NJ's Meridian, T-Mobile Bring NFC Sleep Tracking Capability to Consumers

Dennis_Napoliello_of_T-Mobile

T-Mobile USA Inc. (Bellevue, Wash.), whose acquisition by AT&T; Inc. (Dallas, Texas) is in trouble due to a U.S. Dept. of Justice antitrust challenge, has made some moves to enhance its B2B business out of its Parsippany regional headquarters. The company is pursuing the strategy it had put forth before the proposed merger to regionalize its business efforts, providing localized outreach to companies.

T-Mobile says it now has more freedom to make unique deals, and one recent by-product was an out-of-the-box discussion with Meridian Health System Inc., the Neptune, N.J.-based healthcare organization, and its joint venture partner, Sweden-based chip developer Cypak AB. Formed in 2010, their joint venture, iMPak Health, develops easy-to-use devices to screen, diagnose and monitor health conditions through wireless technology.

As a result of these discussions, T-Mobile has partnered with Meridian to deploy iMPak’s SleepTrak application using Near Field Communication (NFC) technology on the T-Mobile network. SleepTrak works as follows: instead of enrolling in an expensive sleep study at a hospital or sleep center, users buy a SleepTrak card (now available on Amazon.com for less than $30) and wear it on their upper arm. They also download an app from the Nokia Ovi store to a Nokia Astound device or download an Android app to one of several Android-enabled NFC devices already being offered by T-Mobile.

The SleepTrak card uses a method widely employed in sleep labs, actigraphy, whose analysis creates “sleep efficiency” scores. The data is then charted and presented to a medical professional to evaluate. To collect the information, consumers simply touch the card to the NFC-enabled phone, and the data is uploaded to the application on the phone. Sleep data is automatically tracked, analyzed and trended for the user.

T-Mobile said the opportunity to work with Meridian came to light via a Parsippany-based sales rep who was interested in where T-Mobile could take NFC technology and “noticed that NFC was a great platform not just for mobile payments but also for other things related to healthcare … This is a much more cost-effective way to bring sleep studies to the consumer, plus it is a bit less invasive and you don’t have to sleep overnight at a hospital or clinic,” Dennis Napoliello, T-Mobile director of B2B sales for the New York metro area, told us.

While all the R & D was performed within the iMPak development network, T-Mobile has held many discussions with Meridian about NFC, specifically on how it could work with the Nokia Astound phone and how using it could take the SleepTrak application to the next level through wider distribution. Although Meridian already had the SleepTrak card and app available, T-Mobile brings the device itself to the table as the exclusive provider of the NFC-enabled Nokia Astound phone, said Sandra Elliott, director of consumer technology and service development at Meridian.sandraelliottofmeridianhealth

 “We are evaluating both the best business model and the best way to address consumer needs with our technology. Whatever we put out there has to be inexpensive and easy to use. We also want to look into enterprise-level distribution of the device and app, and T-Mobile will help us there. We are working on ways to get the device into sleep centers. Perhaps doctors will suggest that patients use it as a screening mechanism, to learn whether they really need the services of a sleep center.”

Other T-Mobile NFC-enabled phones include the Google Nexus S and the BlackBerry Bold 9900. Later on, the Samsung Galaxy S II will also have the capability. T-Mobile said that by next week it will have its fourth NFC-enabled phone on the market.

The organizers of the mHealthcon gathering (to be held at Rutgers University Dec. 1), citing research from Technavio (London) and Pyramid Research (Cambridge, MA), say that more than 200 million mobile healthcare applications are now in use, a number expected to triple by next year and climb to a $4 billion market by 2014.

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