In the emerging industry of fabric sensing technology, one Toronto-based company has invented a revolutionary bed sheet that also functions as a patient health monitor, without the use of any wired attachments to the body. And they are praising a unique research collaboration for advancing their smart device to market.
Studio 1 Labs was founded by Edward Shim and Olivia Lin, who met while university students and who shared an interest in healthcare innovation. They joined forces and invented a wireless fabric-sensing bed sheet that automates routine respiratory monitoring and documentation tasks for healthcare workers. With advanced data accuracy and analytics, this non-invasive technology can predict the onset of health decline and emergencies like apnea, heart attack and stroke.
To help commercialize the device, the start-up collaborated with Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division to create the visually aesthetic user interface for the novel monitoring technology. The College’s Digital Media & Web Solutions team developed an intuitive, user interface, which is viewable either by a monitor next to a patient’s bed, or remotely, through a centralized system capable of following multiple patients. The interface programming also incorporates various levels of secure access for doctors, nurses and even family members.
“Collaborating with Niagara College and research student Alex Davis, was crucial in bringing us closer towards commercialization,” says Lin, adding that this partnership has allowed Studio 1 to be operationally ready for their first long-term care home trial partner this summer, in Vancouver.
This collaboration was possible thanks to support received through the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI), a Niagara College-led consortium funded by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario). Niagara College last year received a $7.3 million FedDev grant to create the SONAMI alliance, a single-window approach to supporting manufacturers’ research and development needs, encouraging them to adopt and integrate disruptive technologies into their operations.
The College’s Digital Media and Web solutions team is uniquely positioned to craft innovative applications for use in industries from manufacturing to healthcare, says the team’s project manager Neil Wilkinson.
“Our research team uses industry leading languages, platforms, and frameworks to specialize in web design and development, mobile applications, and software development,” he says.
“One of the great things about Niagara College is their innovative thinking and being able to bring forth other components we hadn’t thought about,” says Shim. “It’s a perfect example of bringing so many minds together, so many viewpoints.”
This partnership is also a perfect example of how customized each project is, explains Wilkinson. “Faculty and students from the School of Media’s new Media Web Design and Computer Programmer Analyst programs are developing unique solutions tailored to the specific needs of each industry partner.”
One of those computer programmer students, Alex Davis, was able to put his knowledge of user experience design to create this intuitive, easy-to-read user interface for the bed sheet monitoring technology. And Davis was able to work directly with industry partners Shim and Lin to adjust and perfect their needs.
“This project gave me the opportunity for personal development, both in my technical and soft skills for future work,” says Davis, who worked as a research assistant with the Research & Innovation division at The College on the SONAMI-funded project.
“I benefited the most from receiving constructive feedback so I could learn about the end user of this application,” adds Davis. “This feedback is more beneficial than anything else for delivering the best possible product or service to your client.”
While wearable fabric sensing technology has already been gaining ground, Studio 1’s device, which is hand-made in Canada, is unique in that it is concentrated on the depth of pressure for each sensing point. It can alert staff if a patient is at risk for developing pressure ulcers, if a patient is struggling to get on or off the bed, or, most importantly, if someone is in respiratory distress.
As for the need for simplified healthcare solutions, Shim points to the understaffing at hospitals and at long-term care homes. “An affordable intelligent bed sheet monitoring and document solution will reduce spending by alleviating routine tasks for healthcare practitioners so that time can be better allocated,” he says.
In the future, and following additional clinical validation, Shim says the market for Studio 1 will extend residentially, to include any home bed or crib where a smart-pressure-sensing bed sheet could provide alerts to health emergencies. Newer versions will also include clinical monitoring for heart rate, temperature and sleep stages/cycles.
Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division provides real-world solutions for business, key industry sectors and the community through applied research and knowledge transfer activities. The division conducts projects that provide innovative solutions, such as producing and testing prototypes, evaluating new technologies and developing new or improved products or processes for small-and medium-sized businesses. Students and graduates are hired to work alongside faculty researchers to assist industry partners leap forward in the marketplace.