Posted July 7, 2015

Smart health patch for serious apps

A Dutch startup is working on a prototype patch that will send health data to a user's smartphone. Possible applications include monitoring athletes; a leading Dutch sports organisation is involved. The technology will be open and privacy built in.

Is this athlete doing his moves in the optimal way? It's an important question in many sports, such as tennis, running and swimming. In medical rehabilitation it's crucial to know if a patient is doing his exercises right. A quick recovery may depend on it. The Smart Health Patch can provide such data. Prototype tests will begin soon, in co-operation with a sports organization associated wit the Dutch Olympic Committee. ATG Europe has invested in the Smart Health Patch through their Fast Forward programme.

It's is the brainchild of Dutch innovator Diderik van Wingerden of Totem, who works with an industrial design company called Tweetonig. The patch will contain a temperature sensor, an accelerometer and a heart rate sensor. Says Van Wingerden: 'Using these data you can measure many important things in an easy and comfortable way, while no supervisor needs to be present. Including for instance sleeping patterns.'

Raw data will be sent via bluetooth to the wearer's smartphone, and the wearer can then decide who to share it with for interpretation. 'Privacy has been one of our reasons to start this development,' says Van Wingerden. 'Of course there are smartwatches now, and other fitness trackers like Fitbit, which have similar sensors. Those devices have a business model based on obtaining your data, creating a platform and having a monopoly on users' data. If you want to use the gadget you have no choice but to give up your data.'

Organizations that decide to use the Smart Health Patch can make their own choices in this respect. 'We create the platform and then get out of the way,' summarizes Van Wingerden.

Van Wingerden and his colleagues have made a conscious decision not to keep their technology a secret. 'As a consumer, I like to know what's inside a product, what it does and how it works. It's about my data.'

Also he likes his products to be repairable. Many products today have planned absolescence: after some limited time thay can't really be used anymore - because the battery can't be replaced, because the software doesn't get updated or for some other reason. With open technology, everybody can make spare parts and somebody somewhere may fix a software problem and put it on the internet.

'I'm opposed to planned obsolescence,' declares Van Wingerden. 'It's not sustainable. In our present technological society we pretend knowledge is scarce (through copyright, patents and the like) and natural resources are unlimited. In reality it's the other way round. Openness and sustainability are our core values.'

That leaves the question how his company Totem is going to make money off the Health Patch. 'We'll sell the product under our own brand name at a premium price. Everybody can do that but we as the inventors will know the tech best. And we'll do consultancy: helping customers use the product. All the while our openness will enable outside contributions so we can innovate faster and have more impact than we otherwise would.'


About Herbert Blankesteijn

Herbert Blankesteijn is a technology journalist from the Netherlands who has written for many prominent Dutch newspapers. He presented and directed television and radio programmes and has 10 books to his name. Herbert is interested in nascent fields such as 3D printing, drones, robotics and the private space business.