Urban living is stressful. Sometimes people are not even aware that they have serious health problems. Traditional medical examination takes time and manpower, and so hard put to meet the enormous demand of potential patients. Fortunately, there are various personalised health data monitoring hardware and software in the market for users to monitor their health easily. Healthcare organisations can use them for preliminary testing, and follow up with immediate treatment when necessary.
Medical-grade wearable device “BelunTM Ring”, developed by Belun Technology Company Ltd., an incubatee of Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP), can collect various health data while the user is sleeping to assess the risk level of "sleep apnoea", so that patients can seek medical treatment as soon as possible, and avoid damaging their quality of life or even putting their life at risk.
According to Lydia Leung, CEO of Belun Technology, the company was founded in April 2016 by two young researchers from Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute. They initially wanted to develop wearable devices for consumers, but they found through market research that the market was saturated. They switched to medical-grade products instead.
Sleep apnoea has big impact on health
People who are suffering from sleep apnoea stop breathing when they are asleep. It may occur hundreds of times every night, each time lasting for 10 seconds to several minutes. The patients suffer from hypoxia, and often wake up in their sleep. This results in a lack of energy in their daily life, headache, poor memory, and higher risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke and diabetes. A medical study estimates that about 80% of people with sleep apnoea do not know they have a health issue. In Hong Kong, sleep apnoea test is conducted by putting an Oximeter on a patient’s body to do a Polysomnography test as the patient is sleeping. However, it involves a long wait at public hospitals, while the cost for such test in private hospitals and clinics is prohibitive.
Collects data for analysis through cloud platform
The “BelunTM Ring” initially targets hospitals and clinics as users, allowing them to provide the rings to high-risk sleep apnoea patients, chronically ill patients and people with poor sleep quality. The user only needs to wear the ring on a finger while asleep. Every minute, the ring will collect data such as heartbeat changes, blood oxygen saturation rate and body movement. After that, the user only needs to put the ring on the connection stand, and the data will be uploaded to Belun’s cloud artificial intelligence platform for analysis and generating a report on the user's breathing disruption. Belun believes that the accuracy of the sleep apnoea report can be as high as 90%.
Official launch in the market in 2019
Lydia said that Belun started the research and development of BelunTM Ring in April 2016. At present, both hardware and supporting software have been completed. They are going through trials in two hospitals and three clinics in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Belun is also applying for various certifications for the ring and they expect to obtain US FDA certification around June 2018. The company plans to produce 10,000 to 30,000 rings in the first quarter of 2019 to be launched in the market. The initial price will be set at around US$400 to $500.
Lydia said that Belun had overcome many obstacles during the two years of product research and development. The most difficult part was the planning and management of the production process, as there were many implementation issues which were not anticipated during R&D. Besides, many documents were required to apply for FDA certification, and the company was not familiar with preparing the documentation. In the end, the issues were all ironed out through the concerted efforts of the team.
HKSTP ecosystem helps business development
Lydia thinks Belun is not yet a successful company. However, the team believes having a base in Hong Kong to develop innovation and technology is viable, and Belun has benefited from the many start-up support measures for incubation companies as part of the Science Park ecosystem, especially in its business development.
The BelunTM Ring has won the “ICT Startup Grand Award” and “Smart Living Award” in the Hong Kong ICT Awards 2018. Lydia said that the company had gained valuable exposure and attracted many potential customers, partners and investors through taking part in various competitions, exhibitions and marketing activities organised by HKSTP. As well, start-up companies at Science Park are keen to exchange experience with each other and offer support. For example, Belun found a design company at Science Park to design the ring’s software operating interface, and the result was very satisfactory.
Lydia revealed that Belun has many other plans other than official launching the ring. In early 2019, the company will launch a ring product for the retail market, the design of which will be simplified and the operating interface will also be modified for convenient use by consumers. In addition, the company is developing a device to monitor cardiovascular disease and enable early detection of this increasingly prevalent disease. In addition to hardware, the company will also conduct in-depth research on big data and artificial intelligence to strengthen its ability to analyse and assess various health risks.