Qualcomm to connect medical devices to cloud for Walgreens, Novartis

Qualcomm ($QCOM) announced medical device-related partnerships with Walgreens and Novartis ($NVS) at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, demonstrating that companies of all stripes are aiming to enter the med tech arena, at least where it intersects with consumer goods, or in the case of the technology bigwig, Big Data. Qualcomm's contribution to the partnerships will be the cloud-based data-sharing Life2Net platform, described as a nonexclusive, interoperable system for delivering healthcare.

Soon "Qualcomm-enabled" devices utilizing the platform will be available at Walgreens, allowing remote patient monitoring through the sharing of biometric and health status information, according to a release. And Walgreens Balance Rewards members can link the connected devices to their account to earn points and share their biometric data with pharmacists. Some of the devices will include wrist-worn and conventional blood pressure cuffs and blood glucose meters.

In a recent survey of 2,000 people, blood pressure was the most popular vital sign participants wanted to monitor (37%), followed by weight (33%), chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes (25%), sleep (23%), exercise (22%), diet (19%), and vision (18%).

"Whether transitioning from a hospital to the home or managing a chronic condition such as heart disease or diabetes, Walgreens connectivity solution powered by Qualcomm Life will allow us to help our customers achieve improved health through regular biometric communication with their providers," said Adam Pellegrini, Walgreens divisional vice president of digital health, in a statement. "Additionally, Qualcomm Life's platforms help us to reward participating customers for their choice to become more informed and engaged in their health care."

While wearables aren't going away, opinions are divided about the future of these new devices. For example, following a speech by CVS Health CEO Larry Merlo at the National Press Club, FierceMedicalDevices asked him if he envisions sales of wearable devices taking off, and the CEO said no.

But alongside Walgreens, Qualcomm is clearly a believer in the future of wearable devices, and aware that healthcare delivery is likely to be one of their key uses. Key to the company's vision is constant Internet/cloud connectivity, or what Pankaj Kedia, the boss of Qualcomm's wearables business unit refers to as "always-connected."

"A phone without service is useless. Three years from now, a wristwatch without always-connected will be an anomaly," Kedia told Gizmodo. He added that wearable devices will achieve "always-connected" through a combination of connectivity via Bluetooth-connected phones, Wi-Fi and cellular.

Qualcomm's Big Data play also extends to pharmaceutical and clinical applications. The company also announced that Novartis will use Life2net in clinical trials to automate the collection of patient data from medical devices at patients' homes. The Big Pharma is already piloting the platform in an observational trial of chronic lung disease patients that does not involve any of its pharmaceutical products.

In addition, Kedia told Gizmodo his lab is testing an ingestible device that can warn doctors about a looming heart attack, saying the innovation could be 3 to 5 years away.

- read the release about the partnership with Walgreens | Novartis
- here's the Gizmodo story