The potential benefits of a wearable device which can monitor an individual’s location, movements and physiological data and communicate it in real time to a remote location for processing and analysis are simply enormous.
Applications range from connected health to elite sport, rehabilitation, neuro-marketing, and clinical assessment and Irish company Shimmer is a clear leader in the field.
The Shimmer device provides medical researchers, computer scientists and product development teams with a best-in-class vehicle for data capture that is robust, unobtrusive and ready to use right away.
It can capture a very wide range of data such as ECG for the heart, EMG for muscle response, respiration, galvanic skin response and the amount of strain being experienced by muscles.
However, what makes Shimmer so powerful is that it operates in a very open manner and provides open data to its users so it is not restricted by anything other than the imagination of the user.
The company offers consultancy, contract and manufacturing services which can take a concept all the way from initial idea through system design and validation, prototype building and volume manufacture, through to product launch and ongoing development. This accelerates the development of an innovation and can reduce cost and time to market by up to 80 per cent.
"We are not telling people how to use the Shimmer platform," says Shimmer chief marketing officer William Lyons. "It is up to the user to define their needs and how to use the product. Our customers come to us and tell us the solution they are working on and we support that."
Shimmer was founded in 2008 and has its headquarters in Dublin and an R&D centre in Boston. The company ships to 70 countries worldwide and its technology and solutions are utilised by the brightest start-ups, Fortune 500 companies, and world leading universities. All of its products are manufactured in the Dublin facility which is accredited to the ISO 9001 quality management standard and the ISO 13485 medical device standard.
The company recently announced a partnership with UCD spinout Kinesis Health Technologies for the supply of its latest Shimmer 3 platform for use in a new mobility assessment solution in a deal worth €3 million over four years.
Kinesis has developed ‘quantitative timed up and go’ (QTUG), a novel, patent-protected falls risk and mobility assessment technology. It can be used by a broad range of healthcare professionals to facilitate objective assessments of the risk of falling in older adults.
The Kinesis solution provides an objective assessment by the quantitative analysis of gait and mobility data collected using body-worn inertial sensors. Improved identification of those at risk of falling will enable targeted intervention and care services tailored towards those who are actually at risk.
"We are delighted to be partnering with Kinesis Health Technologies," says Shimmer marketing executive Martina Donohue. "The QTUG technology will allow healthcare professionals to see how likely it is that a patient has had a fall. This is the sort of preventative medicine application that the Shimmer 3 platform helps to enable."
Shimmer also won a major contract this year with leading US firm Emerge Diagnostics. Worth $10 million (€7.9 million) over the next three years, Shimmer will provide the core platform for a new class II medical device designed to perform an electro-diagnostic functional assessment (EFA).
This compact, portable and wireless device provides a new, cost-effective standard in the diagnosis and treatment of soft tissue injuries, particularly occupational injuries. The EFA can distinguish an acute injury from a chronic injury and can assist with better treatment of soft tissue injuries by identifying when the injury occurred.
The fact that Shimmer has already done the work on the base technology enables end-user firms to devote their resources to more innovation.
“Our customers do not have to work on the development of the sensor technology or the proof of concept to show that it can work,” says Lyons. “We can do all of that, allowing them to focus on the particular solution they want to develop.”
These solutions vary from sports team performance analysis to remote monitoring of patients with heart or other chronic conditions.
In one case Shimmer was approached by a global sports analytics provider to develop and build a multiparameter sports performance monitoring solution. The system measured player position, speed, heading, heart rate, dynamic stress load along with the number and magnitude of acceleration, deceleration and rotation rate changes during training or game-play. The system is capable of simultaneously logging, streaming and analysing almost a quarter of a million numbers every minute from a team of 11 football players. A football manager would find access to that type of data very useful during a game.
The technology is not confined to elite sport, however. The strain gauge can be used at the far end of the scale.
“In the US they are trying to engage kids in sport and physical exercise, and our technology will allow for a much more interactive experience with sports equipment,” Lyons says. “This will allow for the ‘gamification’ of exercises to make them more fun for kids.”
The monitoring of patients following discharge from hospital is another area where the technology is suited.
“If a patient is readmitted to a US hospital within three months of discharge with the same condition the hospital doesn’t get paid for the treatment,” Lyons says. “Home patient monitoring solutions could be very important in this respect.”
Diagnostics can also benefit. “The technology can give much greater quality data to healthcare professionals,” Lyons says. “Instead of a 20-minute discussion in a doctor’s surgery, data can be gathered over several weeks by the Shimmer 3 platform, offering very strong decision support.”
For the future the company will focus on further enhancements to the platform.
“We are working on addressing functionality, size and power issues,” says Lyons. “We are looking at how additional functionality can be added within the existing size of the product. Also, increased functionality brings challenges in terms of power consumption, and we are looking at overcoming these through innovative wireless technologies and other advances. At the same time, we will ensure that the platform remains open and configurable to maximise its range of uses.”