Wireless wrist-strap helps patient monitoring

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 09:02 15/05/2013
monitor
HELPING PATIENTS: The wireless wrist strap can relay heart beat, skin temperature, blood-oxygen concentration and location to a computer server for analysis, via a home hub connected to a cellphone network.

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Scientist Sir Ray Avery plans to trial a medical wristband in October that he believes will revolutionise in-home patient monitoring.

Sir Ray and several other private investors have put $1.5 million into his start-up, Vigil Monitoring, which has also received a $250,000 grant from Government research agency Callaghan Innovation.

The company will seek to market a wireless wrist strap that is designed to be worn all the time by a patient and can relay their heart beat, skin temperature, blood-oxygen concentration and location to a computer server for analysis, via a home hub connected to a cellphone network.  

Sir Ray, who was Kiwibank "New Zealander of the Year" in 2010, is best known for establishing Medicine Mondiale, a charity that develops low-cost health products for use in the third world.

While there were hundreds of companies developing wearable biometric sensors for the health and sports markets, Vigil's "game changing" element was the hub that could take data from any sensor and analyse it with the benefit of information from medical records and dispensing records, he said.

"It would be totally possible to have 'machine-to-machine medication' so  if you put a baby on a set of Plunket scales it would send the data to the machine in the cloud and give you a print out on an iPad of how that baby was tracking against its peer groups."

"Our current healthcare system is very much a stone age system," Sir Ray said. "You go and have your six monthly check-up and at best someone will look through the last two visits for a comparison."  

Sir Ray said the project sprang out of work he did developing a low-cost monitoring system for babies in incubators.

Vigil's long-term goal was to develop a partnership with a large telecommunications firm that could help take the product to overseas markets, he said.

"I wouldn't have put my money into it if I didn't think it was going to be a global success and my money will largely be used for rolling out the technology in developing countries. It is a commercial business but my profit goes back into philanthropic avenues."

Other shareholders in Vigil include three Auckland University masters students who helped develop software for the service and former investors in sports biometric company Verve Wear.

Callaghan Innovation chief executive Mary Quin singled out the medical device market as one of sectors of the economy that she thought had the biggest potential for innovation.

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