Sensor Monitoring for Home and Farm Applications

HealthComms is a startup which aims to use intelligent sensor technology, to provide home healthcare solutions for the elderly. Their suite of products, HealthConnect, takes a multi-layered approach to healthcare, allowing the elderly person to remain in familiar surroundings, while also reducing the cost of healthcare.

The first layer of the HealthConnect suite that is set for release into the marketplace is MyHomeReach. This software uses visual aids to connect the individual with his or her social care network, which can be comprised of professional care workers and physicians, as well as informal carers like family and neighbours. The individual has their, “social care network” displayed before them on a touchscreen interface and presses the relevant person’s image and MyHomeReach will connect to the person through whichever media is required, from “a rich media being top of the stack all the way down to a text message,” explains the company’s co-founder, Tom Byrne.
 
The next layer of HealthConnect which is in development, MyHealth, will allow two-way tele-care to be provided by the health professional, “Your consult could come in through your general practitioner and your biometric information whether it be blood pressure, diabetes or just a subjective “I’m not feeling great today,” can go out to the G.P.”

Tom believes that this will have particular relevance in winter months, when mobility becomes restricted for many elderly people. “They still have their needs. We believe that that’s going to be very powerful. The option of enabling people to stay at home not only has the benefit of their well-being but it’s a low cost. And we hope to be able to enable that.”

The third layer, Tom explains, is automation. When the individual uses the visual interface to contact a member of their care network, they can allow that person to manage functions within the home such as heating and lighting. “Is your elderly parent at home, warm? I can tell. I can turn on the heat if it’s not, I can raise it remotely. Essentially when they touch the picture, they hand control to you for that session.”

The final element of the HealthConnect suite will be MyHomeView, which will rely on, “sensored living”. This element of the HealthConnect product will allow for remote monitoring of patients through the positioning of ambient sensors in the home.

“There are a few companies in Ireland and the U.S. that are doing ambient-assisted living, which is monitoring behaviour. So, a person gets up typically at 6 a.m. in the morning, goes out to the kitchen, plugs in the kettle, puts on the toaster, etc. That’s a habit, that’s a pattern. Any divergence from that pattern could be an indication that something is up.”

Tom identifies that until now, “The difficult piece for the ambient-assisted living is, what do you alert on when a pattern is broken or there is an atypical activity?”

The combined layers of the HealthConnect product will deliver telemetric information which will tell the individual’s social care network whether the break in the pattern is an anomaly or something to act upon and contact the health professional if necessary.

“What we’re saying is, these are the people that you notify. These are the people that can assist. This person could be across the road. For you it could be on your browser or on your iPad. Because the application is all back-ended we will present all the information to you through any media that you have to hand.”

HealthComms have also developed a product called EquineWatch which allows stud owners to monitor the health of their horses, assets which Tom explains, “could be worth operationally about €1.5 million”.

“A horse is a very social animal, not unlike ourselves. In a herd, you have activities that will be indicative of the atypical situation. For example, if a horse is isolated for a period of time it means it could be bullied by other horses, it means it could be sick, and separated from the herd or separating itself from the herd. It could be pre-foaling. It could be agitated, so hyperactivity is just as important to a stud manager as inactivity is, because hyperactivity will indicate a potential colic, for example and colic is one of the biggest killers of horses.”

The Equinewatch sensor, a 9cm device, can attach to the horses collar and gather, “biometric information like temperature, moisture and agitation”.

“Essentially it’s a PC. It’s not a dumb sensor in that it takes data and transfers it. We can take the information and change or interpret the information on the unit itself, on the sensor. and then take an action based on that.”

The EquineWatch technology has been trialled at the Derrinstown Stud and with Ireland, “punching well above its weight” in the equestrian world Tom believes that this product will be a valuable asset to Stud owners.

HealthComms is one of the startups which has benefited from the Propeller accelerator programme
run by the Ryan Academy at Dublin City University.

“Propeller I think has been very useful to us in that it has given us the rolodexes of a number of people. We have been given names of people who we would not have come across or spent a lot more time getting. So we are getting in front of people with the ideas that we’re working on so much easier, and it’s shortcutting that whole process.”

The advice from experienced mentors is something which Tom feels is helping drive HealthComms from interesting technology to viable product.

“How are we going to sell these products? How are we going to get in front of people? And they’ve lots of experience of this; the good and bad of how to get your product in front of the group that you’re interested in. People will spend years doing this, and we’re getting it in three months. So it’s a huge leg-up for a company. The money’s not bad as well! This is all we do, we’re both working on this getting it up and running and it’s very helpful these days.”

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One thought on “Sensor Monitoring for Home and Farm Applications

  1. It seems inevitable that the sensors business, hardware and software, is going to massive, owing to scale (cost) and miniturisation/smart materials. Seems like the software end of the business will be more accessible to regular entrepeneurs… reckon the big cahunas will lock up the hardware business by producing at scale/big r&d budgets?? I reckon there will be tremendous potential in niche markets… eg health. And I think horses is a brilliant niche. So, yeah… this looks like a high potential startup to me.>”“The difficult piece for the ambient-assisted living is, what do you alert on when a pattern is broken or there is an atypical activity?”Sounds tricky. Healthcare… has to return few false positives, but never a false negative. Machine learning might help some. Sounds like a good research problem for someone. I imagine getting this end of things absolutely right takes a lot of time and effort… which is good in the context of deterring/delaying competitors.

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