Today, iRobot and InTouch Health made news by announcing a partnership leveraging the business connections of InTouch into the healthcare industry and iRobot’s strong technical innovation efforts in robotics. (see the press release here)
Granted, Dr. Wang (Yulin) is a gifted robotist that we interviewed before, but with InTouch Health, they are focused on the development of the continuum of service for the healthcare market. InTouch have successfully developed technologies that support networking across the emergency networks for their systems, they have handled the troublesome hurdles of the FDA and other medical regulations to get their products into hospitals and other medical locations, and they have spent a great deal of time learning about the customer needs in the healthcare market. As they continue to build out their offerings, which is becoming more and more workflow-based, InTouch could benefit from a deep technology bench that is growing with other revenue sources.
Enter iRobot and Colin. Not sure if Colin had the lead on the deal, but with their push and experimentation on the AVA and their need to get a strong foothold in another market, why not partner with the one company that has become synonymous with “telemedicine” and “remote presence”? With AVA in this market, InTouch can keep their eye on the networking and workflow management, while iRobot focuses on the platform and the other “robotic” issues.
We also love the inclusion on the press release of the “extensive cross-licensing of the companies’ patent portfolios, giving the collaboration a formidable patent position.” WIth Suitable, Robodynamics, vGo and others – this sounds like a big stick that can be used to beat down other players from entering the market.
The problem with that is that InTouch Health somewhat successfully discouraged a competitor with part of their portfolio and discovered that most of their patents had limited use – aside from pushing that company to Sweden (see the story on Giraff). We see that line as a way to scare people off, but we are not fans of when patents are used to threaten innovation – and in this case, we can see that being one of the tactics used.
We see this as a move to strengthen the two companies in their own positions – Dr. Wang gets access to new tech and a salesforce that has been itching to get into another market with a viable product and iRobot gets to value itself more as its patent portfolio becomes more defendable and they have another great partner.
Congrats guys – we look forward to see what fruits are borne of this relationship.