EU project boosts development of WiFi vital signs monitor
The ZAO is the same size as a thick paperback book and provides professional level diagnostic data so that it can be used by medical professionals and yet its low target volume price point of around €550 means that it can also be used by the home health market. The compact, battery-powered device measures glucose level, body temperature, oximetry (saturation level of a patient’s haemoglobin) and blood pressure and uses WiFi to deliver the information to Android or iOS devices such as smartphone, tablets and computers. Data can also be sent to a remote server for centralised processing and monitoring. The ZAO weighs 310 g and measures 129 x 44 x 135 mm with a built in, rechargeable 3.7V lithium battery and a Microchip processor. It is currently going through the certification process and will be available mid 2013.
Sensaris was founded in 2001 as a wireless sensor consultancy but in 2010 started looking at the mobile health (m-health) market and the barriers preventing market growth. Biomedical manufacturers tend to be very specialized (either for blood pressure monitor, pulse oxymeters or glucometers) and cannot keep up with the quickly changing mobile landscape. For hospital monitoring, chronic disease management or homecare, users typically have to not only purchase various devices, read several manuals, juggle different chargers, but also need to ensure that the various software packages are compatible with their mobile devices. By combining its existing sensor technologies into a single, all-in-one design, and mastering the latest web based software technologies, Sensaris has been able to create a low cost, professional grade solution that is very simple to deploy and use, is compatible with 90% of the mobile devices sold today and addresses interoperability and security issues using the latest web and mobile technologies. It has used the COWIN EU programme for assistance.
"As a small company, it is very challenging to find your way through all certification processes to bring a medical device to market," said Michael Setton, CEO of Sensaris. "In late 2012, we came across COWIN, which is a European initiative to help facilitate the take-up of advanced technologies. Part of their remit is to provide advice, coaching and consultancy to European companies especially start-ups. As this is funded by the EU, it does not cost us anything and it also means that we can be confident that the advice is impartial from people who really understand our industry and are not driven by having to meet sales targets. I have found that people who are experts in the biomedical field rarely have the breadth of experience that encompasses designing and bringing a product to market. I am very impressed with the mentor that COWIN has provided us with as he has actual experience of all this and going through the approvals and certification processes which will really cut down the time to market."
COWIN will also help Sensaris to explore the various business models for bringing the product to market such as direct sales, distributors, medical equipment specialists and also via mobile phone operators. "We have already developed and validated an app that runs on Android and iOS devices to display vital sign data in real time," added Setton. "It was very important from a patient point of view to use familiar devices that they already use in everyday life. In general, we think that the whole design of the solution is the key for product acceptance. From the user experience to the end-product design."
"There is a perception that the EU only helps teams of big companies. In reality, the COWIN initiative is designed to help start-ups through to medium sized companies use new technologies to provide innovative solutions to the market," said Geraldine Andrieux-Gustin, the COWIN coordinator. "Importantly, COWIN also provides them with independent business advice to commercialise technologies and products from a team of people who have first-hand, practical experience of running companies and bringing products to market. Technology is the key to creating new jobs, new companies and wealth within the EU and COWIN is the key driver enabling this to happen."