‘BT for Life Sciences’ Maps Progress in Biomedical/Pharmaceutical IT Industry

Brian Washburn
Brian Washburn

Summary Bullets:

  • The ‘BT for Life Sciences’ program has built up personnel expertise and ramped up partners and customers, and it is adding adjacent services.
  • While the pharmaceutical sector enters integrators’ territory, major telecom service providers target opportunities across the wide spectrum of healthcare services.

Service providers know well by now that enterprise cloud services are about more than selling low-cost compute power.  The value of a cloud service is in the sum of applications, expertise and agility the provider brings to the table.  BT has been heavily focused on solution building – in the past, to the point of overextending itself with large, specialized consulting and professional services engagements.  Since then, the provider has taken a more pragmatic approach, which includes delivering industry-specific, repeatable cloud solutions.  BT’s vertical solutions targets include pharmaceutical industry contracts, and its BT for Life Sciences business unit puts it in good stead to compete for these compute-intensive projects.

At first glance, the segment is a better match for an integrator than a managed services provider.  Someone needs to structure a workflow around the cloud infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS); needs to license specialized tools such as analytics and other software; and needs to handle security and data integrity to comply with country regulations (in the U.S., the Food & Drug Administration), which can include a fair share of paperwork and audits for compliance.  However, security also extends to the network, which nowadays includes both fixed wireline and end users’ mobile devices.  Mobile apps can be used for M2M via specialized devices, or by apps on patients’ own smartphones to report medical data; the apps would need to meet privacy and data integrity requirements.

As in most fields, information technology is a means to an end for the pharmaceutical/life sciences vertical.  IT enables the core business, in this case scientists and data analysts building the models, and running analytics or other complex computational tools.  If a service provider such as BT can help build and tear down environments, operate the underlying infrastructure reliably and maintain compliance, that is one less distraction for the life sciences company.  BT has signed partners including Accelrys (scientific R&D software and services), Aspera (rapid file transfer specialist) and Schrödinger (pharmaceutical and biotechnology research software).

For its efforts in the life sciences vertical, BT executives note they are seeing additional payoffs.  The initial connectivity and cloud services sales can eventually lead to selling other networking services, voice, and conferencing and collaboration tools, even managed telepresence.

While BT is ramping up its specialty in building solutions for the pharmaceutical industry, it is hardly alone in looking for opportunities across the spectrum of the healthcare industry.  AT&T has a Chief Medical Information Officer leading the business.  Its AT&T ForHealth portfolio addresses many segments, including a strong focus on m-health that draws on M2M and mobile devices in innovative ways.  Verizon also has a Chief Medical Officer leading its efforts in the vertical.  Verizon’s portfolio includes specific answers to virtual healthcare, security/compliance and identity solutions.

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