Consumer Electronics Show 2013 (1of 4): Born Mobile

Born-MobileThis year, for the first time ever, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was kicked off with a keynote from a mobile company. Dr. Paul Jacobs, Chairman and CEO of Qualcomm, set the tone for CES with his presentation entitled Born Mobile (full video source: Here are some highlights on what he had to say and what it means for pharma.

We can all look at the Gartner studies and realize there were nearly 430 million mobile devices (source: sold in just the third quarter of 2012 and easily infer that mobile is quickly becoming the center of everything we do. But what does that really mean?

Today, 84% of people worldwide say they can’t go a day without their mobile device. Born Mobile recognizes that we live in a world where we can’t remember, or never knew, what it means to not be connected.

In developing countries, for example, the first computer you’ll ever own is likely to be a smartphone.  Simply because of the affordability, connectivity now exists where there was none. The power of this connectivity is breaking barriers and opening up new possibilities where just a decade ago industries did not exist, and it’s transforming healthcare.

Mobile-enabled telemedicine and e-health was a dream just a decade ago. Today we can leverage the power of our mobile-connected world to improve the healthcare of people everywhere, particularly in developing countries. But don’t take my word for it. In the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “Today the technology most accessible to the poor and disenfranchised is the mobile phone. If we want a vehicle for reaching the underserved with interventions from health and other sectors of the economy, the mobile phone is the technology of choice. Mobile is going to have a transformative impact on the public health here and in Africa, and all around the world.”

To help make this dream a reality, Qualcomm has established a vision to actually create the fictional tricorder diagnostic tool. Yes, you read that right—a tool like the one found in Star Trek which will put the power of personalized health in your pocket. They’ve teamed up with the X Prize Foundation to offer $10 million to an innovative team that can really do it.

But wait, there’s more. A lot more. Mobile offers us a level of engagement we never got with the desktop computer. There’s GPS, second screen home integration, texting, video chatting, browsing the Internet, getting directions, checking email, and yes, even talking. All that, and you can take it with you when you go.

Taken together, Dr. Jacobs and Qualcomm have dubbed these features our digital “sixth sense.” We’re used to our vehicle navigators or smartphones giving us real-time traffic ahead and rerouting, or  receiving a Foursquare message noting when there is a friend in a nearby coffee shop, or hearing a chime and buzz in your pocket when you get a text or email. If we can do that, why not pull in information from sensors you wear, or even ones inside you? Tie that into sophisticated systems like a portable device Israeli doctors have developed for detecting strokes, and you don’t just extend your senses to the world around you, you know what’s going on inside you as well. Healthcare just got a lot more personal.

Pushing the limits of this is Gimbal, a context-awareness platform for mobile devices which consolidates the features of our digital “sixth sense” in the form of geo-fencing, image recognition, and audio recognition. Through Gimbal we can personalize user experiences and deliver contextually appropriate messaging when and where mobile users need it most.

The timing couldn’t be better. As EHR/EMR incentives drive health conversations toward wellness, treatment is becoming not just a pill, but a lifestyle. Mobile technologies like Gimbal are at the forefront of transforming the way we evaluate outcomes and treat chronic illnesses by merging the real word with the virtual world.

This year at CES, smartphones were at the center of everything we do.  Ford, for example, announced a developer program to integrate apps into their vehicles and Audi announced the first fully integrated 4g LTE automobile. They might feel like small steps to some, but the Internet of things is coming (lights, ac, security, cars, medical monitoring devices) and mobile is the keystone that makes it all possible.

With devices at the center of our digital life, the aforementioned push for patient-centric, outcomes-driven care can become a reality. Points of care are integrating into our life more frequently than just a visit to the doctor’s office. The rise of “swivel apps” (apps healthcare providers use to illustrate points and communicate with patients) and “prescription apps” (apps recommended to the patient by the doctor and even covered by insurance in some cases) are a solid indication how far we can take this. Have a smartphone? Take this app and text me in the morning.

What you read here is just the beginning. So much happened at CES that will literally set the tone for the rest of the year and beyond.

Snapdragon 800, Qualcomm’s new flagship mobile chip, boasts speeds of 2.3 GHz per core in a four-core processor. That’s better than a lot of laptops, enabling speeds demanded by most gamers with half the power of previous processors. Not sure what that means? It means Ultra HD video that provides four times better resolution than the pixels demanded by HD video for not just display, but for capture and send as well.

In healthcare that’s HUGE. Sure, YouTube and Netflix videos are huge, but consider a doctor who specializes in a treatment needed by a patient 10, 100, 1000 or even 10,000 miles away. How about a panel of doctors, all examining the patient with the clarity of Ultra HD?

Combine that with apps like the one being developed at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts, which can pick up subtle changes in skin color by scanning blood vessels. Using a mobile device you can measure heart rate, heart rhythm, and respiration rate. Combine that with an external pulse oximeter and a mobile camera scan of the patient’s index finger which will yield blood oxygen saturation in just a minute. As if that’s not enough, after all the data is collected, the app will alert you if the heartbeat is irregular, indicating a possible atrial fibrillation.

Born Mobile isn’t a new generation of trendy kids with the latest devices. Sure, that’s part of it, but it’s the businessman who’s on the go, it’s the smartbooks in the classrooms, the grandparent who video-chats with the grandkids. Born Mobile is the underserved gaining new access to healthcare and connectivity where there was none and the doctors who treat those patients from across the world without ever leaving their offices. It’s everyone who buys the 1.2 billion smart devices that will be bought next year and the 5 billion that will be sold by 2016. It’s you. It’s me. It’s the future of healthcare.

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