BlackBerry and health IT firm NantHealth plan to release a smartphone targeted at the health sector later this year or early in 2015, according to Reuters.
The news came as part of a broader announcement between the two companies under which BlackBerry is taking an undisclosed stake in NantHealth, a US firm specialising in cloud and mobile-based health services.
The statement about a health device was made by Jim Mackey, BlackBerry’s head of corporate development and strategic planning.
They fit with comments by BlackBerry CEO John Chen during Mobile World Congress that the vendor might develop vertical-specific devices. Healthcare was the sector he mentioned as having potential for such a device.
In addition, the two companies will jointly develop new health services to which BlackBerry will contribute its QNX operating system and BBM Protected, its proposed secure messaging service.
NantHealth is the vehicle of Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong (pictured), who made a fortune in pharmaceuticals before diversifying into health IT. NantHealth’s IT platform is installed in about 250 US hospitals.
BlackBerry is not NantHealth’s first exposure to the mobile industry. US operator Verizon also made an investment in NantHealth back in 2012. And Vodafone signed an MoU with parent NantWorks the previous year to develop mobile data services for remote patient care.