By Avigayil Kadesh
The Israeli company LifeWatch Technologies is launching a unique smartphone that not only makes calls but can perform and analyze a whole range of medical tests and send a report of the results to users and their physicians.
CEO Dr. Yacov Geva says the Android-based LifeWatch V will be especially useful to help manage many aspects of a chronic medical condition such as diabetes. Blood glucose test strips can be inserted right into a portal on the phone’s stainless-steel frame and it can send reminders to check glucose levels and take insulin.
The smartphone’s embedded sensors also let you check your blood oxygen saturation level, perform an at-home electrocardiogram (ECG) or measure your blood pressure with an attached sleeve. You can use its pedometer to keep track of your daily footsteps and its thermometer to take your temperature. It helps you figure out your body fat percentage, plan your diet and log your workouts.
LifeWatch V sends all the test data automatically and securely to a remote server in the cloud for analysis by the company’s proprietary algorithms. Results and trend data are quickly shared with the user and, if desired, with a third party via email or text message.
An idea whose time has come
The Rehovot-based company expects to launch European and Israeli sales sometime in May 2013, and in the United States by the end of the year, following expected clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration.
TechFaith Wireless Communication Technology of China will manufacture the smartphones based on the Israeli specs and industrial design. Interface is to be available in Hebrew, English, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Chinese and Japanese.
“We will sell the device for between $500 and $700, depending on the country and individual carrier agreement,” says Geva.
He conceived of the idea back in the age of Palm Pilots. His original patents for the embedded sensors date back to 1998, and additional development work was done in 2001 and 2006.
However, only recently has the technology gotten “friendly” enough to make the product viable.
“The real breakthrough came when Apple changed how a smartphone could be used, so we were able to take our initiative forward and develop the product based on an Android operating system,” says Geva, who adds that LifeWatch came into this project with more than 20 years of experience developing 45 different types of medical sensors.
The company designed LifeWatch V for ease of use, whether the user is six or 86 years old. One of the prime markets will be children with diabetes.
“Parents can follow their children to see if they’re doing daily testing and taking their insulin while they’re at school,” Geva explains. “Let’s say a child has to do a blood glucose test at 9 am. When he does the test, the data is sent automatically to the cloud and the parents can get the results immediately, on any kind of device. If the parent does not see that the test was done, the parent can call to remind the child.”
Mobile healthcare is the watchword
LifeWatch was founded about two decades ago as a subsidiary of LifeWatch AG, a leading Swiss healthcare technology and solutions provider, to develop ambulatory diagnostic testing.
There are 65 employees at its R&D center in Rehovot’s Rabin Science Park, and almost 500 people staff LifeWatch’s three emergency call centers in the United States. The public company offers a range of patient technologies and services, such as home-based heart monitoring and home sleep testing, in addition to wireless monitoring devices for emergency medical personnel.
“More than 300,000 new patients every year in the US are being monitored through LifeWatch,” Geva says.
American owners of the medical smartphone will be able to have the test results sent directly to one of those emergency call centers, and Israeli users will have one of their own soon, says Geva.
Already looking to the future, he reveals that the next-generation LifeWatch smartphone will have additional sensors incorporated for even more functionality. But the soon-to-launch model already represents a historic first in mobile healthcare. And if its built-in capabilities do not meet an individual user’s specific needs, Geva says it’s possible to download any other appropriate apps to the device.