Startup Spotlight: medtech firm AliveCor’s KardiaMobile 6L
Medtech is increasingly big business, with the industry as a whole worth over $400bn in 2018-19. The industry incorporates a broad spectrum of companies. We’ve previously discussed the likes of MindMaze, the products of which are geared towards use in a clinical setting. Today we’re examining California-based company AliveCor, which is democratising medicine by bringing advanced heart monitoring technology to the home.
While we might be increasingly used to heart rate monitors on our phones or smart watches, AliveCor’s KardiaMobile 6L offers much more information in the form of a portable electrocardiogram, with the ‘6L’ referring to the six ECG leads it measures. While these can be viewed in the app, AliveCor also suggests sharing data from the FDA-cleared device with your doctor.
AliveCor’s founder and Chief Medical Officer, Dr David Albert, told us Some of the possible diagnoses it is capable of making include “Atrial Flutter (abnormal heart rhythm), QT interval prolongation (the heart takes longer than normal to recharge between beats) and Left Ventricular Hypertrophy (the walls of the heart’s main pumping chamber thickens). Our goals for the long-term are to continue to develop diagnostic and monitoring solutions that are empowering patients and improving compliance.”
We checked everyone in the editorial department’s hearts, and are pleased to report no abnormalities (despite even the copious amounts of caffeine ingested daily). This was easily accomplished thanks to the app-based interface, which guides you through the process of putting your fingers on the two top electrodes, while putting the bottom electrode onto the exposed skin of your leg (we used our ankles).
More important than us, the company’s offerings have impressed investors, with AliveCor having raised almost $70mn total across a number of funding rounds, with investors including Japanese medical equipment manufacturer Omron.
AliveCor provided us with the KardiaMobile 6L for review
Amazon tests new technology to improve employee safety
At the Amazon Robotics and Advanced Technology labs in Boston, and Northern Italy, team members are testing and developing new technologies in order to help to make employees’ jobs safer, these include technologies that help move carts and packages through Amazon facilities.
Recently the safety of Amazon's warehouses has drawn scrutiny. On June 1, the Washington Post's Jay Greene and Chris Alcantara published findings from an analysis of Occupational Safety and Health Administration data showing Amazon's serious injury rates are nearly double those at other companies' facilities.
A spokesperson from Amazon said the company spent more than $1 billion last year on safety measures, and hired more than 6,200 employees to a group dedicated to workplace health and safety.
One innovation being tested by Amazon, which is in early development, is the use of motion-capture technology to assess the movement of volunteer employees in a lab setting. These employees perform tasks that are common in many Amazon facilities, such as the movement of totes, which carry products through robotic fulfillment centers.
The motion-capture software enables Amazon scientists and researchers to more accurately compare data captured in a lab environment to industry standards rather than other modelling tools traditionally used by ergonomists.
“With this data, visualisations, and employee feedback, we are looking to identify relatively simple changes that can make a big impact,” said Kevin Keck, worldwide director of Advanced Technology at Amazon. “Something as simple as changing the position of handles on totes may help lower the risk of injuries to our employees at a massive scale.”
Autonomous Robots creating new paths to safety
In order to reduce the need for employees to reach up or bend down when retrieving items, Amazon is testing a new workstation system called “Ernie.” According to the company Ernie takes totes off of a robotic shelf and uses a robotic arm to deliver it to employees, so they can remain in a more comfortable and stable position.
“We’re known for being passionate about innovating for customers, but being able to innovate with robotics for our employees is something that gives me an extra kick of motivation each day,” said Keck. “The innovation with a robot like Ernie is interesting because while it doesn’t make the process go any faster, we’re optimistic, based on our testing, it can make our facilities safer for employees.”
“Bert” is one of Amazon’s first Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs), and is being tested to autonomously navigate through facilities with Amazon-developed advanced safety, perception, and navigation technology. In the future, it is thought that an employee would be able to summon Bert to carry items across a facility.
‘Scooter’ and ‘Kermit’ are two other robots that also operate autonomously, and are both transport cars. The carts are used to carry empty totes and packages through our facilities.
In a blog post the company said: ‘By having Autonomously Guided Carts (AGCs) like Scooter and Kermit perform physical tasks, we believe we can make our facilities safer and enable our employees to focus on jobs that require their critical thinking skills. In addition, using an AGC like Scooter to pull carts through our facilities reduces the risk of strains on our employees, or even collisions. We currently plan to deploy Scooter to at least one Amazon facility this year.’
Amazon began using robotics in its facilities in 2012, and since then they have added more than 1 million jobs worldwide while simultaneously deploying 350,000 mobile drive unit robots.
“The role robotics and advanced technology can play in not only innovating for customers, but helping make our facilities safer, is a massive motivation for me and my team,” said Keck. “The health and safety of our employees is our number one priority. By listening to them, innovating on their behalf, and driving new technologies into our facilities over the coming months and years, I’m confident we’ll make a big contribution to our goal of reducing recordable incidents by 50% by 2025.”