Medical monitor developer LifeWatch AG (SWX:LIFE) has launched the world's first medical smartphone, for Android-powered devices. The smartphone has built-in sensors for monitoring heart rate, pulmonary function, blood sugar levels, body temperature and galvanic skin response (which measures psychological pressure), and other physiological variables. The system can also measure blood pressure with an attached sleeve, and can analyze blood samples.
LifeWatch has developed a range of wireless monitoring devices for emergency rooms and medical services, as well as for personal use, but this is the first time that it has combined these capabilities on a smartphone. Chinese branded mobile phone manufacturer TechFaith Wireless Communication Technology Ltd. (Nasdaq: CNTF) will manufacture the platform for LifeWatch.
LifeWatch develops the medical applications hardware and software that connects the hardware with the smartphone's systems. A German company is responsible for the design. LifeWatch invested several million dollars in the product.
The mobile-health interface is a hot development field in the world. There are various devices, not mobile phones, which collate and transmit medical data, and present them to users, and there are medical mobile apps for managing fitness, medication regimes, and even skin cancer diagnosis by photo analysis. There are also companies developing proprietary sensors for measuring a single medical variable, such as blood glucose levels or heartbeat, for integration with smartphones.
"Globes": Who is the medical smartphone intended for?
LifeWatch chairman and CEO Dr. Yacov Geva: "It is first of all intended for health-conscious consumers who have already recovered from, or are suffering from a chronic medical condition. At an advanced age, we're all suddenly liable to feel poorly in the middle of the day. With this phone, all the basic measurements are available to us. For patients, it enables effective management of their illness."
The device is not designed to diagnose heart attacks, but can monitor irregular heartbeat.
Is the device open to other medical devices and medical apps?
LifeWatch Technologies CEO Yair Tal: "That's the device's secret. Everything is inside, including medical apps, such as nutrition management, pedometer, and medication reminder. These already exist on the device and interface with data collected by us. Any app can be downloaded to the device, but there is no flow of data collected by the device to other apps. At the moment, there isn't an interface with other devices - there's no need for it."
To whom is the data produced by the smartphone sent?
Geva: "Where we operate emergency call centers, the data can be sent there. We currently have three call centers in the US, and we will establish a service in Israel to provide response to users of this product. That's part of our uniqueness as a company, which enables us to market this device. It is also possible to send the data to the patient's doctor and to an insurance company, but the data is primarily intended for the customers who are our target audience."
What regulations does this device require?
"The approval of health authorities is required as for any medical diagnostic device. We believe that we will obtain EU CE Mark certification by the end of this year and US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval the following year. It is already possible to market the device in Israel."
Aren't you worried about the rapid change in mobile phones?
"Progress in the mobile field is rapid, which is why we're readying to launch a device with new sensors and innovative capabilities in six to nine months. "
To get people to buy this device, you'll have to cause them to forego a device that is considered fun, such as the iPhone, for a device that marks them as sick. What target audience is so health conscious that it will do that?
"The product is a full telephone, which is intended for an audience that puts its health first. It is also possible to download apps onto it. We're in talks with mobile carriers in Israel and other countries to market the device through them.
LifeWatch's share price fell 2.2% in morning trading in Zurich today to CHF 7.51, giving a market cap of CHF 100 million.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on July 4, 2012
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