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BlackBerry mulls entry into medical market with bacteria-free device

BlackBerry (Waterloo, ON, Canada) is back in the news, and for once it's not about its increasing irrelevance. John Chen, who became CEO of the company in 2013, has announced that BlackBerry is pondering the development of a bacteria-free smartphone. A prototype handset has been provided to nurses and doctors at a hospital north of Toronto in a pilot project.

BlackBerry (Waterloo, ON, Canada) is back in the news, and for once it's not about its increasing irrelevance. John Chen, who became CEO of the company in 2013, has announced that BlackBerry is pondering the development of a bacteria-free smartphone. A prototype handset has been provided to nurses and doctors at a hospital north of Toronto in a pilot project. Chen said that BlackBerry is not developing the bacteria-free phone just yet, reports the Hamilton Spectator.

BlackBerry
Image courtesy BlackBerry/Andreas Ponte.
Hospital-acquired infections are a huge problem, as we have reported before in PlasticsToday, and medical device manufacturers have redoubled efforts over the years to embed antimicrobial properties into their products. Plastics are often the material of choice for these applications. BlackBerry has not disclosed any information about the material and antibacterial technology it would use.

Medical professionals are supposed to wipe their phone with alcohol before entering and exiting a patient's room, Dr. Aviv Gladman, Chief Medical Information Officer at Mackenzie Health, told the Hamilton Spectator, but they don't always do that. Moreover, it's not known how effective mobile phone wipe downs are in eliminating bacteria.

A study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology found that about 20 to 30% of germs transfer between a phone and a fingertip.

BlackBerry partnered with Toronto-based software company ThoughtWire, which has the stated mission of revolutionizing hospitals and commercial buildings to make them safer, and Cisco Systems to provide medical personnel at Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital with a portable messaging and alert system. Blackberry is providing the software and devices, reports BloombergBusiness.

Chen has said BlackBerry is intent on remaining in the handsets business despite its dwindling share of the market, added BloombergBusiness. It has switched its focus to high-security software as it has struggled to compete with Apple and Samsung as a device manufacturer.

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