Qualcomm's health-device platform wins over home care provider

The 2net system from Qualcomm Life can carry data from many devices to health care companies

The 2net hub from Qualcomm Life

The 2net hub from Qualcomm Life

A Qualcomm subsidiary's health communications platform will replace proprietary gear used by a company that provides remote care for 3.6 million people.

Tunstall Healthcare is the first company to pick Qualcomm Life's 2net system over a set of products already in use, according to Rick Valencia, senior vice president and general manager of the wholly owned Qualcomm subsidiary. About 350 other companies have designed new gear that works with 2net.

2net can connect a wide range of health devices to care providers through a cloud-based service. It's built around a hardware hub and a service provided by Qualcomm Life, and it's intended to foster an ecosystem of new gear from many vendors, said Rick Valencia, senior vice president and general manager of Qualcomm Life.

Tunstall, based in the U.K., provides an electronic lifeline for the elderly and other people suffering from health risks, as well as for remote medical care. It began in Europe and expanded to the U.S. through an acquisition in 2012.

Today, Tunstall uses its own monitoring gear and home gateway devices. For example, it makes devices with alert buttons that users can press when they need help and sensors that detect if they've fallen. But the company wants to stop making hardware and focus on its core business of providing remote care, while also tapping into a growing array of electronic medical devices available from third parties, Valencia said.

Qualcomm Life's 2net platform is intended to provide interoperability among such devices. They send data to the hub via short-range wireless systems, and the hub forwards that data on to the company's private cloud over 3G cellular. From there, the information is passed on to health care providers who link it to a patient's identity using codes unique to their hub.

The 2net hub is equipped to talk to sensors and other devices using many different wireless technologies, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, low-energy Bluetooth Smart, and the ANT+ technology used by some fitness gear. It also has a USB port for adding other wireless systems.

Qualcomm Life designs and sells the hub, but it's also opening up that aspect of 2net. The core capabilities of the hub are available in software for Android devices that can take the place of the hub, and that software will be offered late this year for Apple iOS devices, Valencia said. Beyond that, the company sees other devices such as set-top boxes and game controllers becoming hubs. Other platforms may offer fewer short-range wireless options than the dedicated hub, but health monitoring gear is starting to converge on Bluetooth Smart, anyway, Valencia said.

The company is also talking to other companies like Tunstall, he said. Among other partnerships, it's working with WebMD to develop an online storefront for 2net-compatible devices and services. The store will start by offering fitness and diabetes equipment and later expand to other categories. Ultimately, doctors who use WebMD's Medscape service will be able to prescribe devices for their patients and provide a link to the appropriate page on the storefront, Valencia said.

The WebMD offering was set to launch last year, but it's taken longer than expected to refine it, and it should be introduced soon, he said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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