mHealth Insights live from Mobile World Congress

mHealth at MWC14

Mobile World Congress is th​e world’s biggest mobile ​industry meeting and has started here in Barcelona (the ‘Mobile World Capital’) and continues until the 27th February 2014. This year the meeting coincides with the world’s biggest Healthcare IT meeting (HIMSS in Orlando Florida) and if you click here you can also follow live mHealth Insights from that industry meeting courtesy of our super smart US partner Dr Chris Bickford MD.

Click here to view a comprehensive mHealth Guide to Mobile World Congress.

Refresh this page or click here to read updates from the meeting:


First time visitor to mHealth Insight? …here’s a little introduction to me. I’ve been attending and tracking mHealth developments from Mobile World Congress since it was started. You might like to check out the mHealth reviews I made from the 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 Mobile World Congress Meetings.

Here’s a pic of me in Feb 2010 at the Augmented Reality showcase flashmob that was organised by AR consultant Christine Perey (who was also responsible for the sash!) doing a demo with a tablet of mHealth augmented reality (the next mass media) use cases (and you thought no one had a tablet before the iPad in April 2010!):


I think the focus has shifted from MWC because an important shift happened (as I predicted in 2008) and the mHealth industry created it’s own events and these proved a big hit with audiences. Check out my listings of mHealth events from 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010 and the trend is clear. In 2014 there is hardly a day of the week when there isn’t a mHealth meeting being held somewhere.

The GSMA (the mobile operator association that produces Mobile World Congress) tried to spin off their own mHealth meetings but these failed after struggling for a couple of years in Cape Town South Africa with a NGO/Charity focus that fitted with the operators misguided view that mHealth wasn’t a business but a CSR opportunity.

Obviously the peak of these meetings is the mHealth Summit. Now in it’s 6th year this Washington DC this event draws a global audience that is very influential (so far there have been more than half a dozen self made billionaires present on the mHealth Summit stage) and in 2013 there were more than 300 exhibitors and 4000 delegates attending – click here to read my review from the 2013 meeting.


Another thing that has impacted things was the explosive growth of Apple and the massive appeal they had with the customers who would spend their money on mHealth (eg. consulting with our service 3G Doctor). Because Apple don’t officially participate in Mobile World Congress the appeal of it is somewhat diminished for companies like us who want to uncover more ways to work with Apple their tens of thousands of employees and millions of smartphone customers.

apple unit sales by quarter Jun 2007 to Jun 2012

So what’s changed and why do I think #MWC14 is going to be different? …in one word: Samsung.

After knocking Nokia (the brand that defined the last decade) off the top spot as the biggest Mobile device manufacturer Samsung is poised to announce some great new devices and will be officially making an announcement on it’s mHealth strategy. We’ve got some embargoed copy here that we’ll be releasing during the week but the bits to look out for will be this evening straight after Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote and then on Tuesday where I’ll be live streaming here a video link to the talk by Samsung President Young Sohn during the ECH Alliance’s session in Monjuic.

To help build your appetite Samsung has a R&D budget of 10B last year and has recently announced a $100 Million venture fund and a new Samsung Digital Health Innovation Lab testing centre established with the University of California San Francisco that will be looking into connecting sensors (read about the Alivecor and Telcare devices to get the idea):

WSJ Samsung forges medical tie up in San Francisco

As I’ve predicted this decade is going to end with a smartphone brand (Apple or Samsung probably) on the right hand side of medical device and pharma convergence. Early signs are clear but until now we’ve never had the biggest mobile manufacturer was confident enough to talk about themselves as a healthcare brand (remember how Nokia used to do anything to avoid association with health?):

Medical Device Convergence to Mobile 2020

OK that’s a little backgrounder out of the way. Let’s get onto some #MWC14 developments. First up the launch of the “Mobile Health Competence Centre” which is now part of the “International Competence Centres Program at the Barcelona Mobile World Capital Foundation“. Got that?

Adopting mHealth to Jointly design the future of healthcare

Apparently the “International Competence Centres Program is a meeting point between the ICT industry and companies and organisations from different sectors. It identifies main stakeholders, defines Master Plans for the industries’ mobile transformation, both economically and socially. Focused on the design and management of key projects that will transform the world’s mobile economy. The Mobile Health Competence Centre is located in the MediaTIC building, in Barcelona’s 22@ technological district

Does the mHealth competence centre look very competent

Unless I’m very mistaken I thought the world of Healthcare IT was already meeting in Orlando but giving the initiative a chance I read on to discover that the “mHealth Competence Centre” seems to have tied itself up in red tape before it even launches eg. “The mHealth Competence Centre’s Website relies on 3 Committees to validate and provide feedback both in the content and the strategy behind. These committees are composed of the Ethics Committee, the Editorial Committee and the Project Committee“.

Mobile World Capital Barcelona mHealth Competence Center

I hope there’s more news at the conference as there seems like a significant lack of focus and I really hope it doesn’t just remind me of that old adage about things that are designed by committees…

A camel is a horse designed by committee.

It also appears that a focus of the “Mobile Health Competence Centre” will be to create a membership network.

About Membership. mHealth Website Community Members enjoy regular updates about the mHealth Competence Centre’s work, and access to news, interviews, multimedia material, exclusive professional networks, debates, market place and tracker mHealth initiatives. Membership is open to professionals and institutions across all sectors that are actively engaged in or interested in mHealth.

My thoughts: Ignoring all the typos it’s obvious to see why an organisation trying to complete in the hyper competitive healthcare IT market would like to be able to build out a network like this but I’m not sure we all benefit from investing our time/attentions into yet another professional networking site when Linkedin has grown and established itself with it’s own dedicated groups for members with specific interests eg. the 5,500 member mHealth group that I set up on Linked in October 2008.

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 01.06.43

I also think the new organisation is going about it all the wrong way it’s making the details of membership unclear eg. will I be accepted if I’m a Patient who is not a professional?

I think I’ll join to find out more once I’ve had a week to read the Terms of Service. Interesting to see it lets me sign in with Linkedin – maybe it is just another Linkedin mHealth group that you get access to after sharing your email address? (at last count there are 100+ of these – whilst none are of course as big or active as the original).

IoT BCN meeting MWC14

Last night saw delegates gather for a pre-MWC meeting by the “IoT Barcelona” meetup networking group. An over running meeting meant I couldn’t make it which is very disappointing as the meet up introductions really gave me the sense that this was one of the smartest networkers that will take place at #MWC14. If you can’t think why IoT is so hot ask yourself why Google paid $3.8B for Nest. Interesting things always start with small audiences…

It’s important that those working in mHealth are familiar with how mobile is enabling the internet of things as it’s really going to have an impact on healthcare and provide a viable way for us to use technology to move on from the broken 2000 year old healthcare model and today’s fixation on trying to solve everything with office visits.

Mobile World Congress delegates are set to get complimentary WiFi access throughout the venue. I can’t help feel that this is the clearest sign of how badly MNOs have mismanaged roaming. This is only really needed because Mobile operators have collectively made it so difficult/confusing/expensive to use the data connection on your mobile when abroad that even the people who work in the industry don’t want to use it… a lot like healthcare then…

WiFI at MWC14

Wrist worn activity sensors (or “wearables’) seem to be getting promotion everywhere you look in the MWC14 news. I really need to find a Japanese delegate and ask them to share their opinion (on camera) about this trend (in Japan pedometers went native 6 years ago on even the very basic Raku Raku mobiles used by senior citizens).

After this effort by Huawei there is no way Apple is going to throw itself into this stagnant pond. Saying that I think multifunctional devices work a lot better (I could never understand why more of the devices I’ve been sent didn’t also double as a USB stick or as a Google Chromecast) and I’d probably order one of the Talkbands from Huawei if the headset quality was anything near as good as my Plantronics Voyager.

Huawei Talkband

I wonder what will be on the FitBit booth now that they’ve recalled the FitBit Force flagship device. I could imagine the company being a hit with Silicon Valley VCs if they put together some plans to “pivot” into upselling their customers on remote 3G Doctor styled dermatology consultations…

Kathy Neider FitBit Force

Despite the bad news going into MWC14 I expect the market share and visibility they have in the wearable market and the partnerships that they’ve already formed (eg. the GSMA plastered the entire event with Fitbit promotion) should enable it to survive. Great PR work by Kirsty Brown.

Fitbit booth MWC14 with treadmill

Great infographic from the world’s market leader & number one brand in easy mobile. 40 years young this brilliant device maker really understands a customer group that the mobile operators are ignoring. Be sure to make it to their booth in Hall 7 booth #A81

Doro Infographic

The Speakers’ Corner Run Sheet is a very last minute addition to the “ECHAlliance Health and Wellness @ MWC14” session.

ECH Alliance Speakers Corner Run Sheet

Held Tuesday 12.45-16:40 and Wednesday 11:30-XX:XX the invited ‘startups’ presenting will include an odd mix of the Pharmaceutical giants, town Mayors, lawyers and civil servants. Talks will include:

Pfizer Smart Labels: Aaron Cockell, Medical Information Regional Director- Europe, Middle East & Africa, Pfizer
mHealth in Africa: sharing best practices: Arjen Swank, Business Development Manager, Text to Change
Using Information for better care in Northern Ireland: Sean Donaghy, Regional Director eHealth and external Collaboration, Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Board
Ecosystems at the heart of public-private partnerships: Noora Jansson, Director, OuluHealth
Evaluation and distribution of mHealth apps: David Sainati, Founder and President, MedAppCare
Leadership for innovation in Connected and mHealth: Lorraine Acheson, Outreach Manager, European Connected Health Alliance
eHealth@work: More than 25,000 patients in Alere’s telemedicine program for chronic heart failure in Europe: Dr Christian Kloss, Director of Connected Health, Alere
Legal Empowerment for Connected Health: Bleddyn Rees, Partner, Wragge & Co
Mobile apps: a great opportunity to transform health care: Antonio Gonzalez, CEO, Wake App Health
MedecinDirect – a straightforward answer to medical needs: Francois Lescure, President, MedecinDirect
Healthcare Communications – Do Patients Matter: Paul Buchanan, CEO & Founder, Team Blood Glucose
Belfast Met’s Connected-Care Strategy: Karen McCann, Life and Health Science Project Manager, Belfast Metropolitan College
ICS Perspectives on mHealth: Mary Cleary, Deputy CEO, Irish Computing Society
Three critical challenges when developing a mobile EMR: Luke McNeice, Technical Consultant, Kainos
Cloud, Mobile and Social: The Perfect Storm For Healthcare: Eugene Borukovich, VP Healthcare, European Markets, Softserve Inc
Doctoralia, the global platform that connects patients and healthcare professionals: Frederic Llordachs-Marqués, Co-founder, Doctoralia
To be advised: Luc Vialard, Platinnes
mHealth solutions save lives and money: Sophia Salenius, Managing Director, RegPoint Ltd
VTT Health R&D – one stop shop for diagnostics solutions: Eero Punkka, Head of Center for Knowledge Intensive Services, VTT
BePatient, eHealth solutions to improve patient pathway: Morgane Fournie, Business Development Manager, Be Patient

At registration and promotion of the ECH Alliance ‘mPI’ (mobile Powered Industry) meeting is really prominent – making it all the more surprising that only 100 delegates (from the 85,000 MWC14 delegates) have registered. I think it was the daft decision to bill the ECHAlliance event in addition to the MWC conference, one delegate told me “it felt like I was being asked to pay twice”. I think a different approach where mHealth isn’t just another cash cow will be required if MWC is ever going to successfully contribute in the way that dedicated meetings like the mHealth Summit (where sessions are video recorded and shared freely on YouTube) are already:

mPI Registration being promoted extensively at MWC14 registration but very few delegates are signing up to the Health and Wellness stream

Picked up my 2 badges and the first person I met with asks “why have you got 2? You’re not ‘press’ you’re the founder of 3GDoctor”. It’s funny to me that in 2014 so many people don’t realise the critical importance of story telling: we’re a media company that provides the documented mobile video advice of registered Doctors.

David Dohertys MWC14 Pass x2

A circuitous one way system and plenty of traffic means the transfer bus journey between the main venue and Montjuc where half of the mHealth sessions are being held is taking at least 20 minutes out of the day (40 if like me you need to go back and forth for meetings). What a logistical disaster – at least the weather is good and I have the mHealth Guide to MWC14 on my tablet to help me decide upon which of the clashing sessions I’ll skip…

Comprehensive mHealth Guide to MWC14 on iPad

Despite the practically non existent business model for mobile operators wrist worn motion tracking devices are being promoted everywhere at MWC14. I don’t envy the telco marketeers who are tasked with something that has already converged to the mobile phone for millions of senior citizens in Japan but can “It doesn’t matter what it is we’ll track it for you” messaging really get results?

Trackers being promoted everywhere at MWC14

I didn’t notice any of the companies offering tracking devices making a big deal about how they intelligently used the data and in stark contrast to a healthcare IT meeting there was not one mention of interoperability… surely it might be useful to know that our child’s tracker is in close proximity to the tracker that was fitted to the collar of next doors agitated German Shepherd guard dog?

Trackers being promoted at MWC14 for dogs

Nurses Alba Fernández and Laura Castillejos on #MWC14 Exhibition floor turned out to be some of the most enthusiastic fans of mHealth services and shared with me some fascinating insights into the strange casemix they were seeing from the 85,000 mostly male delegates. They should’ve had frontline workers like these presenting instead of some of the bureaucrats I had to endure…

#MWC14 Nurses were fascinated by mHealth tech

Radio 1 Newsbeat’s Jonathan Blake keeps his editor happy with a pic from MWC of Google Glass Explorer Wiebe Elsinga standing in front of the ominous plastic dome in which the GSMA was breeding a race of ‘perfect’ MWC visitors. I refuse to wear the pair we have because I don’t like participating in ponzi schemes and it’s quite simply a distraction when you’re trying to communicate valuable stories about mHealth to new people eg. it’s great if you want to get the attention of the media but when you’re sporting a pair most people can’t think beyond your eyewear and I notice Wiebe didn’t even get his URL or business info shared with readers of the BBC coverage (he just gets referred to as “Wiebe Elsinga – Fitbit Flex and Google Glass”). Here he is on twitter (I find it interesting to note that he didn’t share a single image/video via Twitter from the camera he was wearing on the front of his skull during MWC14):

Google Glass Explorer in the wild getting stopped by Journalists desperate to keep their editors happy

I was really impressed by Case Station’s Cafe. I think the “it’s personal” slogan works brilliantly and the company provide a wonderful small business opportunity. I can’t think why a pharmacy retailer (like Walgreens, CVS, Boots or Lloyds) aren’t offering this as a next day service across their stores. Surely they haven’t already forgotten how much money and lucrative footfall their photo development services used to generate?

Related: read more about the opportunity we have to wrap the plastic cases of mobile phones to make them more personal and popular with citizens who didn’t grow up with the technology.

Case Station Cafe #MWC14

Great to see so many booths demoing natural language interfaces. I get the feeling Nuance is going to be the first company to brand thin air…

Related: Check out the mHealth presentation I gave at last year’s Nuance global Healthcare partner meeting.

Nuance demos were everywhere at MWC14

LGe was the first big mobile brand to try and find success in mHealth and while it was sadly a catastrophic experience for them (through a combination of poor understanding of the healthcare market and selection of the wrong market to pilot in – S Korea has some very outdated legislation that prevents mHealth innovation) it’s great to see that they’re putting their feet back into the water with some wearable mobile connected sensors:

LG MWC14 demoing health sensing sensors

The LG booth was dominated by “Knockcode” (a means of unlocking their smartphones) and the slogan “Knock and discover tomorrow” and it reminded me of how little smartphone brands are doing to differentiate themselves via the locking/unlocking process.

It is inevitable that smartphone brands will have embedded Alivecor ECG monitoring within the device unlock process by #MWC15.

LG KnockCode Knock and discover tomorrow #MWC14

It feels like Sony have wrapped every bus shelter in Spain with an advert for their colourful Smartbands but there’s very little that is differentiating the appearance of their Android smartphones and tablets:

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 00.12.37

A first for MWC would have to be the colorful dog leads that work with their SmartConcept. I wonder if anyone on Sony’s mobile strategy team has ever asked “Would Apple showcase dog collars in front of the world’s tech press?”

Sony MWC14 Smartwear Concept dog leads

Any visit to MWC wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the SKTelecom booth. It’s packed with smart staff with very good English who will tell you about the latest developments in the Korean mobile market which is a bit like crystal ball gazing for the mobile industry eg. Digital Korea by Tomi Ahonen and Jim O’Reilly is packed with incredible insights into the future of mobile even though it was published in 2007 (before the original 2G iPhone and the Appstore were launched!). For MWC14 the pavilion had taken on a much greater focus on mHealth with a booth that wouldn’t have looked out of place at HIMSS14 in Orlando.

SKTelecom Healthcare focused booth MWC14

Considering that 100 of the 85,000 delegates had registered for the Health and Wellness tracks and only 42 attended the diabetes session that was on the main GSMA Conference program agenda you really do have to wonder how many delegates visited the SKTelecom booth who had responsibility for buying “bedside solutions” and “Patient Guide” services for hospitals and were in a position to redesign the solutions SKTelecom had been building in South Korea to be used in their region of the world:

Hospital Bedside station solution being promoted by SKTelecom at MWC14

I really liked the hospital guide app that SKTelecom had produced with their hospital partner as Korean’s think very differently to the rest of the world and so many of the functionalities would be exportable:

SKTelecom SNUHospital Patient Guide #MWC14

Quite unsurprisingly the interest of most MWC14 delegates who stopped by focused on the colourful range of Misfit Shines on the end of the Healthcare display. SKTelecom representatives talked about a strategic alliance they had with “Misfit Wearables” that was being used by the medical staff at the Seoul National University Hospital but I struggled to appreciate why a MWC delegate would want to buy something as simple, stand alone and complete as a Misfit Shine from SKTelecom and couldn’t get my head around why any group of individuals needs SKTelecom involved to start an activity tracking competition with one another (don’t people just buy accessories like these from the Apple website?).

Misfit Shine demo on the SKTelecom booth MWC14

The Smartphone connected Blood Pressure Monitor and Glucometer being demoed showed that the idea of embedding mobile connectivity into the medical device (eg. as Telcare have managed with their glucometer) still exists in a blind spot for South Korean mHealth developers:

SKTelecom smartphone connected medical devices MWC14

NEC styled their booth to give it the feel of a TSA system and ensure that their email marketing team would have an extensive mailing list of delegates who were intrigued/amused enough to wander in that they can spam for the rest of the year:

NEC booth MWC14

Once inside it becomes obvious why NEC have disappeared as a mobile brand. The fact that temporary staff on the booth couldn’t keep a straight face when asked about the robot that was the centre piece of the booth should be enough. I fully expect to see NEC receiving European Union telecare research grants in 2020

NEC Papero Robot MWC14

Visiting Justin Spingham at the Mobile World Live studio with Alivecor’s Francis White who picked up yet another prize.

It’s incredible to find that the Alivecor has been so popular with the media that it’s been seen by nearly everyone in mobile (it was most likely the live streamed CES keynote in 2012 with Eric Topol and Paul Jacobs rather than the Colbert Report) although most haven’t bought one yet (let’s do something about that) but showing the Telcare Glucometer with it’s FDA clearance and embedded SIM card to Mobile Network Operator execs gives you the strange powers of a snake charmer as it’s really obvious how they add value (it’s got a SIM card in it!) and provides a ready means for them to meaningfully contribute to mHealth. We’ll have some news to share shortly on a development with the GSMA that will feature the Telcare device at the centre of a new M2M showcase project they’re putting together.

Collecting a prize with Alivecors Francis White from Justin Springham at MobileWorldLive MWC14

The Lenovo/Motorola branding is all about making the association tha their devices are “for those who do”. I’m sure it’ll talk the language of some corporate IT buyers but it just doesn’t work for me. Perhaps I see too many healthcare professionals productively using hardware from Apple and Samsung (their more established market leading rivals).

Lenovo MWC14 For those who do

NXP continued with their struggle to try and make NFC relevant and their demo was typical of the type of technology that littered the exhibition halls looking for a problem to solve. Branded as a ‘smart retail interaction’ it merely gives shoppers the ability to use their NFC Smartphone to scan stock which appears to be about as exciting as working as a shop assistant.

I can imagine on the first day these NFC tagged shoes go on sale the store manager will have his staff tearing all the tags off the new stock and binned after a customer encouraged by the tag whips out their iPhone (or probably even a top of the range NFC smartphone going by the failure rate of the NFC MWC14 delegate badges) and simply fires up their Amazon/Tesco/Zappos/etc augmented reality app and orders the pair of trainers online for next day delivery to their home at a lower price than they could buy them there and without the need to drag them home.

NXP NFC tech looking for a problem to fix

As tech vies for attention Doro’s booth provides a very refreshing step change. “Simply Enjoy, easily connect” really capture the value proposition of the only large mobile brand in Europe that in my opinion is committed to serving the needs of seniors:

Doro booth at MWC14

The quality of the user experience on Doro’s new Android Smartphone makes it perfect for all those Tesco Mobile customers that are ready to upgrade – the perfect Mothers Day gift (this year it’s on Sunday 11th May so you’ve got some time):

Doro Experience on Doro Android Smartphone

In quite stark contrast rival Emporia’s massive booth in probably the most premium location at MWC14 (right outside the entrance to the VIP/Ministerial/Keynote meeting rooms) highlights how much it can cost you to market senior mobiles to mobile operators:

Emporia booth MWC14

The fundamental need for senior mobile brands to invest heavily to educate MNOs that the senior market actually exists is aa big lesson for mHealth developers who think that MNO’s are aware of the opportunities to market mobile services to seniors:

Eveline Pupeter Emporia Telecom Bridging the mobile generation gap MWC14 Daily

I think the success of FussFreePhones will provide a great education for the mobile industry so it was disappointing that they didn’t pick up the GSMA Mobile Award for ‘Best Mobile Product, Service or App for
Accessibility or Ease-of-Use”
that they were shortlisted for (that went to AT&T for their U-verse® Easy TV Remote App):

Global Mobile Awards shortlist Bazile and Fuss Free Phones MWC14

Amongst the sea of men in dark suits there still remains one easy way to stand out: wear a brown suit.

Intel inside but does anyone care

SwissMed Mobile have rebranded their platform as MedM and are the only rebooking mHealth exhibitor at MWC (every other mHealth firm that has tried it over the years has stopped exhibiting). Details of deployments haven’t yet been revealed but their continued investment in a booth at MWC indicates that they’re finding traction with the mobile operator community with their ‘white labelling’ platform supporting a wide range of ’60+ medical devices, 8 smartphone platforms, and open for EHR integrations’.

MedM formerly known as SwissMed Mobile

The collection of devices on the MedM booth reminded me of the cheap and poorly manufactured mobile devices that used to be stocked in retailers before the iPhone shook things up. Comparing the look and feel of these nasty cheap devices to the experience offered by Alivecor’s ECG or Telcare’s embedded Glucometer and I fail to see how anyone could fail to see that at the very least one of the big mobile brands is about to radically transform today’s medical device industry as a result of a failure to realise that bean counters shouldn’t be allowed near design decisions about devices that Healthcare providers are going to want Patients to engage with.

Some of medical devices that MedM Platform works with MWC14

The MaxCom booth would normally feature a range of big button mobiles that mobile operators could rebrand and sell to customers but with so much low cost competition now from China in this space the company seems to have moved into some new areas and was offering a ‘wireless SOS bracelet’ that connects to their new big button smartphone, is waterproof and has a range of 20m (indoor) and up to 100m (outdoor):

Maxcom Wireless SOS watch MWC14

There was also a ‘Telehealth monitoring system’ that looked like something you might expect to see in Orlando at HIMSS14 so presumably Maxcom is trying a very different approach where they engage with fairy godmother Mobile Operators who then license their tech and take the services to market?

Maxcom SA booth MWC14

There’s growing hospital demand for tough/washable cases for smartphones with barcode scanner functionality. Sadly one case manufacturer I tracked down but won’t be plugging was happy to have photos taken of them and their booth but positively refused me taking any photos of the IR scanner smartphone cases they were demoing because “they were all top secret prototypes and they’re worried about people stealing their designs”. I later looked on their website and there are countless HD renderings showing the details of the case design. The only explanation I could imagine is that it made the sales rep feel good and the low quality of the actual product is a million miles away from the airbrushed images they use online to reel in customers.

Smartphone cases that you cant take pictures of

Cubic Telecom was my highlight of the Irish Pavilion for 2014. They’ve recently secured the backing of Qualcomm and are making massive moves as a disruptive new type of licensed global mobile operator that already has coverage in 230 countries through tier 1 MNO partners. The company already offer SIMs that do away with the bill shock we all associate with the exorbitant roaming call and data charges incurred when travelling and they have a formidable list of clients that rebrand their service for value conscious customers (eg. Ryanair, Woolworths Australia, etc) but their focus now is in the rapidly growing M2M market as laptop, tablet, SmartTV and automotive brands seek to negotiate global data coverage with one operator that ensures their customers get out of the box connectivity anywhere on the planet.

It’s clear that the medical device industry is being radically transformed by M2M connectivity so I think there’s massive vertical growth opportunities on the cards for Cubic Telecom (if they can resist the inevitable takeover bids from the likes of Verizon).

Cubic telecom on the Ireland Pavilion had the best goody for delegates and some amazing M2M stories to tell no surprise QCOMM led a 20M investment round

Visiting the Telefonica pavilion after getting the Cubic Telecom pitch and it’s actually quite difficult to understand why an innovative car manufacturer like Tesla would want to partner with a Spanish mobile operator for connectivity (I can see some potential for them to support battery swaps at their rural mast locations). In the UK and Ireland Telefonica (who are branded as O2) haven’t even worked out how they can sell customers basic mobile devices like iPads (they’ll sell you a SIM/connectivity but you have to go to Apple direct to buy the device) so I have no idea how they think their brand can add value to a $100k car that could be sold in a country where there’s zero awareness of the Telefonica brand. It’s not like a Telefonica association is going to add value to customer perception (most people would prefer the car to just connect to whichever is the best signal available at any point in time) so surely Tesla would be better avoiding the alienation of all the other mobile operators and just make the connectivity an invisible part of the Tesla experience (it’s important to appreciate the importance of connectivity not just for the occupant/owner experience but also for Tesla R&D and to track the vehicles very expensive and easy to remove/steal battery pack).

Telsa car on the Telefonica Pavilion #MWC14

Stick to the knitting: When you have a mobile retail operation like o2/Telefonica but you’re not selling the things customers want like connected iPads whose idea was it to put smart motorbike helmets at the centre of your expensive MWC14 booth?

Telefonica SmartHelmet MWC14

There comes a time at MWC when you think your feet might not take you through the 4 days as you try to pick your way through the 1800+ exhibitors across the two different locations. If you’re employing promotional staff and requiring them to stand on their feet all day on a hard surface no matter how smiley they are it does reflects badly on your business if you’re not ensuring that they’re wearing comfortable footwear.

Entrance to MWC 14

A chance encounter with the Head of Mobile at McDonalds leads to some great discussion of opportunities to get Telcare’s diabetes program integrated within their corporate wellness programs. With 1.8 million employees and extensive menus and advice for diabetics there are countless opportunities for collaboration with Telcare and their free Diabetes Pal app.

Your ad is working if passers by are stopping to take pics of your bus shelter advert #MWC14

Vodafone’s had a bumpy road trying to build a team that could succeed with mHealth and their MWC14 demo’s didn’t strike me as anything more than a Corporate Social Responsibility push which is very disappointing as there are obviously huge business opportunities in the healthcare needs of their 450 million customers and the Patients that they care for.

The demo I got to see was a Vodafone branded demo by Health Insight Solutions GmbH and it really did little to promote self care and wasn’t much more than another classic case of lazy data that wasn’t being used intelligently to productively contribute to a Patients life. I think it would be great if they partnered with a healthcare provider who are getting some traction with mHealth as in my experience repetitive manual entry of medical data by Patients is really only something that exists in the powerpoints people share at eHealth conferences.

It amazes me that a company as big as Vodafone can claim that “mHealth solutions are saving money and transforming patient outcomes” but have no published data on hand to prove this. Why don’t they just tell the world about the results they’re getting from adopting mHealth to manage the health of their >90,000 employees?

Vodafone mHealth Solutions MWC14

Desay have always had an interesting booth and this year it didn’t fail to impress with a mHealth focus that the company have branded as “Care-Health”:

Desay booth MWC14

The range consisted of the DS-W1618 big button touch screen UI smartphone, the DS-W1 GSM and GPS Watch (featuring a SIM card slot, motion/heart-rate/temperature/moisture sensors) and the DS-B1 “healthy bracelet pedometer” (featuring the same sensors but requiring connection to a smartphone via Bluetooth 4.0 – so it works with the latest iOS and Android smartphones).

Desay CareHealth MWC14

The quality and finish of the Desay device is every bit comparable to those from top tier brands like Sony, Samsung, Nike or Adidas which leaves me thinking that something interesting will happen to the ‘tracking bracelet’ market in the next 12-18 months because it will lose it’s shine.

When you can pick something similar up in the local market for $15 the status symbol impression currently being experienced (eg. wearing one denotes affluence and expendable income, early tech adopter/smartphone addict) will lose it’s lustre somewhat and the focus will firmly shift to what these devices actually do for you (which will have perfectly primed the market for Google Wear and will spike consumer interest in voice-to-text):

Desay DS B1 MWC14

The company also showcased a mobile connected “security information phone” that relays info from door and motion sensors that can be positioned around your home:

DeSay security information phone MWC14

The company also distributed an interesting Solutions for Care booklet that provides interesting insights into the Chinese perception of the mHealth opportunity for mobile operators:

Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 15.28.38

Huawei and ZTE had huge presences and I think the continually advancing quality of their devices is really going to motivate the established premium` smartphone brands like Apple, Samsung, HTC and Nokia to be adventurous in their bids to differentiate themselves from cheaper similar devices and I have no doubt that effective mHealth strategies will be key to this.

ZTE Booth #MWC14

Not sure the Huawei 4G LTE adverts worked – are mobile operators really investing in this hardware so that they can develop a business model around the HD live streaming of events?

Huawei 4G LTE Advert #MWC14

Proctor and Gamble gave a presentation on their Oral B smartphone connected toothbrush and lots of media lapped the hype up. Just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should and I think it’s a really bad idea to put a radio in the mouth of a child and adults can take more responsibility for themselves or just use a timer on their mobile if they are really concerned about how long they brush for and find it impossible to separate themselves from their mobile while cleaning themselves. The only good opportunity that I could of seen working for P&G in this is if they’d acquired BeamBrush (the first company to put out a smartphone connected toothbrush) for some big ticket price (achievable by including all the marketing budgets they’re inevitably going to be wasting advertising this unnecessary device) and then made a PR story of how they’re an innovative brand that is passionate about supporting inventors and bringing scale to their ideas etc.

Media Scrum at MWC14

On the UK Trade and Invest booth was ‘iPacify’ a £20 dummy from a British startup that featured a temperature sensor in the teat and a Bluetooth radio that paired it with a parents smartphone. I wondered when it became a good idea to put a radio in a child’s mouth but according to the reliably reported PR apparently there are Doctors keenly waiting to act on this data. I have a feeling it might be to report the Parents who put radios in their babies mouths to social services…

CNet Smart Pacifier among the best of British Startups

The attendance at the mHealth content on the programme was really dismal. A total of only 100 delegates registered for the ECHAlliance Health and Wellness session and the main conference content that was in the main VIP location at MWC14 had even lower attendance levels eg. the Diabetes session titled “How mHealth will enable us to beat the global Diabetes Epidemic globally” featuring (Left to Right) Joan Cornet, Mobile World Capital, Prof Michael Trenell, Newcastle University, Therese Hegge, BUPA, Benjamin Sarda, Orange/FranceTelecom, John Grummit and Petra Wilson, IDF only managed to draw 42 delegates from the 85,000 delegates in Barcelona for MWC14.

Admittedly the content of the sessions wasn’t that high quality eg. here’s Dr Ruan from in Portugal discussing how the 3000 year old model of healthcare still remains sustainable and that the self care model isn’t a viable way forward

Still it made me feel disappointed for Patients like Team BG’s Paul Buchanan who no doubt motivated by the huge MWC14 media spectacle had travelled all the way to Barcelona to present on the opportunity for the mobile industry to improve the lives of Patients with diabetes only to find themselves addressing a dozen delegates (of whom really only a very few were in a position to take any advice or do any business as they were attending primarily to present/sell their own mHealth business offerings):

I think it’s good to see the ‘Patient’s Included’ campaign is getting some traction but I think there’s also an expectation that should go with this. If a Patient is giving their time up (and spending their own money to attend??) your meeting you owe it to them to ensure that they are provided with an audience that is interested in doing business with them, contains Healthcare Professionals that are interested in what they are doing, that they’re asked questions from your interested audience, that the talk is being recorded and shared freely with people who can’t attend, etc, etc.

Patients included logo

Although less than 20 delegates attended I found the presentation on the GSMA Grand Tour cycle ride to be interesting but it’s such an extreme example of the mHealth opportunity in diabetes which should really be much more about enabling individuals to make healthier diets and exercise regimes part of their everyday lives:

MWC14 Seminar Partnership in Motion GSMA Grand Tour

From a technical and medical research perspective it’s all very exciting talking about how the mobile phone can automatically monitor and control a Patient’s blood sugar but there’s also a massive explosion in the numbers effected by type 2 diabetes for whom such an extreme cycle across Europe isn’t going to be the type of thing that will drive engagement. Similarly mHealth and the changes we’re seeing as the internet evolves into a device dominated network has the potential to bring more consistency to the quality of diabetes care – today even in an organisation like the NHS the standards vary considerably eg. you’re nearly three times more likely to have a leg amputated if you’re a diabetes Patient living in Somerset than if you live 140 miles away in London).

DD Nenad Simunko and David Goodstein MWC14

With fast food outlets, sugary drinks and media companies so committed to innovating with mobile perhaps this type of future talk should remain at the countless specialist Diabetes and mHealth meetings and the mHealth industry should be using MWC as an opportunity to reach the world’s mobile industry to communicate the very basic opportunities that exist to create business models and brands around the art of motivating individuals to make healthier choices at meal times and be more active?

If you told me you could only visit one booth at #MWC14 my recommendation would be Qualcomm’s. Amazingly with the massive mHealth Pavilion being showcased out in Orlando for HIMSS14 (read Dr Bickford’s live blog from there) Qualcomm still had no problem packing out one of the biggest stands at MWC14 with pods. Each one represented a completely different industry ecosystem that Qualcomm technology was disrupting.

Qualcomm Booth #MWC14

The big line of delegates led out from the Connected Home. My heart sank a little when I realised that no mHealth tech was there amongst the 24 partner products showcased – even Qualcomm’s own 2Net hub wasn’t featured. Companies/products that were featured included:

The AllSeen Alliance, Birdi, Disney Interactive Labs, Elertus, iHeartRadio, LG Electronics, Medion, Napster, Panasonic Coporation, Rhapsody, SomaFM, August Smart Lock, CA Engineering, doubleTwist with Magic Radio, Haier, Lenco, LIFX, Musaic, Nuance, PowerTech, SmartWallPlate and Soundwall.

I spoke to the team there who agreed it was an oversight but when I offered them a Telcare Glucometer from my pocket (Qualcomm is an investor and their chip powers this transformational medical device) it turned out that things like this need to be in at the planning state. Still what an ecosystem and I’m sure lots of it will impact on our ability to serve home care needs by supporting Patients with technology that makes living in their own homes more comfortable.

Line of Delegates Waiting for the Connected Home Experience on the Qualcomm booth MWC14

The Immersive Augmented reality demo with the Epson glasses by Scott Montgomery from Scope AR was just brilliant. If you aren’t yet getting AR – the next mass media – drop everything and watch this TedxMongkok talk by Tomi Ahonen now. The ability to completely deskill complex tasks is going to transform industries. Imagine something like car or boiler servicing industries becoming transformed eg. Tesla send you a service pack and loan you a custom procedure pack of tools and you just don your augmented glasses and you have the abilities and knowledge of an experienced mechanic.

In 2020 when you ask someone “What did you do at the weekend?” be prepared for some interesting answers “I stripped and rebuilt the engine on my 1987 Ferrari Testarossa before assembling one of those stradivarius violins you can 3D print in carbon fibre as my daughter wanted one for school”…

I don’t think it will be long until a firm like ScopeAR need to create an ‘Augmented Reality Engineer certification process’ eg. so workers can advertise that they have an agility score of 5.3, skill score of 7.2 so that others can book them to call by and do whatever technical (think electrical, plumbing, repair) jobs you need help with.

When these visuals can be dynamically overlaid onto the surface of Patients the potential for this to transform wound care, home care, surgery, etc, etc, will be almost unimaginable. There will not be a surgeon in the world who doesn’t work alongside a highly dexterous gamer and I wonder which medical brand will be first to try and steal Scope AR’s “see it, do it, prove it” slogan?

Unsurprisingly the world of entertainment is also going to be impacted. A demo I video recorded had me thinking: children who grow up with this will surely have trouble understanding how their parents can tolerate just sitting there watching the TV instead of being a part of the action.

Most consumers have little/no idea about the chips it run so it’s quite amazing to see the breadth of different devices enabled by QTI’s chipsets at the device bar that featured at the centre of the booth. The announcement that the Snapdragon 801 processor to power the latest Samsung Galaxy S5 and the Snapdragon 400 processor to power the Samsung Galaxy Grand 2 will ensure that Qualcomm’s new flagship processors will ship in another 100 million devices in the next 12 months…

Qualcomm booths Device Bar #MWC14

The connected car was an AMG Mercedes that I imagined was itself a draw to the young affluent male delegates but it was clearly the depth of the QNX connected car experience and the indepth product knowledge of QNX Software Systems developer Alex James that had them staying in there so long…

Qualcomm SnapDragon Car MWC14

Walking away you’re under no uncertainty about the business opportunity. If BMW can make $45 million in Germany back in 2008 by sending Winter Tyre ads via MMS it’s hard to even imagine the $’s that Mercedes should be able to book out of a connected car in 2014: ‘Looking at your planned route for today I see you’re passing our North London garage where we have availability of a new E63 AMG demo car. We could service your car and change the break pads in time for your return home”…

Connected in car experience with Qualcomm and Mercedes MWC14

The Formula E electric car race series begins in Beijing on the 13th September 2014 and will use wireless charging and AR tech developed by Qualcomm. I think it’s not obvious what this is going to do to position the Qualcomm brand with consumers but some research we’ve been involved in shows that most people have real problems trusting or being interested in wireless charging.

When you have the opportunity to have the same tech in your smartphone, glucometer, pacemaker, etc, etc that sent a Qualcomm branded electric racing car flying up Park Lane past crowds of celebrities at 150 MPH with just the sound of a little tyre noise consumers will drop any preconceptions they held and start demanding wireless charging and that will enable designers to really go to town with robust/water resistant hygienic devices that will no doubt drive further mHealth opportunities and acceptance.

Qualcomm Formula E Car #MWC14

Over at the ECHAlliance Don Jones, Qualcomm’s VP LifeSciences, gave his last mHealth talk for Qualcomm – he’s now left to take up the Chief Digital Officer role alongside Dr Eric Topol at Scripps Translational Science Institute:

Don’s presentations have over the years been very much focused on sharing as many mHealth devices as possible so I found it very positive that he closed with a series of slides that highlighted the potential of Video Consulting with a Healthcare Professional:

Don Jones Qualcomm Life last slides focused on video connectivity #MWC14

This is interesting because Don didn’t find it natural to start using video calls eg. his first ever experience of a real 3G Video Call was actually with our very own Dr Fiona Kavanagh MRCGP at the Mobile Healthcare Industry Summit that I helped to organise (and Qualcomm sponsored) back in 2009:

Don Jones VP Qualcomm Consulting with 3G Doctor's Dr F Kavanagh MRCGP

Even after the experience he didn’t really understand why someone might want to Video Call a Doctor until he one day he discovered that his son had made arranged a Facetime video call with the father of a friend (who was a Doctor) to ask for some advice.

A great reminder that some of the best lessons you’ll get into how and why we’ll accept new ways of richer communication came be found by observing how children use these technologies today…

Meeting with Paul Jacobs, Exec Chairman, Qualcomm was fantastic. Paul was the first mobile industry CEO to publicly state that his firm was in the “medical device” business and his passion about how Qualcomm is going to enable the future of healthcare is incredible. I have no doubt he’ll continue with his father’s ability to drag the rest of the world into the future.

It’s great that Paul is a fan of what we’re doing at 3GDoctor but if I had to pick a single highlight of my #MWC14 trip it was Paul’s partner saying ‘wow that’s cool’ when I explained the 24×7 documented mobile video consultations we provide at 3G Doctor. In my experience it’s critically important that mHealth services have a wow factor so to have this impact 7 years on from our launch is very encouraging.

3GDoctors David Doherty with Qualcomms Paul Jacobs and Partner #MWC14

A turning point in my life happened when I talked my way into a lecture that I’d heard was being given by Paul’s father Professor Irvine Jacobs in London nearly a decade ago. I remember so well the quiet tuts of disbelief from some ignorant members of the audience as he explained how everything would converge with mobile including medical devices like glucometers.

It turned out to be one of the key moments that made me stop what I was doing and commit myself to creating mHealth services. Despite having a mobile in my pocket since 1995 the validation that you can take from someone so smart, experienced and passionate is an incredible help to anyone starting out and looking to take a leap of faith (others from the mobile industry that had a big impact would be Tomi Ahonen, Alan Moore and David Wood).

Of course Dr Jacobs was spot on and that decade went on to be defined by what had been an obscure little company from Finland but as is the hallmark of a true visionary even to this day many of the predictions he shared then still haven’t happened eg. 99% of glucometers still don’t enable Patients and their Carers to intelligently use the expensive data that they collect.

The Cannibal of Cannibals Slide from Prof Irwin Jacobs 2005

Everywhere I went I found myself tasked with providing delegates with mini smartphone medicals. Here’s Edwin Poots, Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety for Northern Ireland, taking a recording of his ECG with an Alivecor and an iPad in Barcelona and having it read seconds later by the expert Cardiologist we’re working with back in Ireland:

Edwin Poots Minister of Health demonstrates the Alivecor ECG

Edwin is a big supporter of mHealth initiatives and the Clinicians who want to contribute to Northern Ireland’s leadership in this region. I think the cross border collaboration that’s happening between Northern Ireland and the Republic lends itself very well to a corporation like Samsung basing their European mHealth initiative here as it enables them to start off operating within and across both the UK and Ireland which is a key part of ensuring the solutions being built are interoperable and scaleable across different borders. From the conversations and expressions of interest I heard at the meeting I think it won’t be long until we see a mobile giant like Samsung setting up their European mHealth base on the island of Ireland…

Edwin Poots meeting with Young Sohn President and CSO Samsung #MWC14

Samsung Mobile President Young Sohn’s talk was fascinating as it highlighted how big the mHealth challenge is for the mobile industry eg. even in Korea (up there with Japan as the fastest ageing population in the world) the President of the world’s biggest mobile manufacturer is still not yet getting to video call his Doctor or using mhealth to manage his health and care for his own family.

I think it’s becoming obvious that we don’t need to buy mHealth from a mobile brand so to break the mould and go on to define mHealth a company is going to have to have some passion. To date Darren Entwistle has come the closest to it as he led Telus’s $B healthcare record investments (Check out the mHealth meeting I worked with Telus to produce in 2011) following his fathers death in 2004 a few days after being mistakenly given penicillin (despite his allergies being known) but I eagerly await the day when a mobile device industry executive will come out and simply share a very personal experience of healthcare that they’ve endured before stating that this is why they are going to stick with their mission to use the tools we all have in our pockets to modernise our woefully outdated undocumented sickcare experiences.

This post is still awaiting content to be uploaded including the Samsung booth tour and mHealth keynotes. Check back again soon for more mHealth Insights from Mobile World Congress 2014.

2 Responses to mHealth Insights live from Mobile World Congress

  1. valerie says:

    Hi! just a quick answer to your post on the web of the mobile competence centre.. perhaps you should have a better look at the website.. it seems to me that you are a little how can i say .. inapropriate.. or perhaps not really expert in Mobile solutions or health only .. all the best

  2. Hi Valerie,

    I see from your MobMendIT website that you’re consulting with CCyC to develop the content for the Mobile Health Competence Center website so perhaps you might like to be constructive and point me and readers of the mHealth Insight blog to information that can enlighten them instead of just stating that my opinions are inappropriate/amateur?


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