodyMedia, Emergency Medical Services Corporation, Entra Health Systems, Ingram Micro, MidMark Corporation, Hello Health, Nonin Medical, Numera, ResMed, U.S. Preventive Medicine and Venture Corporation.
The Qualcomm Life 2net platform is currently available in the US, but the company plans to offer it in Europe sometime next year.
Qualcomm also launched a new $100 million fund carved out of Qualcomm Ventures and specifically set aside for wireless health investments. Five previous investments will be moved into the new fund, including Sotera Wireless, Telcare, AliveCor, Cambridge Temperature Concepts and WorkSmart Labs. That group already includes a wide variety of startups working in and around fitness, remote patient monitoring, chronic condition management, fertility issues, and more.
MobiHealthNews' coverage of the mHealth Summit is sponsored by Preventice.