Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Qualcomm is funding a $10M X PRIZE for developing a medical tricorder (from Star Trek) that can diagnose a set of 15 diseases.
The Qualcomm Tricorder X PRIZE is a $10 million global competition to stimulate innovation and integration of precision diagnostic technologies, making reliable health diagnoses available directly to "health consumers" in their homes.

The dire need for improvements in health and healthcare in the U.S. has captured the attention of government, industry, and private citizens for years. But a viable solution has yet evaded one of the most technologically advanced, educated and prosperous nations on the globe. Integrated diagnostic technology, once available on a consumer mobile device that is easy to use, will allow individuals to incorporate health knowledge and decision-making into their daily lives.

Advances in fields such as artificial intelligence, wireless sensing, imaging diagnostics, lab-on-a-chip, and molecular biology will enable better choices in when, where, and how individuals receive care, thus making healthcare more convenient, affordable, and accessible. The winner will be the team whose technology most accurately diagnoses a set of diseases independent of a healthcare professional or facility, and that provides the best consumer user experience with their device.

I guess that's cool but why Qualcomm? They're a communications chip (and IP) company. $10M is pocket change for them but I'm sure they're banking on some sort of financial return. Does the final winner ($7M prize) get to keep their IP or does Qualcomm have a claim? Qualcomm got into a IP licensing dispute with Broadcom that took years to litigate but ended up having to pay Broadcom ~$800M.


Another thought... what if the diagnosis is wrong and the consumer makes a medical decision based on the incorrect information? I'm assuming that the tricorder/device is not going to dispense medication and you will need to go to a real doctor for diagnosis/treatment. However, doctors/hospitals have medical malpractice insurance; will the eventual hardware/software companies willing to take the legal risks?

One of the goals of the X PRIZE is "facilitate necessary partnerships and regulatory pathways required for this major transformation." I guess that means finding people in government to change existing medical liability laws. Qualcomm better start a fund now to fight the inevitable legal battles with ATLA (American Trial Lawyers Association).

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