As is often the case with our clients, smartQare’s product began with a need. A very personal need, in fact.
We talked to various people for this case study, including smartQare founder and COO Reinier Vrolijk and Head of Development Frank Boon. We also contacted Joost Brilman. Working as an engineer for Demcon Advanced Mechatronics, Joost was involved with this project from the start.
The mothers of Reinier and co-founder Ronald Olie both suffer from severe health problems. Reinier’s mom has a history of heartfailure. She lives alone, and when her heart goes haywire, she can’t always find someone to take her to the hospital. To avoid ’troubling her son,’ as she calls it, she has actually driven to the hospital alone – with potentially disastrous consequences. Ronald has similar experiences with his mother.
Shared experiences led to the development of a complete solution that enables 24/7 remote monitoring to ease their moms’ burdens and that of other people.
Fast forward 4.5 years, and viQtor is in use at Living labs. Reinier tells us: ‘This amazing journey brings daily new insights. But it is also a constant struggle. We frequently had to take a step back.’
viQtor, a unique, multi-sensor solution for around-the-clock-monitoring
The smartQare website reads:
smartQare develops viQtor, a unique, multi-sensor solution for remote, around-the-clock monitoring and diagnostics of people at risk. A relevant and cost-effective aide that focuses on people while helping healthcare professionals organize patients’ medical processes effectively and efficiently.
Worn on the upper arm, the device permanently and reliably measures heartbeat, oxygen saturation, and skin temperature. The metrics are automatically sent to the Clinical Decision Support Platform, enabling healthcare professionals to monitor the information almost in real-time. In case of increasing health risks, a notification is sent to the medical doctor, who can take appropriate action immediately.
viQtor measures vital signs but also related matters, including fall detection and a person’s location. Furthermore, medical assistance can be requested manually by pushing a built-in help button.
Also, caregivers can be informed via care centers if something is the matter with the person wearing the bracelet.
Strong partner selection
All in all, viQtor is a complex device that needs to meet high medical demands. That’s why an informed choice of partners is so important. ‘By opting for Demcon Advanced Mechatronics and Pink Fluffy Unicorns, we have assembled the best possible professionals to help us forward. It’s the only way to achieve our goals. Every potential partner is subject to rigorous selection criteria before we start working together.’
Reinier and Casper – our Unicorn-In-Chief – get along well.
Reinier: ‘Casper is a cool guy. Technically, I can’t review his work because I lack his knowledge. So I have to trust him – and I do. Also, we have Demcon to carry out checks. They do have the technical knowledge and experience to evaluate what Casper and his team make. Frank and Casper go back a long time. Adding Pink Fluffy Unicorns to this team was based on that experience.’
Lack of technical knowledge often creates difficulty when developing a product. Try explaining what you want and what is possible when you speak different languages. Reinier thinks Casper excels in explaining what he means and envisions. That makes working with him very pleasant. But even then, Babel-like confusions are bound to occur every once in a while.
‘I find it frustrating when, from my perspective, a technician isn’t completely honest. I might, for example, ask whether fall detection has been built in. The answer could be ‘yes,’ even if the feature doesn’t work. In instances like these, it can take quite some time before we understand each other. I now know that the installation and operation are two separate things – a feature requires firmware to function. Like I said, I learn something new every day. And so do our partners.’
In development processes, balance is key: what’s the perfect position between good and good enough? Do we have everything we need? Are we still on time? And which is more important: the working of a device or the keeping of a deadline? Every time, we need to make choices.`That also shows in the partnership with Pink Fluffy Unicorns. They are exceedingly transparent when it comes to costs and planning. Beforehand, you will only receive an estimation of costs and lead times. During the development process, they will inform you of the status and the expectations regarding planning and budget.’
To learn more about the technicalities of the collaboration, we continue our talk with Frank and Joost. Says Frank: ‘I have known Casper for years. I know what he is capable of, and I enjoy working with him. It felt good to take viQtors first development steps with him. Together, we created a road map, the rough PCBA’s of the initial idea and its testing. We also examined variations of the sensors. All of that led to a well-functioning initial set-up.
The product required medical-grade quality, and we are not ISO13485 certified (yet). Therefore, Demcon was enlisted as a second partner for development and production. That’s how Joost came into play.
Joost: ‘Caspers assessments are highly transparent. That makes collaboration effortless. I am very excited about this team. We receive answers to our questions quickly, the lines of communication are short, and there is lots of expertise. The functioning of the lay-outer wasn’t always adequate, but that, too, was solved very well.
Joost and Frank indicate that mutual communication is excellent. Especially since Sander was added to our Pink Fluffy Unicorns team. He mainly takes care of smaller, separate tasks. As a result, the work is expertly divided among all team members.
When prompted for improvement options, Joost says: ‘A few times, the deadline for a deliverable wasn’t met. There were always valid reasons, so it never was a problem. But it would have been nice to be informed about this earlier. We had to ask after it ourselves.’ Needless to say, we discussed this with our team and have made adjustments.
Continues Joost: ‘Casper is a solid sparring partner with a breadth of technical expertise, and that is highly valuable.’
In conclusion, Reinier adds that they are happy with the forthcoming way in which Casper makes information available. ‘For Frank and Joost, device development is common practice. Casper explains what he means well and how is perspective is based in knowledge. That akes him very trustworthy. We often ask ourselves: What would Casper say about this?’
Adds Joost: ‘He looks and thinks from a client perspective and often asks: How will this improve smartQare? That keeps all parties involved on their toes.’