How the Qualcomm Design in India Challenge is helping hardware health tech startups improvise and commercialise innovative devices
From portable auto‐resuscitation devices to battery-powered temperature-controlled cooling devices for transportation of vaccines, hardware startups like Biodesign Innovation Labs, Blackfrog, Beato and Arcapsis are developing products uniquely designed to tackle India’s healthcare challenges.
In India, there is only one doctor for every 1,445 citizens as per the country's current population estimate of 135 crores, which is lower than the WHO's prescribed norm of 1:1000. Moreover, the public and private healthcare systems are fragmented, inaccessible and the infrastructure is anything but adequate.
However, the sector has seen positive developments in the last few years, driven largely by health-tech startups. Leveraging advancing technologies, these startups are playing a key role in redefining the quality of healthcare in India and bridging gaps in the ecosystem, while bringing about a shift in healthcare delivery.
While the focus, till recently, had been mostly on the software side of things, today a number of startups are designing products aiming to solve key healthcare issues, while also making them accessible and affordable., Technologies, Health Arx Technologies ( ) and Arcapsis Techno Solutions are four such health-tech startups. Part of Qualcomm Design in India Challenge 2019 cohort, read how these startups are furthering their innovations with support from Qualcomm.
Founders: Kishore GK, Director
Rakhi Gupta, Director
Nitin Awasthi, CEO
Founding year: March 2019
Arcapsis found its inspiration in the predicament of a mother caring for a child with Asthmatic Symptoms. Today, the startup’s flagship product, XpertHaler, an AI and ML based smart inhaler, connects to mobile phones to provide a holistic asthma management solution. The inhaler is a standalone, reusable Universal Actuator, capable of accepting 90 percent of the standard MDI medication. Housing a powerful combination of BT-enabled Hardware and an App with Cloud connectivity, Arcapsis comes with capabilities for alerts for refill, medicine expiry, auto ordering, sharing data with emergency partners, usage pattern determination and prediction, weather updates, logs for doctors, data analytics for insurance and R&D labs, etc.
Delving into how support from Qualcomm has helped Arcpasis, Nitin Awasthi, CEO, shares, “Apart from clearing all our queries, being part of the programme also gave us access to the Qualcomm platform. We used the CSR1020 Module from Qualcomm which is one of the best BLE devices. This is one of the finest chips with a lot of features to handle all our design requirements and more. The low power consumption is ideal for our device which needs to run for a long time on a single battery charge. We were provided sample codes for both the Android Side and Hardware which considerably reduced our development cycle.”
With a ready-to-launch version of the product focusing on mainly on maintaining adherence in patience, the team is looking to take the B2B route and launch the device in the market in the first half of this year. “We are already in talks with two major pharmaceutical companies and hoping to get some big order from them soon,” shares Rakhi Gupta, Director, Arcapsis.
Biodesign Innovation Labs
Founders: Gautham Pasupuleti, CEO and Managing Director, Co‐founder
Adithya Pasupuleti, Co‐founder
Year of starting up: 2017
Bengaluru-based Biodesign Innovation Labs is a medical device and healthcare technology startup focused on developing life-saving technologies and innovations, with a key focus on mortality and morbidity due to respiratory illness - a medical condition that accounts for 1 out of every 6 deaths in the world.
One of its flagship products, RespirAID, is a portable mechanical ventilation device/auto‐resuscitation device. “The device can be used in places where there is a shortage of ventilators. It can also be used during emergencies, mass casualties and in-transit within hospitals or in ambulances. The device stands out with its novel functionalities, easy- to-use capabilities and proprietary design and technology,” says Gautham Pasupuleti, the co-founder. The team has validated RespirAID at various hospitals across India and are now in the process of commercializing the product. “We want to translate our products into scalable products across various markets,” Being part of the Qualcomm Design in India Challenge has helped the startup achieve this.
“The workshops provided us with an in-depth understanding of pitching, project management, and every aspect that is relevant to a hardware startup, right from building PCBs to making full-fledged products. The business model workshops also helped us evaluate our progress and setup new strategies for marketing and sales. Their support has been a big enabler in commercializing the product,” shares Gautham.
They also got access to Qualcomm platforms and products which brought in key enhancements. For instance, they have been able to add capabilities such as sending data to the cloud, using telemedicine for remote ICUs and patient monitoring, etc. The high-performance of Qualcomm chipsets also ensures that there is no delay in product capabilities and functionalities. “This is very important for a product that provides life support.”
The team is now working towards getting FDA certification to commercialize this product in the US and other markets in addition to India. “With RespirAID, we aim to make a significant reduction in mortality and morbidity especially in the resource-poor settings across the globe,” says Gautham.
BeatO (Health Arx Technologies)
Founders: Gautam Chopra, Co‐founder and CEO
Yash Sehgal, Co‐founder and COO
Kunal P Kinalekar, CTO
Year of starting up: 2015
Funding: Series A (Blume, Orios, Leo, Parkview)
BeatO is a full-stack condition management platform currently focused on Diabetes. “We combine the best of IoT hardware (Smartphone-connected Glucometers) with the BeatO App to support end-to-end management of diabetes vis-à-vis a proven high engagement model,” says Yash. The BeatO App ecosystem provides a complete solution for all the daily needs of a diabetic – right from blood glucose monitoring, management (certified doctors and nutritionists consultation), rich content (educational videos, diabetes-friendly food & drink recipes etc.), medication and diagnostics to specially-curated food and retail products. In a short span of time, BeatO is already India’s largest digital chronic disease management platform serving more than one lakh directly acquired users, adding 10,000 new users each month.
With its current framework for diabetes management already gaining significant traction in India, BeatO wanted to make the IoT hardware cost and performance further efficient.
"With QDIC, we not only found a partner that provided us the components, but also helped in maximising the component utilisation. This is critical from a cost-saving perspective. In addition, the Qualcomm chipsets come with BLE functionality that allows us to process the Blood Glucose data and the data of other blood parameters quickly, without using too much battery power. The next generation of devices will not only work faster, they are also more cost-efficient.”
With a successful commercial product at hand that continues to scale, BeatO is exploring the possibility of adding many more connected devices to its app ecosystem across different chronic conditions.
Founders: Mayur U. Shetty, Co‐founder and MD
Donson D Souza, Co‐founder and Director
Year of starting up: 2015
Numerous industry studies report that at least 25 percent of all vaccines go to waste due to poor cold‐chain management, especially in last-mile delivery. The potency of vaccines are affected when they are stored outside of the correct temperature range and traditional cold storage like ice boxes brings with it a risk of rendering the vaccines ineffective,” shares Mayur Shetty, the co-founder of BlackFrog Technologies. The startup is addressing this challenge with its flagship portable battery-powered temperature-controlled cooling device. The device enables vaccines and even biologicals like blood, tissue, culture to be stored between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius for eight hours.
After numerous organisations like Selco Foundation and many others used BlackFrog’s cooling device to implement successful vaccination programmes, the startup saw the potential to make a bigger impact by working on an advanced version of the current device. “By adding an in-built scanner, we could ensure that recalled vaccines are not administered to patients. In case of a drug reaction in the patient, the batch and the other manufacturing details of the vaccine can be traced, and this eliminates the chances of wrong vaccine being administered. By adding GPS and cellular features, we knew we could also make the product traceable and also ensure that it is monitored.”
Being part of the Qualcomm Design in India Challenge has helped the startup in these efforts.
“It provided us a complete accelerator experience with numerous workshops and hands-on support. We built the startup from scratch as students. So getting Qualcomm industry leaders to vet the product has provided us with a great sense of comfort and validation,” says Mayur.
He adds, “In addition, embedding Qualcomm’s NB-IoT platform will enhance the operational efficiency and reliability of the product which is now in proof-of-concept stage.”
BlackFrog believes there is potential for both versions of its portable cooling devices as the last-mile cold‐chain management for vaccines and other biologicals continue to be a big pain point in India’s large and fragmented health sector.
Applications are now open for Qualcomm Design in India Challenge 2020.
If you are a hardware startup designing devices and products in the domains of Smart Infrastructure, Biometric Devices, Payment Terminals, Agricultural Technology, Medical Technology and Rural IoT, apply for Qualcomm Design in India Challenge 2020. 10 startups selected for the programme will get access to Qualcomm Innovation Lab, different kinds of evaluation kits and development boards, along with the tools to optimise camera, audio, display, accelerator programme services, and will be be awarded an initial cash prize INR 3.2 Lakh each and a chance to win anywhere between INR 35 Lakhs to INR 65 Lakhs at the finale of the challenge.