Monday 28 May 2007

Qualcomm and Healthcare

Qualcomm is diversifying its portfolio by starting a MVNO focussed on healthcare. An article that appeared on Wireless Week has some interesting information on this.
Qualcomm is preparing to launch a standalone mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) company focused on healthcare, although designed to have a broad consumer appeal.

The new company, which was incorporated recently under the name LifeComm, was created by Qualcomm and several other, unnamed, partners. Don Jones, who is vice president of business development for QUALCOMM's' health and life sciences unit, says the MVNO likely will launch commercially sometime in the second half of 2008.

Although the MVNO will have a healthcare focus, Jones says it plans to have applications and services designed to help consumers maintain their personal health as well as more specialized medical uses.
"We don't see it as just health care," he says, because the MVNO also will offer services for wellness, fitness, and health maintenance.

The specific applications and services the MVNO will offer have not been determined, but Jones says the company wants to establish a brand known to provide services for anyone interested in his or her health. The target audience, he says, is predominantly going to be women ages 40 to 65 because they are "influencers" when it comes to health.

Services could involve fitness, weight management or reduction, diabetes management, and monitoring heart health, including hypertension and congestive heart disease.

LifeComm already is talking to handset manufacturers about designing phones with consumer appeal but with the capability of linking to the MVNO's special applications and services, Jones says. One of the plans is to have handsets that would create a personal area network that could communicate with medical devices such as heart and blood pressure monitors. They also could connect to consumer devices like pedometers. Some of Qualcomm's partners in the MVNO are medical device manufacturers.

Jones also talks about using innovative devices like "wireless Band-Aids," which stick to the skin and monitor some bodily functions. Such devices are in use now for mobile health care, as well as wireless pacemakers, remote electrocardiograms and wireless blood glucose meters.

LifeComm expects to close on a bridge loan in the next few weeks to provide initial funding as a separate company. Jones says the company will then start pulling together an executive team and will do additional market research.

LifeComm has an agreement with a CDMA wireless carrier to provide network services for the MVNO, although Jones says he cannot announce which carrier. He did say the MVNO expects to use Qualcomm's BREW platform, which is the platform used by Verizon Wireless. The MVNO also will use assisted-GPS for location services.

This isn't the first time that Qualcomm has spun off a separate company to take advantage of technology it has developed. The latest example was MediaFLO USA , which is building a nationwide network for mobile broadcast TV services.

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