Last week, two trade shows were dueling for attention in the San Diego area - the Wireless Health 2011 conference, sponsored by the Wireless Life Sciences Alliance (WLSA), and the Cellular Telecom and Internet Association's (CTIA) Enterprise and Applications event.
While each showcased mHealth applications and services, attendees and presenters were significantly different. In one corner, Wireless Health featured academics and researchers who pontificated on the future of health care and, down the road apiece, CTIA exhibitors spun their messages on how they make current mHealth technologies work; how they get people, doctors, insurers, etc. to adopt them; and how they make money from their health care applications and services.
Now let me admit, I didn't attend either of these shows, but knew people who were there. I closely monitored the goings-on at each because in their own way, what happens at these shows can have a significant impact on the future of health care in our country.
The one thread that can be seen running through each show was wireless, or mobility. Delivering high-quality mHealth to the masses may be the important social change our society will experience since the Internet was born.
My basic take on the innovation and adoption of mHealth is that there needs to be a foundation for delivery of these services. The foundation, or thread, in this case, is the ability to ensure all this information flies through the air, unencumbered, secure, and with the highest-quality transmissions required to monitor, diagnosis and eventually treat patients remotely, especially down home in the rural areas.
This is done over mobile networks. Regardless of which mobile carrier is transmitting the data, all need to have enough airwaves, or spectrum, to do so. I've been told by a buddy of mine in the mobile industry that spectrum has always been viewed as "golden," and that, "you can never have enough spectrum." That has never been more true than today.
Roger Entner, CEO at Recon Analytics, a consulting firm, recently told USA Today that about 50% of mobile users in the world use smartphones. Just look at iPhone 4S sales in the past four days - over 4 million sold worldwide. Add to that the number of tablets being sold, the hundreds-of-thousands of applications run by people using those devices, and the spectrum capacity of mobile networks can be eaten up quickly.
Spectrum is essential and must be freed up for use by carriers to continue offering the kinds of services we want, and, in the case of health care, need, as we become more dependent on doing things anywhere, anyhow and anytime.
MY TAKE ON SPECTRUM
While other industries and services have been impacted by the economic doldrums of the past few years, wireless has continued to grow. Consumers and businesses rely more on their mobile devices than ever before, with many even abandoning their wired services in order to save money.
To all the real people, who depend on these services, spectrum means nothing - until it impacts their experience. They don't care about the technology and what's behind making the service work, just that their tablet or smartphone can access information quickly and they can make phone calls.
It's important then that the government act quickly to free up as much spectrum as possible to enable mobile carriers to continue offering the innovative services people want and need. In some cases this might entail re-evaluating the spectrum holdings of other industries that may not be using this valuable commodity to better serve their customers.
My Mama often said, "The flu is going around -- it's in the air." Well, at some point in the near future, health care will be in the air - and spectrum could be the remedy.
Leroy Jones, Jr.