The smartphones of today are certainly technological wonders. Besides their powerful processors and multitude of available apps, most of them are also equipped with sensors such as cameras, microphones, GPS, accelerometers and gyroscopes. While those sensor-laden phones allow users to perform a broad variety of activities, the folks at Nokia believe that those or similar devices could do much more – particularly when it comes to healthcare. That’s why the company is sponsoring the Nokia Sensing X CHALLENGE. The US$2.25 million global competition is intended to “stimulate the development of sensors and sensing technology to drastically improve and expand the quality and access to healthcare across a wide variety of settings for consumers all around the globe.”

Teams are required to submit a system, device, or component that can detect a physical value and record or interpret it. Those physical values could be applied to things such as biofluid and tissue samples, bodily structures, a patient’s external environment, body movements, mood/emotion, and body physics – that last category would include the measurement of vital signs such as heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate.

Off-the-shelf devices are OK, if the data gathered by them is processed using novel software. Conversely, existing software can also be incorporated, if the data-gathering device is unique.

Entries will be judged according to six criteria. As listed in the competition guidelines, these are:

  • Validity - Does the entry detect what is claims to identify accurately and precisely?
  • Usability - Is the technology unobtrusive, lightweight, and small? What are its power and data requirements?
  • Relevance - Does the sensing technology detect a useful parameter or important disease?
  • Originality - Has the team created something novel or creative?
  • Interoperability - Does the device demonstrate adherence to principles of interoperability?
  • Affordablility - Is the device inexpensive enough to be accessible to consumers?

The Sensing X CHALLENGE will be divided up into three separate competitions – each one for a different class of technology – to be held over the next three years. The $2.25 million prize purse will be divided amongst the winners.

Just to make things confusing, the X PRIZE Foundation is also currently running the similar Qualcomm Tricorder X PRIZE. That competition is aimed at the development of a consumer device, “capable of capturing key health metrics and diagnosing a set of 15 diseases.” The Foundation will be allowing technologies developed for Nokia’s competition to also be used (by the same team) in the Qualcomm event.

“The inefficiencies and total cost of the U.S. healthcare system (and healthcare systems around the globe) has been a pressing social and political issue for many years,” the organizers of the Nokia Sensing X CHALLENGE state. “In the U.S., the total spent annually on the healthcare system is more than $2 trillion, which accounts for more than 15 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. Health sensors have the capacity to stem this trend. Consumer use of sensors and sensing solutions has the potential to improve, extend and ease delivery of healthcare services, as well as reduce costs to the benefit of health providers and patients.”