Nokia will sell its Digital Health wearable division to one of the founders of the company from which it bought the business. In April 2016, we diverted from our usual technology coverage to write about an agreement between two significant technology companies: Nokia and Withings. We commented at the time on the promising mashup of the French health tech development company and Nokia’s global manufacturing and distribution powerhouse. Withings growing product portfolio and brand recognition were valuable assets. After what amounted to an outright purchase of the smaller company, it was clear the Nokia brand name was replacing Withings.
On May 2, 2018, Nokia announced plans to sell back the Digital Health business to Éric Carreel, Withings’ co-founder and former chairman. The announcement did not include a purchase price but reported that Nokia expected to finalize the deal by the end of the first half of this year. According to Nokia, the ongoing negotiations are exclusive, meaning no other parties are involved or are likely to be invited to bid on the business. Digital Health’s current product line includes consumer and enterprise products including smart watches, scales, and other health tech devices and applications.
Nokia’s announcement signals its departure from the direct-to-consumer health technology business. Nokia strategic plan focuses on 5G infrastructure and the Internet of Things as a business-to-business and licensing company. We will watch and report back on what happens to the current product line when Carreel owns it. On a broader scale, Nokia’s sell-back indicates the digital health tech industry is changing and evolving. Even participants with massive resources may need to rethink their approaches to the maturing business.