The MC10 BioStamp RC has been called a “giant leap forward in the wonderful world of wearables” by USA Today, and for good reason. Weighing just under six grams, the flexible, soft and waterproof band-aid like device is unobtrusive to the wearer while providing unprecedented visibility into physiological data in real time. The BioStamp transmits the data to the company’s cloud-based software, where researchers and, ultimately, medical personnel will be able to analyze health and wellness conditions in the context of a user’s daily activities. MC10 previously struck a partnership deal with L’Oreal to integrate the technology into a patch that monitors exposure to UV rays: Users can upload a picture of the patch to a mobile app to calculate the precise level of UV exposure. That is just one example of the vast potential of MC10’s technology, and it all begins with a data-centric point of view.
At MC10, data is king, says Nirav Sheth, Clinical and Strategic Marketing, “but keeping that data for ourselves and not making it available to researchers is not helpful.” The starting point for the RC platform—RC stands for Research Connect—is the production of raw data streams that people can use for specific applications. “The sensor gives you the information that you need for your application—you have full access to it.”
Partnerships with researchers and industry
MC10 has established partnerships in the research community and with industry, including some in the medical arena, who are understandably excited about the technology’s potential to solve specific problems. By providing a clear picture of a person’s day-to-day health, writes Jennifer Jolly in USA Today, BioStamp “provides caregivers immediate access to real-time data or historical trends from their computer, smartphone or tablet. It’s like having a doctor’s visit without ever leaving the house.”
But, adds Sheth, MC10 doesn’t want to be too partner-specific, either. In the context of the evolution of healthcare, “there are multiple ‘felt needs’ that can be addressed by our technology. The kind of on-body sensing that we do—motion, mobility and strength are just some examples—produces metrics that can be translated into meaningful insights that can be acted upon,” explains Sheth. That is at the center of what MC10 strives to do: Solving problems in a credible, sustainable way. And, frankly, that has been lacking, adds Sheth.
|Nirav Sheth will discuss BioStamp RC technology during a conference session at the co-located BIOMEDevice Boston and PLASTEC New England events coming to the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center on April 13 and 14.|
In the healthcare arena, you need to get buy-in from multiple stakeholders, even before you embark on the regulatory and reimbursement paths, says Sheth. “You need a well-framed problem, where your insight can create a new workflow, or disrupt an existing workflow in a better way. That is what we have tried to do with the research platform.”
The genesis of this thinking, adds Sheth, came about when researchers and clinicians started knocking on MC10’s door. They were impressed with the form factor and saw the potential to capture actionable data on the way that people with various conditions behave in a home setting. Existing technologies by and large are focused on fitness monitoring, many of which do not provide access to raw data, explains Sheth. People who are trying to use their imaginations and leverage their expertise around a specific technological challenge are unable to act because they don’t have access to the information. “They have a wearable, but the data from that wearable is not useful,” explains Sheth. By contrast, MC10’s approach with the RC platform is to make the raw data streams accessible to people who can then develop applications in orthopedics, fitness, home care or other area.
As many a developer of wearable devices has discovered, however, it doesn’t matter how much functionality you build into your product if the user won’t wear it. Typically one-third of fitness device owners stop wearing the device within six months. “People won’t wear a device that is not comfortable or that gets in the way of life—and anything will, right?,” says Sheth. “We have put a great deal of effort into designing something that is both very wearable and highly functional,” says Sheth. Materials play a significant role in that.
Materials and the wearability factor
“We have spent a substantial amount of time exploring different classes of elastomers, polyurethanes and silicone,” Rooz Ghaffari, co-founder and Vice President of Technology, told PlasticsToday. “The MC10 team has focused on these materials because they can be worn on the body in a way that provides a moisture barrier to protect the electronics while allowing air to permeate,” he explains. The materials also need to be soft, stretchy, biocompatible and thin to ensure wearer comfort. “We developed ways to stack the electronics—which include sensor arrays, a micro controller, memory and battery—and the polymeric materials in an ultra-thin, stretchy format,” explains Ghaffari.
“By designing and developing devices that are thin and soft—down to hundreds of kilo pascals and even low mega pascals in modulus—the patient experience is significantly enhanced compared with bulky, conventional electronic devices,” explains Ghaffari. “That’s how we have achieved seamless integration anywhere on the human body, which is a hallmark of MC10 technology.”
Indeed, the BioStamp can be worn comfortably anywhere on the body without inconveniencing the user, and that opens up wearables to a swathe of opportunities beyond wrist-worn devices. "If you want to try to measure gait speed, it's hard to do that from your wrist," Ghaffari explained to sister publication MD+DI. "You can measure gait, motion, balance much better from your ankles and your core than from your arm that is swinging about.”
The vaunted ability of technology to improve lives has not touched everyone, notes Sheth, and one of MC10’s goals is to share those benefits more expansively in a step-wise fashion. “Our RC platform is an end-to-end system [encompassing] hardware, software, the cloud and mobile devices, and we see ourselves moving beyond a technical audience to a much broader set of users with specific clinical and medical concerns,” explains Sheth. He sees a hybrid consumer-medical model as the way forward. Getting people to accept and use a wearable is part of the battle, but the device also has to have an impact on people’s lives, he says. “If we can combine that impact with an engaged customer base interested in the insights we are delivering, we will have found a happy medium. People are very interested in that convergence,” says Sheth.