Mobisante Sees Early Demand for Ultrasound on a Smartphone, Before It’s Really Ready to Roll

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the Toshiba smartphone has a USB port, and that’s the software version compatible with a USB data feed. There’s no getting around that—an ultrasound machine must connect with a transducer that sends and receives the ultrasound signal. So that means the hardware has got to have a USB port.

While the Mobisante software operating system may not be cutting-edge, it enables doctors to do things they couldn’t before. By running on a smartphone, Mobisante’s machine has long battery life that can be useful in remote areas, or poor parts of the world without consistent electrical access. Even more importantly, the smartphone enables doctors to transmit images to a colleague somewhere else so they can quickly, and easily, get a second opinion on how to diagnose the patient. That’s something existing ultrasound machines can’t do nearly as easily.

Tablets offer the same kind of portability and long battery life of a smartphone, with the added bonus of bigger, high-resolution screens that produce a more data-rich image. Some doctors will surely find that more attractive for reviewing the sometimes-grainy ultrasound images. One complication here is that Apple’s iPad is the dominant tablet, but its hardware lacks a USB port. Right now, Mobisante is working instead on a tablet version of its ultrasound application on an HP Slate that runs an updated version of the Windows 7 operating system, Chutani says.

It’s still too early to say whether the original smartphone configuration, or a tablet configuration, will be more popular with customers, Chutani says.

While the company has a lot of engineering work on its plate, much of Mobisante’s future will hinge on how its respective systems perform in the clinic. Chutani isn’t saying much yet about what he has in mind here, but essentially Mobisante needs to run more rigorous controlled trials that compare its miniaturized ultrasound tools to bigger, high-powered systems that are used every day in hospitals, by companies like Philips, Siemens, GE, or Bothell, WA-based SonoSite (NASDAQ: SONO). It would be easy enough to dismiss such a tool as a mere toy, and Chutani wants to run it through the paces to see how accurate its machine really is in a variety of clinical settings, compared head-to-head.

Then, after about a year, it will be ready to roll with marketing, Chutani says.

“Now, we can get early adopters,” Chutani says. “But to go after broad market, we need good quality data published in medical journals, so people can say ‘Yep, this is how it performed vs. existing systems.'” But as long as people don’t get too carried away with overinflated early expectations, Chutani says he’s in a good position, seeing this much early demand. “I view it as a confirmation of a real need out there,” he says.

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