BlackBerry considers bacteria-free phone

BlackBerry may design a bacteria-free smartphone as it bids to become the secure mobile choice for the health-care industry, chief executive John Chen said.

The Canadian mobile manufacturer is partnering with ThoughtWire and Cisco Systems to provide nurses and doctors in a Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital unit with a portable messaging and alert system. BlackBerry declined to disclose how much it is spending on the project.

Medical equipment in patient rooms, including mobile phones, can carry bacteria through the hospital, said Aviv Gladman, chief medical information officer for Mackenzie Health.

Gladman said that medical professionals are supposed to wipe their phone with alcohol before entering and exiting a patient’s room. A study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology found that about 20 to 30 percent of germs transfer between a phone and a fingertip.

— Bloomberg News

Army is building prototype Hoverbike

The U.S. military is designing a real-life version of the Star Wars hovering speeder bike.

The prototype, which is being developed by Malloy Aeronautics and Survice Engineering, doesn’t come with blaster cannons. But the Defense Department is imagining the carbon-fiber Hoverbike as a “multi-role tactical reconnaissance” vehicle that can be used to support a variety of missions such as carrying supplies or gathering intelligence, according to Reuters.

The two companies have a contract with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory to do research and development on the Hoverbike, Malloy said. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but Britain-based Malloy is setting up an office in Maryland so that it can test the product closer to its customer.

The Hoverbike comes as Defense is investing in unmanned robotic technology. In September, Malloy wrapped up a Kickstarter for the project, collecting more than $101,000. The company is trying to raise an additional $1.1 million on its Web site.

— Brian Fung