Sensaris has announced that it has developed a novel, multi-sensor device for monitoring vital signs. Called the ZAO, it is currently going through the certification process and will be available mid 2013. Roughly the same size as a thick paperback book, it is designed to provide 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.
This 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.
Sensaris was founded in 2001 as a wireless sensor consultancy. In 2010, it started looking at the mobile health (m-health) market that had been predicted to be big since 2005 but there were barriers preventing this. 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. This is far from an easy task.
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.
"As a small company, it is very challenging to find your way through all certification processes to bring a medical device to market," explained Michael Setton, the 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. He also gives us pep talks when the going gets tough which happens frequently in a small company!".
Emmanuel Cohen-Laroque, COWIN Biotech/MedTech expert and Senior Partner at YOLE Finance in charge of M&A and fundraising operations, who is the COWIN mentor helping Sensaris, added, "My brief is not only to help Sensaris bring its product to market but also to help the company with all the other challenges that a small start-up faces such as raising finance. For example, we helped them review and negotiate the term sheets for the recent angel round that will fund the certification process and bring the product to market. We also monitor the global market for rival product offerings and for new technologies that could be used in the ZAO."
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 Michael 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." Sensaris has also found from discussions with possible users that patients are really keen to embrace new technology especially if it can help them get better faster.
ZAO's real time monitoring of their health status provides reassurance that they are making a speedy recovery rather than having to wait for checkups. Patients and caregivers also like the reassurance that real time monitoring immediately flags up an issue so that it can be quickly addressed. "There are strong expectations both from patients and caregivers to help patients address their health with serenity and the development of plug-and-play devices for monitoring health from home is now a reality," explained Michael Setton.
Geraldine Andrieux-Gustin, the COWIN coordinator, added, "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. 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."