In the shadow of Apple's mHealth hype, BlackBerry looms as a darkhorse

I, along with plenty of others engaged with mHealth technology, was a bit more than disappointed we didn't learn more about what Apple is up to with its Apple Watch, which debuted last week, with its healthcare platform HealthKit and what it hopes to make happen with mHealth wearables.

The hype had been building for weeks prior to the annual Apple product event. The news in the past six months about Apple meeting with regulators, insurance carriers, providers and initiating partnerships around the industry, from Epic to IBM, seemed to be leading to a big announcement and the debut of what Apple CEO Tim Cook described as the best smartwatch yet.

Still, news of separate HealthKit pilots at Stanford University Hospital and Duke University offer a taste of what providers will attempt to accomplish with the platform, 

Perhaps overlooked in all of the Apple news, however, BlackBerry this past week also indicated that it's researching wearables and investigating mHealth opportunities.

CEO John Chen gave a slight reveal in a PC Magazine report that his company is doing "internal experimentation" on wearables and that it's an area of research.

We've known a bit of this given some of BlackBerry's moves this past year. Back in April, it announced it was teaming up cloud-based medical IT vendor NantHealth to develop a mobile version of NantHealth's certified clinical platform, as well as a smartphone specifically for the healthcare segment. In July, BlackBerry subsidiary QNX Software Systems announced a new OS just for medical devices, one that promises to meet industry standards and cut the cost of mHealth device development.

But Chen's remarks offer up substantiation of BlackBerry's upcoming intentions, which is exciting--maybe even a bit more exciting than the Apple Watch debut.


Well the beauty of BlackBerry moving into the mHealth space is that it's already got the security and data protection challenge locked down. It's the premier enterprise smartphone maker. It's the device the White House administration uses. It's spent decades ensuring that confidential and sensitive business data and information can't get hacked, can't get lost, can't be easily accessed.

And that, as we all know, is the biggest issue facing everyone in mHealth wearables, including Samsung and, yes, even Apple.

One industry pundit, after hearing Apple's Watch details, commented there are two reasons Apple pulled back from providing greater insight on the product and its healthcare implications: the regulatory hurdles of when a device may be deemed medical equipment and and the need to have inscrutable security technology in place.

With BlackBerry that latter hurdle is, well, less of a hurdle. To that end, I have great hope that the company can drive new technology inroads in mHealth and drive consumer, provider and care giver adoption, as well.

Competition in any industry is a very good thing. So here's to watching a mega battle for mHealth platforms and devices in 2015 between two of the smartest, and most innovative, smartphone players in history. - Judy (@JudyMottl and @FierceHealthIT)