BlackBerry plans to integrate thousands of medical devices in India and launch a healthcare-focused smartphone in what is seen as its strategic foray into the Internet of Things market space.
BlackBerry is all set to launch a connected healthcare service platform in India in partnership with U.S.-based digital health technology firm NantHealth. The ambitious plan seeks to integrate thousands of medical devices and will also see the launch of a healthcare-focused smartphone.
“Work has started on it but we haven't finalized an official launch date,” Sunil Lalvani, managing director of BlackBerry India, told the Economic Times. “We are running trials with multiple hospitals in India. It includes integration with different hospital information systems as well as various medical equipment.”
Blackberry’s Strategic Moves
BlackBerry’s latest move comes after buying an ‘unspecified’ minority stake in NantHealth, a cloud-based health IT solutions provider. Having fallen out of favor in the smartphone race to iPhone and Google’s Android-powered devices, BlackBerry is attempting a strategic pivot toward the ‘Internet of Things’ market space.
John Chen, CEO of BlackBerry—who took charge last year—has been focusing on reorienting the organization around specialized industries that rely on embedded systems such as medical devices, electronics, industrial automation systems, network routers and other life- and mission-critical systems.
BlackBerry’s operating system QNX® already commands 53% market share in automobile entertainment systems and recently a new IEC 62304-compliant QNX® OS for Medical 1.1 version was released to help manufacturers cut costs in developing patient monitoring systems, infusion pumps, blood analysis systems, robotic surgical instruments and other safety-critical medical devices.
Simply put, BlackBerry is attempting to engineer a turnaround by making a transition from a smartphone maker to a product-turned-services provider in the Internet-of-Things era. It’s why BlackBerry’s investment into NantHealth is referred as ‘strategic’ by John Chen, as well as Patrick Soon-Shiong, Founder of NantHealth.
NantHealth’s Health IT Platform
NantHealth specializes in a cloud-based health IT platform to integrate clinical devices and facilitate a seamless end-to-end, device-to-device and doctor-to-doctor flow of actionable health information. Its platform, called cOS (Clinical Operating System), already connects more than 16,000 medical devices across nearly 250 hospitals in the world.
Both Chen and Soon-Shiong see significant market opportunities with this strategic partnership between BlackBerry and NantHealth. While BlackBerry’s QNX® is an established operating system for mission-critical medical devices in healthcare organizations, NantHealth’s cOS integrates data from devices, patients, physicians and payers. And BBM Protected will act as a secure communications platform integrating these two systems to offer safe, cloud-based medical data integration, decision support and health analytics services.
“This investment and planned collaboration align with the reliability, security and versatility of BlackBerry’s end-to-end solutions – from the embedded QNX® operating system powering complex medical devices, to secure cloud-based networks, to instantaneous information sharing over BBM Protected,” said Chen.
“NantHealth is a proven innovator in developing leading platforms that allow medical professionals to share information and deliver care efficiently. BlackBerry’s capabilities align closely with NantHealth’s and this investment represents the type of forward-looking opportunities that are vital to our future,” he added.
NantHealth’s Soon-Shiong says,
“The future of the healthcare industry requires the ability to share information securely and quickly, whether device-to-device or doctor-to-doctor anywhere and at any time. The potential to integrate BlackBerry's secure mobile communications, along with the company’s QNX® embedded technology, will put the power of a supercomputer in the palm of the caregiver's hand. Providing actionable information at the time of need will significantly improve the efficiency of healthcare and, more importantly, the efficacy of care for the patient.”
Blackberry in India
Why India? Because India is one of BlackBerry’s top 10 markets and one of the very few where its revenues are still growing. Since 2011, BlackBerry has laid off more than 9500 employees or half of its global workforce in a bid to cut costs and restructure the firm.
“India remains an extremely important region for us. Extending our leadership in enterprise mobility management (EMM) is a key to our transformation. We are seeing a great opportunity to grow our presence in India as the enterprise market here begins to embrace mobility as a vital part of doing business. India was also one of the first markets targeted for the Black-Berry Z3 and the device has been very well received by consumers,” Chen said in an Economic Times interview.
According to a market research report by Equentis Capital, healthcare organizations in India are expected to spend $1.08 billion on health IT products and services in 2014. With the Indian government increasingly focusing on the Internet of Things—due to its growing population and increasing internet penetration—BlackBerry’s QNX®-based embedded solutions will play a great role in machine-to-machine integration, Chen believes.
India is also likely to be one of the earliest markets where a healthcare-focused smartphone built jointly by BlackBerry and NantHealth may be launched. The device will have healthcare-specific capabilities such as optimized 3D image and CT scan display, in addition to standard smartphone features.
BlackBerry’s foray into the Indian market is an indication of the organization’s commitment to pushing its health IT solutions beyond the hospital and into medical devices. And the success or failure of this development may foretell whether the company will be able to make a successful turnaround with its new strategy and where it will be rank in the Internet of Things market.