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Google seeks to expand into digital health

Google is a crucial bidder for Nokia Healthcare, a Nokia subdivision focusing on smart health-related products.

A healthcare division of Nokia is set to become part of the tech giant

Google is a crucial bidder for Nokia Healthcare, a Nokia subdivision focusing on smart health-related products.

Google is interested in acquiring Nokia Healthcare, put up for sale by the Finnish conglomerate due to a perceived loss of strategic value. Besides the Google bid, three other companies (which includes Samsung, according to unconfirmed reports) are among the runner-ups for its acquisition option. With this bid on the horizon, which benefits would Google obtain from acquiring a France-based healthcare technologies unit?

Nokia Health was established in 2016 after the merger of the French health tech company Withings with the Nokia Technologies division. At the time of its merger with the Finnish company, Withings was already a well-recognized healthcare products developer. Its health-related products included smart fitness trackers, blood pressure monitors, scales, and pulse oximeters. With such a merger, Nokia ensured a vast array of options enter the healthcare innovation market with a strong menu for consumers. However, recently Nokia has given up its attempts to expand within the healthcare technologies sector. “...In its entirety, our Digital Health business has struggled to scale and meet its growth expectations. Currently, we don’t see a path for it to become a meaningful part of a company as large as Nokia” - announced Nokia’s chief strategy officer, Kathrin Buvac in late February 2018. With this retreat by Nokia, Google is perceived to be a strong candidate to revive the French healthcare facility originally belonging to Withings.

Google was already playing in the field of health-related products with its Google Health service which offered a storage system for patients’ medical data. It was introduced in 2008 and was terminated in 2011 due to its low adoption rate by consumers. Until present, the only health-related directly attributable to the array of Google products are the Smartwatch running on the Wear OS and the Google Fit app.
 
In the meantime, Google’s competitors actively explore their niche in healthcare. Apple has recently developed the Apple Health service to the merge medical data from electronic healthcare records of different hospitals. Microsoft provides such service with its HealthVault since 2007 and actively introduces Internet of Things’ solutions into the medical field. Asian tech giant Xiaomi released a line of health-related products also bound to its own cloud. In case Google adopts some of the current offers from Nokia Health, it should decide wisely how to integrate it into its current services and which advantages to offer consumers compared to the current market shares held by its soon-to-be competitors. 

Additionally, Google is consolidating its presence in France by establishing a new artificial intelligence research center and raising the workforce available to Google on French territory.

However, these efforts could be affected by any legislation reforms that could take place in the country following the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the private data of more than 87 million users were handed over by Facebook to the political data firm. The trouble for a Google bid on Nokia Health health would ultimately lie in the possible preference of a fully French-based bidder over the global corporation. Analysts believe that Google has greater chances to expand in France by a strategy of leaving the field open to French capital that Google could invest later on into, rather than trying to engage in direct acquisitions.

Overall, despite the experience of Google Health, the tech giant may start with a strong footing in the healthcare tech market by setting up its own division. The question is whether their Nokia Health will prove successful and how solid will their strategy be to find a place of their own in the flourishing digital health technologies sector.

Sources:
Lamkin, P. (2018). Google Tipped For Nokia Health Takeover. [online] Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/paullamkin/2018/04/18/google-tipped-for-nokia-health-takeover/#a798072920fa [Accessed 9 May 2018].
Langley, H. and Sawh, M. (2018). Nokia Health is up for sale (again), with Nest and Samsung both interested. [online] Wearable. Available at: https://www.wareable.com/health-and-wellbeing/nokia-health-nest-withings-sale-2018 [Accessed 9 May 2018].
Sawh, M. (2018). Where Nokia Health went wrong. [online] Wearable. Available at: https://www.wareable.com/wearable-tech/nokia-health-what-went-wrong-3440 [Accessed 9 May 2018].
Reardon, M. (2018). Will Google's Nest buy Nokia Health assets?. [online] CNET. Available at: https://www.cnet.com/news/googles-nest-eyes-nokia-health-assets/ [Accessed 9 May 2018].