The announcement of Qualcomm Life’s 2net Platform, which is the first product from the chipset vendor’s new subsidiary, has unsurprisingly attracted attention. Yes, the company’s strategy of wirelessly enabling the existing base of medical devices is a bold move. However, a second aspect of the service has been less commented upon but over time could prove as least as significant as wireless connected devices.
The background is that Qualcomm Life was announced at the recent mHealth Summit in Washington DC alongside the 2net Platform and Hub. Separately, the company announced a US$100 million investment fund to invest in mobile health start-ups. These are not exactly the company’s first forays into mobile health (see here for some of its previous moves). Qualcomm has been circling healthcare for some time but this is the biggest bet it has put down so far.
The premise for the Qualcomm service is sound. The new 2Net hub connects wireless medical devices so that biometric data can be uploaded and then easily accessed by the device’s users, their physicians and healthcare providers. The hub itself plugs into a standard electric outlet and uploads data from a patient’s device via the cellular network to Qualcomm’s platform. Alternatively there are three other ways in which Qualcomm can funnel data to its platform: Medical devices which already have an embedded cellular connection; or from a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet; or an API that enables data to be sent to Qualcomm’s platform from that of a service provider.
Qualcomm is not just aiming the service at the current base of medical devices but also those on the production line in the future. The company wants to work with manufacturers so that new medical devices are shipped with the hub. That way users (many of whom would not be personally inclined to wirelessly enable their medical devices) just have to plug in the hub to have their biometric data uploaded to Qualcomm’s platform from where it is accessible by physicians and healthcare providers. The platform is designed to meet HIPAA security requirements and is also certified to meet the quality requirements of US and international healthcare regulators.
Qualcomm says forty companies are either integrating its platform or are considering doing so. So far, so good. But there is another element to Qualcomm’s new service that has been less remarked. It has not attracted so much attention but might turn out to be at least of equal importance as the headline strategy.
If the service takes off then Qualcomm will be in a position to collect significant amount of data passing through its platform. The data will be aggregated and anonymised for use by device makers, healthcare providers, apps developers and pharmaceutical companies. Here's how it might be of value: A heathcare provider could freshen up static claims-based data or obtain more insight into the incidence level of a particular disease. Both are possible with the stream of data collected from devices that Qualcomm has connected wirelessly.
Qualcomm could develop a prime role as a data aggregator (if its initial service takes off). It would enjoy a secondary revenue stream from the service. And the greater the popularity of the 2net service, the more valuable will be the cumulative data that Qualcomm gathers.
It’s a cliche that the mobile health industry is always looking for proof its services work (they had whole sessions on methodology of proof at the mHealth Summit). Potentially Qualcomm’s service can actually supply that proof with its aggregation of data flows. And put the company behind it at the centre of the mhealth industry too.
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