October 21, 2014
Startups are leveraging the Internet of Everything to create tools and devices that are making waves in the healthcare sector
Pill bottles that can tell a caregiver when a patient’s missed a dose. Diapers that can pinpoint urinary tract infections and monitor hydration. A baby monitor that allows parents to get information on their baby’s breathing, temperature and body position from anywhere in the world. These products are either on the market — or soon to be on the market — thanks to innovative inventors who have figured out a way to leverage the Internet of Everything to create tools and devices that are making waves in the healthcare sector. The Internet of Everything (IoE) refers to a concept where everyday physical objects are connected to the Internet and be able to identify themselves to other devices.
Gartner Inc. predicts that the Internet of Things (IoT) — which excludes PCs, tablets and Smartphones — will grow to 26 billion units installed in 2020 compared to just 900 million in 2009. That growth will far exceed that of other connected devices, according to Gartner. By comparison, the number of smartphones tablets and PCs in use will reach about 7.3 billion units by 2020.
Turning pill bottles into connected devices was about more than just starting a business for AdhereTech CEO and co-founder Josh Stein. “Both my parents are in health care and they opened my eyes to the problem of adherence,” he said. “I thought would be neat to make pill bottles smart and connected so I recruited some brilliant engineers as co-founders.”
This past July, New York-based AdhereTech raised $1.75 million which it will in part use to build a second-generation of smart pill bottles. The new bottles will be which smaller, cheaper and easier to mass manufacture, according to Stein.
The bottles are equipped with a cellular chip that is always sending the company data, comparing what patients are doing to what they should be doing.
“If there is a discrepancy, we intervene. The bottle lights up and beeps and can either send a text or phone call to patient or caregiver,” he explains. “We can find out why patients missed doses and route that information to the appropriate party.”
For Stein, the bottles are all about the real-time monitoring of patients “in the most passive seamless way possible.” The bottles come with the chip so patients don’t need to set anything up, or worry about having Wi-Fi or Bluetooth capabilities.
“Our bottles work anywhere automatically immediately,” he said. Patients don’t have to pay extra for the bottles as AdhereTech plans to partner with pharmaceutical companies to provide the bottles for expensive drugs used to treat HIV, cancer and hepatitis for example.
Another startup, Proteus Digital Health Inc. has developed an ingestible sensor that is made entirely of ingredients found in the human diet.
The Redwood City, Calif.-based company has based its product on the statistic that 60 percent of people taking medications in the U.S. fail to take medications as prescribed.
The company’s FDA-approved ingestible sensor, is delivered today inside placebo tablets that are taken alongside current medicines, and will soon be integrated inside active pharmaceuticals, according to Adam Pryor, a spokesman for the company.
When swallowed, the FDA-approved ingestible sensor is activated by stomach fluid and creates what amounts to a heartbeat-like signal that is transmitted through the same physiologic pathways as a natural heartbeat. This signal is picked up by an adhesive patch (that resembles a Band-Aid) worn on the torso. The patch is a proprietary wearable sensing device developed by Proteus, which records the data from the ingestible sensor, along with other health-related metrics (such as heart rate and activity). The patch then relays this to the wearer’s smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth. With the patient’s consent, the data can be automatically shared with health care providers, family members or other caregivers.
Boston-based Mimo has developed infant monitors that provide real-time audio and insights about a baby’s sleep activity on a Smart device from anywhere in the world.
An infant wears the Mimo kimono, which is made of cotton and comes with respiration sensors (in the shape of a turtle) that are pressed to the top of the kimono. The Turtle sends information from the sensor via Bluetooth to the “Lilypad,” a Wi-Fi based station usually placed close by, which then relays that data and live audio through the cloud to a connected smart device. The Turtle monitors a baby’s breathing, body position, sleep activity and skin temperature.
Mimo COO Mike Gutner said the product began selling in Babies R Us earlier this year and sold out within the first month. It is also now selling on Amazon and in a local Boston store.
A bit further south, New York-based Pixie Scientific has developed the Smart Diaper for babies, also known as the Pixie Brief (for adults). Initially, the company plans to sequence the adult product before the baby product and anticipates FDA approval by year’s end. Pixie Briefs will screen for UTI and monitor hydration only. The company’s target market are dementia patients, estimated to total about five million in the U.S. alone.
The front of a disposable diaper contains a panel with chemical reagents which change color when urine is absorbed. A caregiver can scan the panel with the company’s Smartphone app just once a day. Scanning takes a few seconds, and can be performed before, during or after changing. The chemical reagents are embedded within the diaper and never touch the skin.
“Until now, diapers collected urine, a by-product of kidneys, and then were tossed away. However urine contains important health information, which when analyzed continuously, can serve as an early indicator for the developing problems,” said Pixie Scientific co-founder Jennie Rubinshteyn. “Smart Diaper, in addition to performing the necessary functions of a disposable diaper, screens for urinary tract infection (UTI), type 1 diabetes, chronic kidney problems, and monitors hydration and nutrition (specifically vitamin D deficiency).”
Mary Ann Azevedo is an award-winning journalist based in Austin, Texas. She has covered business and technology issues for Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal, the San Francisco Business Times and the Houston Business Journal. Used with the permission of http://thenetwork.cisco.com/.