Non-invasive sensors for medical devices are becoming a must-have in the healthcare market. These solutions are promising patient comfort, ease of use, painless monitoring and are typically well-adapted to the fast-growing wearables market. The healthcare sector is rapidly adopting wearables to monitor patients, and patients are more willing to use technology that helps them and imposes no constraints. Yole Développement recently described how non-invasive solutions are advancing in its report “BioMEMS & Non-Invasive Sensors: Microsystems for Life Sciences & Healthcare 2018”.
(Source: BioMEMS & Non-Invasive Sensors: Microsystems for Life Sciences & Healthcare 2018, August 2018, Yole Développement)
To better understand the challenges linked to non-invasive sensors in the medical sector, Jérôme Mouly, Senior Analyst specialized in BioMEMS in Life Sciences & Healthcare Division at Yole Développement, has interviewed Ryan Kraudel, VP Marketing at Valencell. He shares his experience and vision of non-invasive sensors, especially photoplethysmography (PPG) sensors integrated into wearables.
Jérôme Mouly (JM): Could you introduce Valencell’s activities and business model? What kind of solutions does your company provide?
Ryan Kraudel (RK): Valencell produces the most accurate wearable biometric sensor systems, especially PPG sensors, in the world. We provide this patent-protected technology to consumer electronics manufacturers, mobile device and accessory makers, medical device makers, sports and fitness brands and gaming companies for integration into their products. Valencell’s technology can be used in wearables and hearables for virtually anyone, anywhere, doing anything. The technology is scalable to multiple form-factors such as earbuds, smartwatches, armbands and wrist devices and is currently integrated into more biometric wearable devices than any other technology provider in the world.
JM: What advantages do your customers gain from teaming up with Valencell?
RK: The companies we work with find four primary areas of value in working with Valencell:
1. Highly accurate biometric sensors – Valencell delivers highly accurate biometrics in all form factors, for all use cases. This enables our customers to create brand loyalty because their customers will know their products work as expected.
2. Complete biometrics solution – We’re not just providing heart rate monitor kit. We provide a complete biometrics sensor system that enables our customers to deliver an exceptional user experiences, whether in a sports watch, fitness band, medical device, or industrial safety product.
3. Experience and expertise – With more than 40 different products in the market with Valencell technology embedded, Valencell is the leading provider of PPG sensor technology. That experience is valuable, because we’ve faced, overcome and have intellectual property (IP) around all the major challenges companies find in bringing a biometric wearable to market and we put that expertise and experience to work for them.
4. Advanced metrics and roadmap – Valencell continues to push the envelope of what’s possible with wearable biometric sensors. For example, we now have the ability to measure blood pressure using the same sensor modules used in consumer wearable devices. We have an exceptional R&D team who are helping our customers deliver new capabilities for their next generation devices.
JM: With the increasing demand for portable and wearable devices, what are the main challenges today for monitoring products in terms of size, conformability and power management?
RK: Wearable device makers are continually adding new capabilities, which mean there is less real estate and power budget to go around for each sensor and or function. So, device makers always want the sensors to be smaller, more power efficient, but also more capable. Much of our R&D effort is in meeting those demands and we’ve been able to drastically shrink the size of our sensors while increasing our levels of accuracy and the number of biometric we can measure.
JM: Are you integrating BioMEMS devices in your sensors solutions? How could they resolve these challenges?
RK: We use inertial sensors in addition to the emitters and detectors typically associated with PPG sensors.
JM: There is a clear increase in wearable products in consumer markets measuring heart rate or SpO2 peripheral capillary oxygen saturation. What’s the difference compared to a medical grade measurement for medical wearables?
RK: At a macro level, the consumer wearables market and health/medical device markets are converging. The consumer wearables market continues to grow at a healthy pace, and all the major and minor consumer wearables companies are moving their products toward becoming “personal health” devices, if not outright medical devices. Traditional health/medical device companies are also now building devices intended to be worn outside a medical facility, but still collecting medically-accurate data and feeding that data into an Electronic Health Record (EHR) or patient treatment workflow. Today’s top-of-the-line biometric sensors are now accurate enough for some medical use cases. The difference is in the claims the device makes and the regulatory pathways required for those claims.
JM: A few months ago, you announced a partnership with Sonion. What are the synergies between your companies?
RK: Sonion and Valencell have such a strong partnership because we complement each other’s capabilities and customer bases. For example, Sonion has extensive customer relationships in the hearing health sector and those customers are rapidly adding new sensors, including biometric sensors, to their next generation hearing aids. Starkey recently launched the first hearing aid with a heart rate sensor embedded.
In the consumer hearables market, Valencell and Sonion can help each other grow by providing a broader range of solutions, including biometric sensors, balanced armatures, microphones, and much more.
JM: Do you have any other announcements you would like to share with our readers for 2019?
RK: Watch what is going on “in the ear” with hearables and hearing health. It’s a microcosm of this convergence of consumer wearables and medical devices. Some expect hearables to outsell traditional wearables in a few years. There’s a good presentation on the topic from CES 2019 that you can watch if you are interested: here.
As VP of Marketing, Ryan Kraudel leads global marketing for Valencell and is responsible for all areas of marketing strategy and execution. Prior to Valencell, Ryan led marketing and enterprise engagement at 6fusion, rapidly growing market awareness and adoption of an innovative approach to standardizing the economic measurement of IT infrastructure. At GXS, Ryan led product marketing and product management for GXS Managed Services, helping grow the business from $40M to $150M in 7 years. Ryan holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Texas at Austin and an MBA from the University of Maryland.
Jérôme Mouly serves as a Senior Technology & Market Analyst & Business Developer specialized in microtechnologies for inkjet & bioMEMS sensors at Yole Développement (Yole).
Jérôme is supporting the development of strategic projects, following leading customers of the company, within the Life Sciences & Healthcare division.
Since 2000, he is also engaged in more than 100 marketing and technological analyses for industrial groups, start-ups and institutes related to semiconductor & medical technologies industry, in the field of inkjet functional printing, wearable sensors and connected medical devices.
Jérôme is also regularly involved in international conferences, giving presentations and delivering keynotes.
Jérôme Mouly holds a Master of Physics from the University of Lyon (France).
A new wave of sensors, responding to the challenge of global healthcare transformation, opens new business opportunities for mobile healthcare and emerging non-invasive devices – Get more here
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