DSP Valley active in Flexible Electronics and Healthcare
Healthcare is a major market for both established and emerging technologies. Flexible Electronics is a growing field gaining more and more momentum. Flexible electronics in healthcare is a combination with a bright future.
As our Newsletter readers and members will know, DSP Valley is currently active in three Flexible (and Wearable) Electronics projects: Flexlines (focused on creating a one-stop-shop for flexible electronics), SmartX (specifically geared towards flexible electronics in textiles), and SmartEEs (aimed at helping innovative companies digitize). This is by design: flexible (and wearable) electronics have high potential. This is in part because of their many possible applications.
One of DSP Valley’s core programs in Smart Health. We’re co-founders of the IBN flanders.health. This year, we’ve worked hard alongside our partners Flanders.bio and MedTech Flanders in getting a Spearhead Cluster for Health Tech off the ground in Flanders.
Collaborative Digital Business Breeding
Our work in the health technology and flexible electronics sectors is essential to our central mission: breeding digital business through collaborative business development. The European Flexible and Wearable Electronics projects and the flanders.health IBN and coming Spearhead Cluster are concrete examples of creating collaborative business opportunities. These go beyond single company, or even single application, vision and seek to build and support strong ecosystems that will be economically sustainable.
This is why we were delighted to read IDTechEx’s analysis. The abstract of their report “Flexible Electronics in Healthcare 2020-2030” confirms DSP Valley’s perceptions. It reinforces our resolve to continue to work hard to bring Flexible Electronics and Health Tech together, in our region and beyond.
Click here to read the summary sent to us by IDTechEx. Please note that we have nothing to do with their research. This is neither an endorsement nor a promotion.
Join us to find out more
Want to find out more about our Flexible (and Wearable) Electronics projects? Check out the upcoming FREE events – click the titles for more information and to register:
Flexible Electronics WebinarFlexlines unites different players providing access to new Flexible Electronics technologies through one-stop-shop concepts in order to accelerate the design, development, and uptake of advanced applications in Flexible & Wearable Electronics.
SmartEEs information Session with TNOThe SmartEEs Project is funded by Horizon 2020 and is aimed at supporting SMEs and Mid-caps in integrating flexible and wearable electronics into novel (series of) products.
In this webinar, Corne Rentrop (TNO) and Dieter Therssen (DSP Valley) will explain all about the project and what the benefits are for companies and service providers thinking about applying.
SmartEEs Information Session with imecThe SmartEEs Project is funded by Horizon 2020 and is aimed at supporting SMEs and Mid-caps in integrating flexible and wearable electronics into novel (series of) products.
In this webinar, Dieter Therssen (DSP Valley), Maarten Cauwe (imec), and Frederick Bossuyt (imec) will explain all about the project and what the benefits are for companies and service providers thinking about applying.
IDTechEx sent this report summary to DSP Valley. You can read more about DSP Valley’s activities regarding Flexible Electronics and Smart Healthcare here.
NB: We are sharing this summary as a service to our readers and members. We are in no way affiliated with IDTechEx.
IDTechEx Report Summary
“The market size for flexible electronics in healthcare will exceed $8.3 billion by 2030”
Dr Nadia Tsao, Principal Analyst at IDTechEx, recently published the below article on the topic of flexible electronics within the healthcare industry.
Flexible Electronics in Wearable Cardiac Monitoring Technologies
In today’s digital age, focus on digital health and the quantified self have led to the rapid rise of heart rate monitoring technologies through wearables such as fitness trackers and smartwatches. Such devices have already proven their ability in detecting hidden heart conditions such as tachycardia and atrial fibrillation in seemingly healthy people. However, the majority of wrist-based devices currently serve only as an advance warning, they are not approved by the FDA for use as medical devices. Thus, cardiologists still need to use alternative technologies for their diagnostic and monitoring needs.
This is where flexible electronics comes in. Cardiac monitoring requires devices to make close contact with the skin, making devices that integrate flexible and even stretchable electronics ideal due to their ability to conform to the skin, the potential for a low profile, and overall patient comfort. IDTechEx forecasts that flexible electronics in cardiac monitoring, deployed in electronic skin patches and electronic textiles, will be a $2 billion market in the year 2030.
IDTechEx have been reporting on flexible electronics for the past decade and have recently published “Flexible Electronics in Healthcare 2020-2030”. In this article, IDTechEx describe how electronic skin patches and electronic textiles are used in cardiac monitoring. To find out more about other technologies for monitoring cardiovascular health, please refer to the IDTechEx report, “Cardiovascular Disease 2020-2030: Trends, Technologies & Outlook“.
Electronic Skin Patches
Electronic skin patches are wearable devices that contain electrical components which are attached to the skin, typically using an adhesive.
In cardiac monitoring, electronic skin patches present an interesting balance between the medical standard, which is a 12-lead ECG test, and consumer electronics such as smartwatches and fitness trackers. While electronic skin patches offer less data than can be obtained through a 12-lead ECG, they present more useful and accurate information than the optical technology used in smartwatches and fitness trackers, and offer continuous monitoring, unlike the 1-lead ECG in the newer smartwatch models.
Within medical applications, electronic skin patches bring increased mobility to the patient over the 12-lead test. The first step from the 12-lead ECG is the Holter monitor, a portable, wired, device designed to be used over 24 – 48 hours. However, this device remains unwieldy and intrusive.
To increase patient comfort, companies have developed cardiac monitoring patches in the form of 1 integrated device over a flexible substrate. By removing the wires and decreasing device footprint and weight, electronic skin patches are more comfortable to wear, and can be used for longer monitoring periods, up to 30 days. This longevity is critical in detecting events for patients who do not experience them daily. The next step for devices will be to incorporate printed electronics to manufacture integrated electrodes and devices with even close-fitting designs for greater patient comfort.
Overall, electronic skin patches for cardiac monitoring fill the gap between in-patient cardiac monitoring (accurate, safe, non-ambulatory, expensive), implantable cardiac monitors (accurate, less safe, ambulatory, expensive) and other wearable fitness devices (poor accuracy/no medical approval, safe, ambulatory, cheap). But the deployment of cardiac monitoring skin patches is not just limited to event monitoring or mobile cardiac telemetry. Outside of cardiac monitoring, electronic skin patches for monitoring of other diseases (e.g. respiratory), or general patient monitoring (in-patient, post-discharge, etc.) also contain cardiac monitoring capabilities.
Electronic textiles, or e-textiles for short, are products that involve both electronic and textile components in a single device. The idea is to combine the functionality from electronic components with the comfort, esthetics and ubiquity of textile products.
Smart clothing for sports used to be the major focus in the e-textiles industry – companies have made many attempts to develop mass-market products. Though e-textile companies may choose different strategies and technologies, the end products all have very similar functionalities such as tracking of activity, heart rate, respiratory rate, etc. There remains sporadic interest from apparel giants for sports applications, but many of the e-textile players have now shifted towards healthcare applications.
There is a close match between sports and medicine as the same vital signs are being detected and the same form factor (clothing) can be used. Within smart clothing, companies can design in 12- or even 15 leads for ECG readings, much more than the 2 – 3 offered by electronic skin patches. Moreover, smart clothing can be much more comfortable than electronic skin patches. The latter often causes discomfort through issues such as skin irritation. Despite the higher regulatory hurdle in healthcare vs sports, companies see the long-term benefit of e-textiles in healthcare. Smart clothing that is as comfortable as everyday clothing while still delivering medical-grade data will be key to automatic and continuous monitoring of patients going about their daily lives.
E-textiles are not just limited to clothing as a form factor, they may be incorporated into non-apparel textiles such as bed sheets, blankets, and even furniture. Regardless, the key for e-textile players today is validate their product through regulatory bodies such as the FDA, and to look into reimbursement for their products.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced clinicians around the world to test out medical technologies to continue treating and monitoring their patients remotely. Though many physicians will eventually return to in-person practice, a fraction will continue utilizing telemedicine and remote patient monitoring technologies. Technologies such as electronic skin patches and e-textiles have much to offer to the healthcare system – remote patient monitoring has been shown to result in better outcomes, higher quality of care, and increased patient satisfaction. Healthcare systems will achieve cost savings through better management of patients and thus avoiding costly hospitalization and emergency room visits. While reimbursement of remote patient monitoring technologies is moving in the right direction, it will remain a major hurdle for companies entering this space.
Dr Nadia Tsao is a Principal Analyst at IDTechEx where she has been driving the company’s research in the life sciences. Her research spans a range of topics within healthcare, including digital health, bioelectronic medicine, and tissue engineering.
At DSP Valley, we love to see our member organizations succeed. We’re happy for them, of course! We’re also thrilled to see our digitization ecosystem thriving and rewarding innovation. That’s why we’re delighted to share exciting news about one of our startup members, Helpilepsy.
Managing Epilepsy with Digital Technology and Personalized Medicine
Launched in 2017, Helpilepsy is a platform for both patients and their care team to monitor epileptic seizures, side effects, medication and other parameters. Billed as “a complete digital solution for people with epilepsy and neurologists,” the software allows for more personalized approaches to Epilepsy in patients. Currently, patients and doctors in 5 countries (Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany, and Hungary) use Helpilepsy, with more expansion on the horizon.
It works like any app: a patient can download it on their app platform of choice (the Apple store, Google Play, etc) and begin using it. Physicians and healthcare workers can track and monitor patient inputs through beautifully visualized web dashboards.
This summer, the team announced an exciting development: official ISO13485:2016 certification, with many thanks to their Quality and Regulatory Lead Amandine Berton. This may not sound like a huge deal, but it’s a big achievement, especially for a small startup team.
ISO certification pertains to a manufacturer’s quality management system, which in turn involves their documentation and processes. All new releases need to be fully documented, the team must be able to show clinical proof of their software’s effectiveness, new employees must go through a welcome checklist, and more. These must comply with ISO13485 in order to meet European regulations. EU regulations govern myriad elements, including customer feedback, logistics, development and more — all before a product can be sold with the CE mark within the EU single market.
The CE symbol, which we probably all recognize but never really think about, indicates “that products sold in the EEA have been assessed to meet high safety, health, and environmental protection requirements. When you buy a new phone, a teddy bear, or a TV within the EEA, you can find the CE mark on them. CE marking also supports fair competition by holding all companies accountable to the same rules.”1 Crucially, it is up to manufacturers to make sure their products adhere to CE standards and EU regulations.
Recently, the rules regarding medical devices and medical technology changed. From now on, medical software including apps like Helpilepsy and the team’s newest product, Migraine Manager, fall into a higher classification. This means that they are subject to much stricter oversight. Affected class I medical software companies have been given until 2024 to fully conform to the new regulations.
The fact that the Helpilepsy team has been able to secure ISO certification ahead of the deadline is a testament to their talent and dedication.
While ISO certification, and subsequent CE marking, is administratively necessary, it brings with it tangible benefits. For one thing, the team is ahead of the game. The biggest part of their work to fully comply with new regulations is complete. They can once again focus on their core business!
Moreover, the processes necessary for the certification lend further credibility to Helpilepsy’s technology. It’s a strong selling point that they can offer to potential patients, doctors, and business partners.
What’s more, as co-founder Ludovic Ampe explains, ISO certification will hopefully be a catalyst for further expansion. Since the CE mark is a European-widely recognized standard, achieving it should open up more international markets.
Innovating in the field of medical devices can get extremely complicated and overwhelm even the most experienced engineers.
For startups all the necessary areas of expertise can prove be too much, but even for well-established medical companies it is not an easy task to keep up with the ever-changing field, increased complexity and regulations of medical devices.
Areas of expertise
The first thing you need is a multidisciplinary team that covers all the different areas of expertise. For startups, this is often impossible, and they need to look for external services to complement their skills. If you take this external route, look for teams that are flexible and can work well together with your team. Look for a team that has an extensive history in medical products and other fields. They can provide a wealth of expertise and experience in various areas that even some medical device manufacturers may lack internally. This will ensure you look at your project from different angles and transfer solutions from other fields.
Experienced design firms have tried and tested development methodologies that will guide you through the whole process. They know where the pitfalls are, and can work according to the required ISO standards.
Start from the user
Human factors, user-centric design, and usability engineering play an increasingly important role in the medical device industry.
Designing for healthcare must start from the user (patient, doctor, caregiver), not the technology. Particularly crucial is designing for human factors from patient acceptance, to increasing patient and user safety, to minimizing the risks of potential human errors.
Acquiring insights into user needs, fears, and use from patients and workers is essential for designing a successful medical device. Therefore, extensive user research and testing are an absolute must in the development process.
Medical devices are not stand alone anymore. Many products are connected to platforms and exchange data with patients, doctors, and caregivers. This requires new insights and disciplines to design frustration-free user interfaces, secure data protection, and interconnected products.
Additionally, some healthcare is shifting away from hospitals and other medical environments to patients’ homes. Connected smart products collect medical data and make it available for patients, and doctors, in real time, to make the right decisions. This not only makes the development of products more complex, with smart censors and high connectivity, but also demands a complete rethinking of how healthcare services are delivered. These products become product-service systems that require a service design expertise to make them successful on the market.
Finally, when you have your minimal viable product, proof of concept, and final prototype, you must be able to produce it in a consistent error-free way.
Thinking about this is not something you start with after the design is finished. Design for manufacturing should already be part of the design process from the very beginning. Production and product cost need to be taken into account at the very start of development.
Finding the right partner to produce your product is also essential, and if you start early enough, a good partner will help you in the last stage to go to production.
Go to market
Established healthcare companies have the necessary expertise to market their products in-house. For startups this can be a challenge. Even the best designed product can fail if it is not brought to market the right way. At the start of the development, product marketing and branding must already be part of the thinking process. This is the only way to make sure they will reinforce each other and avoid unpleasant surprises at launch.
How does Achilles face medical design?
At Achilles, we advance healthcare through people-centereddesign. We prototype early and often, to ensure we keep the people we design for at the heart of the process. By putting ideas in the hands of users from low-fidelity paper interfaces to 3D-printed prototypes and high-level immersion VR, we systematically identify improvements and preventively exclude risks without compromising our intuition.
We believe better health is achieved by engaging people at every stage of their health journey. Our cross functional team — consisting of biomedical engineers, designers, usability experts, and a doctor — work across disciplines to integrate people’s needs with responsible technology and sustainable business models. We strive to establish innovative healthcare service solutions that drive business value by advancing the standard of healthcare.
Visit Achilles Design at MEDICA Düsseldorf from 16-19/11/2020.
To help face COVID-19 and ensure both health and well-being, the European service provider in product innovation Verhaert Masters in Innovation developed ‘Hai’: a digital demonstrator platform, based on user-centered Artificial Intelligence.
New platform Hai for safer behavior
After 3 months of lockdown, strong regulations, and economic struggle, we’re carefully going back to our “normal” life. It’s a challenge to find the right balance between the well-being and health of the population, and a steady recovery after this critical period.
To provide an answer to this challenging situation, Verhaert developed a demonstrator of a digital platform that uses AI-based Computer Vision to extract essential metrics from any room or area. The ‘Hai’ platform can bring COVID-related safety awareness to the public, allowing them to make informed decisions. It’s not a surveillance system, but a tool to empower people with relevant data about a specific space and to nudge them in a positive way towards a safer behavior.
Components of the AI system
The digital platform consists of 3 components:
Cameras to record a live feed of the people present in a particular area, the people entering and leaving the place.
An edge AI system to process the footage on-the-fly. The system extracts the number of people, how many of them wear face masks, and measures the physical distance between individuals.
Online dashboard to display this information in a friendly and educational way.
Let’s say you work at your desk and you want to get something from the cafeteria. On the dashboard, you can see whether or not you should wait a while until fewer people are present at that place.
Artificial Intelligence algorithms
Verhaert’s AILab trained the AI algorithms to calculate the number of people present in any space and detect how many of them are wearing face masks. What about the security and protection of private data? The cameras’ live feed never leaves the AI system. The edge AI device treats the information locally and only transfers processed and anonymous data to the dashboard. No human being sees, stores or transfers any images, safeguarding everyone’s identity and privacy.
Hai is about our health
The online platform is a tool to organize ourselves and our spaces, it doesn’t judge individuals. It allows us to access real-time information from anywhere to make informed consent whether or not to enter a room. Hai will display the total number of people in an area versus the maximum quantity allowed. Additionally, it creates a heat map of “close-encounters” (distance less than 1.5 meters) giving valuable information for cleaning, disinfecting, optimizing walking flows, and detecting bottlenecks.
Hai is about you
Hai will recognize in the near future your gestures, so if you wave hello to the camera or raise a thumb, Hai will respond interactively. The digital platform has been created to demonstrate how AI technology can help us in managing our presence and common spaces better during COVID. Ensuring we all stay safe, not only at home.
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Since 1969, Verhaert Masters in Innovation has pioneered the field of product innovation. As a leading innovation group in integrated product development, Verhaert assists companies and entrepreneurs in the development and implementation of successful innovation processes. The group now has more than 200 employees with offices in Kruibeke, Gentbrugge, Kortrijk, Nivelles, Noordwijk, Utrecht and Aveiro.
Leuven-based startup ArtiQ has had plenty to keep them busy these last months. Using artificial intelligence-based software, ArtiQ.PFT, they help doctors interpret pulmonary function tests and improve the diagnostic environment for respiratory diseases. As the covid-19 pandemic hit, their lung diagnostic innovation has found fertile ground.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all lung function tests were shut down during a certain time. Now hospitals are restarting their practice and lung function tests can be used to monitor the progression of the disease,” he writes.
After requests from doctors inundated by pandemic patients, Marko and the team decided to offer their software free of licensing fees until September. As such, their diagnostic AI technology is increasingly being used to follow-up on patients, in addition to its original intention to help with initial diagnoses.
ArtiQ.PFT, is already used in the interpretation of more than 50.000 lung function tests in UZ Leuven, CHU Saint-Pierre, OLV Aalst and ZOL Genk.
Following Patient Roadmaps
As Covid-19 patients leave hospitals, they’re increasingly visiting their primary care doctors for check ups. This means that non-hospital healthcare providers are in more need of lung care technology. In response, ArtiQ is looking to move out of hospitals, too, and is actively working on bringing their technological support to GPs.
“ArtiQ plans to integrate AI-expertise with spirometry to support GPs in identifying lung diseases and improving their decision making,” Marko states. “In the future, such tool may play an important role in the follow-up of COVID-19 patients on the GP level.”
ArtiQ in drug development
Given the success they’re seeing in patient follow-up, the team at ArtiQ is also looking into expanding their technologies into pharmaceuticals and drug development. They’re specifically looking to bring their technology to clinical trials and improving quality control of lung function measurements.
As Marko explains, “In respiratory drug development, lung function is the primary clinical tool to assess the efficiency of treatment. Therefore, it is critical for pharmaceutical companies and the success of their clinical trials that the results of these tests are consistent and reliable.” ArtiQ’s new AI-based software can do just this.
Using AI to improve healthcare
Ultimately, it’s the AI ArtiQ integrates and innovates that’s making the big difference. The ArtiQ team is profoundly aware of the changes AI is bringing to the healthcare system. As they see it, using artificial intelligence in healthcare can provide tangible support for healthcare workers. Three top examples, elaborated in a recent blog post. include:
Providing consistent decision support for healthcare providers, especially where large amounts of data are involved
Reducing the administrative burden so that healthcare professionals spend less time on paperwork
Creating more time to focus on human interaction. The preceding two will allow health professionals to have more time with patients and for meaningful collaborations with colleagues
You can visit ArtiQ at their website and follow them via their social media channels
There’s no doubt that the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19 has changed our lives. Of course, it has most heavily affected those directly infected, their families, and those caring for the sick. But the pandemic has affected – and will continue to affect – everyone and every facet of society, not least of which is our work rhythms.
The effects of the 2020 global pandemic on work rhythms and societal norms was the subject of a recent piece written by Karen Borremans, resident clinical psychologist at Flemish startup Moonbird. Her essay, which you can read in Dutch here, asked the big questions facing employers and employees alike these days: “Are we going to go back to the ‘normal’ work rhythm? What lessons are we learning? What will be different?”
Changes from every direction
A major theme that Karen highlights is change. We all had to change our daily life and adjust our rhythms when the pandemic and the lock downs started. Now that lock downs are lifting (and in some places being reinstated), there’s whole new sets of changes.
She points out that just because we’re adjusting back to work doesn’t mean that it’s not an adjustment. What’s more, nothing is going back to exactly the way it was. So no matter what, we’re still having to figure out new ways of working. At the same time, we’re also still figuring out new ways of playing, moving, traveling, and everything else. As official measures are revised, what we can and cannot do changes. Nothing is secure or permanent. This is challenging at the best of times, let alone in a stressful situation that has serious implications for our health.
As we transition back to a less locked down work rhythm, individuals need to be mindful of their mental health. We need to introspect, take time to breathe, and allow our emotions room so that they don’t overwhelm us. Karen further points out that we need to pay attention to our physical well-being as much as our mental: relaxation and balance need to be combined with movement and healthy eating and sleeping habits.
She specifies, “Try not to be too hard on yourself . . . Define your limits and expectations, but be flexible and adjust your expectations over time. Take the time to consider what is feasible and what is not.”
Employers’ efforts to help re-establish post pandemic work rhythms
Companies, too, can play a role in easing the transition from lock down, even as they face financial difficulties in the face of the pandemic’s economic impact. “Especially at this moment employers have to find a balance between task orientation and people orientation,” Karen writes. “For organizations it will therefore be a question of finding a balance between their economic capital and the ‘mental capital’ of their employees.”
All the new ways of working that we’ve developed during the crisis do not necessarily have to be suddenly taken off the table. It’s not a black and white story. The crisis also created many opportunities: for example, in mobility or through more teleworking. Within organizations, there need to be discussions about which positive aspects of the crisis can be retained in order to increase productivity.
Karen Borremans, (Moonbird) Clinical Psychologist
Above all, it’s about paying attention to each other. Organizations need to create an environment at work that allows for Covid-19 adjustments aside from extra hand gel and spacing between desks. Senior colleagues should be cognizant of how much they ask of employees, and be watchful for signs of stress and anxiety. Flexibility will be the name of the game as we all try to re-establish work-life balances.
Tips & Tricks for employers and colleagues
Karen spells out some concrete actions we can be aware of in our working world, both as employers and coworkers, to help make the post lock down transition smoother:
“Regularly do individual face-to-face check-ins: ask before a meeting how someone is really doing, how that person feels with the current situation.” This might feel invasive, but knowing how a colleague is really feeling can help inform how we handle the work environment.
“Show understanding for someone’s feelings and look for appropriate measures: a better work-life balance, maybe more teleworking for more days, sliding hours, slowly rebuild the workload, balance productivity with capacity and adjust someone’s tasks, Or, if necessary, referral for appropriate (mental help) such as an internal confidential counselor, external prevention advisor or psychologist.”
“Be a role model for your employees: show how you can work on our mental well-being, spread actions and set up activities. Ask those responsible to explain how they actively do this, and teams will be more likely to try it out. Moreover, you create a culture where it is okay to feel less than great and you rid mental well-being of its taboo.”
“(Transparent) communication: it may be necessary to adjust the existing guidelines and procedures relating to sick leave, teleworking and welfare policy. A clear framework with a transparent communication plan helps for everyone. Plan individual one-on-one meetings between managers and employees, and facilitate networking between colleagues.”
Flemish start-up Moonbird is focused on your breath. Well, they’re focused on helping you focus on your breath so that you can relax. Through a combination of biomedical sciences and clinical psychology, the team of four is working hard on digital technology-driven solutions to help us all calm down a little. You can check out their website and their forthcoming breathing exercise device here.
Visit Moonbird at their website and follow them via their social media channels
Our Flexlines consortium was present at the DSP Valley seminar Flexible Electronics and Smart Textiles on 15 November 2019. The workshop focused on Flexible Electronics in general and Smart Textiles more specifically. DSP Valley has been key in bringing together companies (SMEs) and research actors necessary to advance this exciting domain.
By Koustabh Dolui, Chetanya Puri, Hans Hallez, Dimitri Van Landuyt, Sam Michiels, Bart Vanrumste, Greet Bilsen, Heereen Shim, Oleksandr Tomashchuk, KU Leuven (Contact author: Sam Michiels <email@example.com>)