Tochtech Technologies, a Vancouver-area startup developing a non-wearable sleep tracker that allows caregivers to monitor the overnight safety of older adults, has won the last of three competitions in the 2020 AGE-WELL National Impact Challenge.
“We are delighted to receive this award for Sleepsense,” says Jessica Yang, CEO and co-founder of Tochtech Technologies. “We have been working hard to come up with an innovative product that makes a difference for long-term care and assisted living residences as we have seen the toll that COVID-19 has taken on their staff and seniors.”
Sleepsense is designed to monitor residents and alert caregivers when a resident experiences a health risk, such as an abnormal heart or breathing rate, during sleep. “Staff will be able to respond quicker, triage and coordinate care based on real-time information,” Yang told judges at the September 29 competition, which included five finalist startups and was held in conjunction with the BC Seniors Living Association annual conference.
The Sleepsense device, which is about the size of a mobile phone, is placed under the leg or frame of the bed. It uses high-precision sensors and algorithm technology to measure BCG waves (ballistic forces generated by the heart) and report heart and respiration rates. Notifications and alarms also go to mobile devices carried by staff.
Sleepsense monitors residents’ quality of sleep and sleep patterns, and notifies caregivers if a resident is getting out of bed, allowing staff to intervene and avert a potential fall or wandering. It detects body movement and vital signs no matter where the sleeper is positioned on the bed. The resident does not have to wear any technology or sleep on a smart bed pad.
Continuously monitoring residents as they sleep augments the in-person checks that staff in long-term care are required to conduct throughout the night, Yang says. “Staffing levels can be especially low during overnight shifts.”
Tochtech Technologies received positive feedback from initial tests of Sleepsense in private homes and seniors’ residences. The company will use the $20,000 prize money (plus in-kind prizes) for a three-month pilot with long-term care homes, product enhancement, marketing and commercialization of Sleepsense, which will be introduced to the market in 2021.
Tochtech Technologies also gains membership in AGE-WELL’s Startup Affiliate Program, which leverages connections to over 400 partners across sectors, researchers from 42 universities/research centres, and older adults and caregivers participating in its network.
“This could help us find more partners for our pilot, more people will know about our product, so this is a great network to join,” says Yang. “We will have the opportunity to work with researchers and others to discover more potential for our product.”
As the population ages worldwide, Tochtech Technologies will first focus on long-term care markets in North America and China, with a longer-term plan to go global and expand use of the product for seniors in the community.
It’s a big vision for a small startup co-founded by Yang and her friend Wei Fang, Tochtech Technology’s CTO, both experienced product developers. After many trips to China to see their families, they shared concerns about their parents’ wellbeing and signs of memory decline.
“That conversation was the catalyst and inspiration for the company,” says Yang. “We started to get more involved in the senior care industry because there are so many problems, so much need, and there’s so much technology that can help.”
The third and final competition in the AGE-WELL National Impact Challenge was open to startups in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, the Northwest Territories and Yukon.
The AGE-WELL National Impact Challenge recognizes top startups and supports entrepreneurship in Canada’s technology and aging sector. Thanks go to all finalists in this year’s competition, the judges and also the sponsors: Aging2.0 Local / Halifax Chapter, BC Seniors Living Association, Bereskin & Parr LLP, CARP, IBM Canada Ltd., Impact Centre, Innovacorp, Innovation PEI, New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, Ontario Brain Institute, Spectrum Health Care and YouAreUNLTD.