iPhone manufacturer Foxconn is ramping up its own medical device efforts

By Brian Dolan
Sotera Wireless's ViSi Mobile monitor. Sotera Wireless's ViSi Mobile monitor.

Last year Taiwan-based electronics manufacturer Foxconn quietly acquired a stake in continuous vital signs monitoring company Sotera Wireless for an undisclosed sum. (As MobiHealthNews reported at the time, an SEC filing last April showed that Sotera had raised $20 million from undisclosed backers.) The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Foxconn is working to expand its medical device efforts through a deal with another California-based medical device maker, radiation-treatment device company Varian Medical Systems.

Foxconn told the WSJ that it expects its medical device business to ramp up from $20 million last year to $200 million in revenue come 2020.

As part of the Sotera investment, Foxconn will make the device's sensors and batteries as well as become its exclusive distributor in China. While production of the Sotera device is currently done in the US, that could move to Taiwan too. 

Sotera's main product, called ViSi Mobile, monitors blood pressure, heart rate or pulse rate, electrocardiogram (ECG) or heart rhythm, blood oxygenation level, respiration rate and skin temperature from a wearable sensor system with a wristworn screen. The system is meant to cut down on the number of wires connected to a patient in a hospital bed. The product is also intended to help clinicians keep track of patients in the hospital or while patients are in transit.

While Foxconn's medical forays are making headlines this month, the company has dabbled in digital health for years.

In 2011, for example, Foxconn made an undisclosed investment in smartwatch-maker WIMM Labs. If that name is familiar, it might be because Google acquired WIMM in 2013. The company's team and technology has helped shaped Google's smartwatch strategy, which just this week shifted to make Android Gear watches less smartphone-dependent.

In mid-2013 Foxconn also started showing off its own smartwatch, which came equipped with health and fitness sensors.

Last year Foxconn injected $5.5 million into smartphone-enabled hearing device company Soundhawk, which doesn't like to call its devices hearing aids because they're not making medical devices.

Former Foxconn employees have also joined at least one digital health startup -- last year sleep tracking device company Sense mentioned it had hired former Foxconn and Garmin employees.