Google's health group has a special 'connectivity bridge' to help it collect people's medical data

Screen Shot 2016 03 08 at 2.33.12 PMBI Screenshot/FCCThe Verily ‘connectivity bridge’

The life sciences company started by Google (now part of Alphabet) has created a special gadget to collect and sync medical information for people participating in clinical studies.

The so-called “Connectivity Bridge” was revealed in FCC filings on Tuesday, providing an early glimpse into the mix of innovative hardware and big data analysis that the company is developing to gain a foothold in the competitive healthcare business.

The connectivity bridge, which looks a little bit like a snorkel mask, appears to be designed to serve as a wireless hub that can be installed in medical facilities or in homes, so that patient data collected with various sensors can quickly be uploaded to the cloud for analysis.

For example, Verily (the new name of Google Life Sciences) is currently providing the sensor tracking and data analysis for a multiple sclerosis study with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Participants in that study could use the connectivity bridge to submit their data, which could be especially helpful if they don’t have access to internet access from a laptop or smartphone.

Verily, which aims to proactively tackle health problems, is conducting various tests and trials to learn about everything from MS to human longevity. Participants in the tests use Study Kit, a suite of apps and devices to help collect health data.

A hub charging and syncing

The connectivity device, which the FCC approved in September but only published photos and details of on Tuesday, uses open source software and lets users charge and sync their Study Kit devices.

Verily would not provide any more details on the connectivity bridge featured in the FCC filings. But it’s easy to imagine other ways the connectivity bridge could fit into Verily’s various efforts.

The device could have uses across the Baseline Study that Google launched back in 2014 (when Verily was still Google Life Sciences) to amass anonymous data to define what a healthy human looks like. The company released a suite of Study Kit apps last year that it said were meant to help Baseline participants “share their health information and habits with researchers on a routine basis.”

The only general use Verily device that we know of so far is an experimental
health-tracking wristband that Google discussed last year meant for patients going through clinical trials. The wristband can measure things like pulse, skin temperature, and external information like noise levels.

Google also said that it was developing software to help researchers securely store, analyse and interpret the data from those wristbands, so the connectivity hub could be part of that process.
Google has said in the past that all health data will be made anonymous before it’s shared with Google.

Ultimately, one of Verily’s main goals is to shift the focus from “intervention to prevention.

Here’s what the user manual looks like:

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