The X-Prize Foundation designs and manages public competitions intended to encourage technological development that could benefit mankind.

The non-profit organization is most notable for the Ansari X PRIZE, encouraging private building of spacecrafts. The award was given to SpaceShipOne in 2004, financed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and it ushered in a new era of private spacecrafts.

The Foundation is hoping the same transformative change will happen with mobile medical technology.  They are partnering with Qualcomm and announced the Tricorder X-Prize, a $10 million dollar prize to develop a mobile solution that can diagnose patients better than or equal to a panel of board certified physicians.

Per their description of the prize:

The X PRIZE Foundation and Qualcomm seeks to achieve this by combining advancements in expert systems and medical point of care data such as wireless sensors, advancements in medical imaging and microfluidics.

The Tricorder X PRIZE aims to incentivize consumer empowerment in healthcare by extending the reach of health information and services to more people. This prize will bring understandable, easily accessible health information and metrics to consumers on their mobile devices, pointing them to earlier actions for care.

It doesn’t appear the X-Prize wants to replace a physician, rather, allow them to spend their time more efficiently:

“Qualcomm believes the value of this X PRIZE is also in changing the cost structure and focus of healthcare. By having consumers take the initial actions to obtain health assessment data, the use and the quality of physician’s time is improved.”

To win this prize, the winning team is going to obviously focus on software and a decision support tree that patients can easily use.  The challenge for those competing will be how to get reliable physician exam information, and how to balance it with a decision support tree, among a host of other dynamic variables — the art of medicine.

The details of the competition are still fuzzy, and will become more clear when the Tricorder X-Prize officially launches in early 2012.

Source: X-Prize Foundation