BlackBerry's Next Innovation Could Be Bacteria-Free Smartphone

One way BlackBerry could gain health care customers: a bacteria-free phone.

ByALYSSA NEWCOMB
June 25, 2015, 2:30 PM
PHOTO: An employee crosses the street near signage displayed at BlackBerry Ltd. headquarters in Waterloo, Canada, March 19, 2015.
An employee crosses the street near signage displayed at BlackBerry Ltd. headquarters in Waterloo, Canada, March 19, 2015.
Kevin Van Paassen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

— -- Germaphobes take note: BlackBerry CEO John Chen revealed this week the company is considering developing a bacteria-free smartphone geared toward doctors and nurses as it continues to try and win over more health care enterprise customers.

Chen teased the idea when speaking at a Mackenzie Health event on Wednesday in Ontario, Canada, where he announced a partnership with ThoughtWire and Cisco to equip health care workers in a Mackenzie Richmond Hill unit with BlackBerry devices connected to a secure messaging and alerts system.

"Health-care workers have to be worried about one less thing to wipe down," Chen said when he mentioned the idea of a clean phone, Bloomberg reported.

BlackBerry has continued to lean on its enterprise appeal to help the company stay relevant in a market where individual consumers are continually choosing Android and iOS based smartphones. Developing a so-called "clean phone" could be another step toward winning hospitals and doctors' offices as new enterprise clients.

It is estimated between 20 to 30 percent of germs can transfer between fingertips and a phone, according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville said the innovation would be "thoughtful and welcome” but it’s "not as though it’s a great revolution."

"To put it in perspective, smartphones are not a major source of hand contamination and a source of infection," he told ABC News. "But every little thing helps."

As Chen focuses on growing BlackBerry's software business, the company reported in its Q1 earning call this week it has achieved year-over-year revenue growth of 150 percent in software and technology licensing. The company also added 2,600 new enterprise customers, mainly in the health care and financial services fields, Chen said.

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