Nokia wants to hide the gadgetry in health IT

IDG News Service | Jun 17, 2016

With its $191 million acquisition of French health IT company Withings, Nokia says it wants to take the digital health focus away from gadgets and focus on what the data means.

When health trackers first came on the market, it was all about data. How many steps you take, calories you burn, hours you sleep, time you spend standing. It was novel to collect all this data about our lives, but so what. What does it all mean?

With its $191 million purchase of French health IT company Withings, Nokia says it is hoping to start answering that question and take the digital health focus away from gadgets.

“Our vision in digital health is not so much about tracking, about output as it is about outcomes. The outcome is about happiness of people, about life, longevity, well being.”

Before Nokia bought it, Withings already had a reputation for hiding the gadgetry in its high-tech health machines. Take the Withins Activité, it looks like an analog watch and does away with the constant updates. Instead, it feeds that back into an mobile application, Withings Health Mate.

“We try to obscure technology. We try to hide it in products that don’t even look like trackers, such as this watch, which looks like an analog watch but it’s a smart watch tracking you and tracking your sleep and activity and giving you insights into what you can do tonight or tomorrow.”

These connected scales are the first products to be launched after the Nokia acquisition. Forget about just measuring your weight or BMI, the Body Cardio scale is said to measure pulse wave velocity - a system for detecting how stiff your arteries are.

The only surprise, for a company that wants to hide data and get rid of all the gadgetry of health IT, they installed a screen to tell you the weather.

Right now there isn’t a standard way to get this information to your doctor, and the products aren’t registered with the FDA or otherwise certified, but Withings is looking forward to that day.

“This frontier that we have between home, wellness and healthcare tends to more and more disappear, we have an impact on healthcare but not leaving out all the things you expect from a consumer device, which is cool, simple to use, but with relevant and granular health data that are relevant for your doctors.”

The hidden high-ecth comes at a price. The smartwatch costs between $170 and $450 and the scales are $180.