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How an accident caused this duo to build a health monitoring device for senior citizens

Sindhu Kashyap
25th Feb 2016
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Sriram Venkata Subramanyan’s father was once traveling alone, when he fell down while alighting from a bus. Unfortunately, it was early in the morning, and nobody noticed, so there was no one to help him. He sustained a head injury, and was bleeding profusely as he walked home, unaided.

Meanwhile, Sajid Hussain, whose parents lived in Ambur, had always wanted to keep an eye on their health. Sajid’s father has hypertension, which he keeps under control using medication. Although he had to go for regular checkups, it was proving a challenge due to his limited mobility.

While discussing the issue, the duo, who were colleagues at Wipro, realised that access to health information and safety, especially for senior citizens was lacking, even with the all the available technology. They realised that the solution was immediate or in-time access to information.

In case of personal safety, they realised that tracking location was as important as monitoring vital parameters for patients with chronic conditions. This is what their primary motivation was in founding CloseConnexions.

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Core team @ CloseConnexions

What does it do?

CloseConnexions focusses on developing digital healthcare and personal safety products, IoT communication, wearable devices, portable devices, analytics, and mobile apps that focus on personal healthcare management, particularly for senior citizens and individuals with chronic conditions.

With the help of connected wearable and non-wearable (portable) devices, CloseConnexions captures and shares vital real-time parameters and also uses the information to analyse and provide proactive notifications to caregivers and physicians in case of an emergency or anomaly.

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Smart Watch by CloseConnexions

The startup has two main products:

  1. Demcare: A smartwatch for dementia care (particularly for those suffering from Alzheimer’s). With the help of a mobile app, the caregivers keep track of the patient’s location and get notified during emergencies like an accidental fall or SOS alarm.
  2. SafeSteps: A smart walking stick that helps visually impaired, senior citizens, and those with gait difficulty. The walking stick is built with obstruction detectors to provide feedback to the visually impaired making it easy for them to navigate when they are walking outside

The challenge from the beginning was to make CloseConnexions wearables that not only has necessary health sensors, but also the right form factor, and with good battery life. So the team worked hard with the manufacturer and succeeded after several iterations. After putting in tremendous effort, the team has been able to build a device-agnostic IoT platform, which can support any IoT product across multiple devices.

Building a device agnostic platform

“Equipped with a secure, device agnostic IoT and Analytics Platform, CloseConnexions’s strength is not only providing just-in-time health information/emergency notifications, but also providing proactive and predictive health insights using advanced analytics and predictive insights,” says Sajid.

He adds that the platform has been architected and built in such a way that it can be easily integrated with enterprises like hospitals and other external systems like ambulance services or even emergency services. CloseConnexions technology comprises of three major components: i) wearable/portable devices, ii) IoT and analytics cloud platform and iii) mobile apps.

The wearables or portable devices capture the health parameters and location information for personal safety. Fitted with GSM SIM cards (thereby eliminating the dependency on mobile phones), SOS buttons, automatic fall detection, the information is sent to the IoT and an analytics cloud platform.

With the help of the mobile apps, doctors and hospitals can access information about an individual or group of patients and caregivers can keep track of health information about their family members.

Bringing in a helper

The team has also developed a separate helper mobile app for people who opt-in to help others in case of emergency. “Using this independent app, when someone presses the SOS button on the wearable device or has an accidental fall, CloseConnexions sends a notification to not only their caregiver or/and physician, but also to those who use helper apps and are in the vicinity. This can help in scenarios where caregivers are away and help is needed immediately,” adds Sajid.

To help understand the medical aspects, the duo roped in Dr. Arvind Kasthuri, Professor, Department of Community Health at St Johns Medical College, Bengaluru, to their advisory board.

For the first three months, Dr. Arvind worked full time with the team to provide the necessary domain knowledge that’s part of the core products for CloseConnexions. Since October 2015, the team has been working with many prominent and reputed healthcare institutions (hospitals, senior home care companies) to conduct proof of concepts and clinical testing.

Revenue and future plans

For the B2B play, the team has a one-time device cost, along with a monthly subscription fee per device and user. For B2C play, the individual pays the device cost (with easy EMI options) and a monthly subscription fee.

CloseConnexions plans to provide more products that will help every family and household manage health proactively and make it easy for them to keep track of their health.

“We also plan to harness the power of IoT to connect the wearable and connected portable devices to interact with other services such as home security, financials (payments), and smart cities (weather, traffic),” adds Sajid.

They’re planning to utilise technologies like patchables, augmented reality, and virtual reality in healthcare products in the near future. The products were launched in January this year. CloseConnexions plans to launch their products internationally in the rest of Asia, Europe and Africa by the third quarter of 2016.

The age of IoT

With the growing awareness about healthcare and the increasing market for IoT, the number of players in the field seems to be growing. Some of the players in the field are Cardea who make ECG monitoring wearables, LeChal’s shoes with navigational capabilities, GPS tracker manufacturers like Gecko, and GOQii, SenseGiz, GetActive, who make fitness wearables; the list is simply endless.

Apart from startups, corporate players like IBM, Intel, Gemalto, Infosys, Wipro and Texas Instruments are also actively entering the IoT wearable space. According to Machina Research data cited at the TiE panel, the global market for IoT in 2020 will be worth $373 billion in revenue, with $194 billion from hardware and $179 billion from software. India will account for $10–12 billion of this total revenue.

Ritesh Malik, angel investor in FinRobotics, Cardea Labs told, YourStory,

“I think the wearable sector is bound to boom, and we are likely to see more and more interesting devices coming up in the future. As an investor, I know that these startups are also a good investment because large companies like Google and Facebook are constantly looking for unique players. And any exit from these biggies means a great ROI for investors.”

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