The company Byteflies, specialising in wearables and biomedical applications, was founded by Hans De Clerq and Hans Danneels who met during their doctorate studies at Louvain university. It all started in 2016, when Hans Danneels moved to San Francisco, USA, to work for Nokia, and there he came into contact with several tech companies as well as pharmaceutical companies. “I became aware of the fact that the pharmaceutical companies pour vast amounts into research and development of new medicines, but that 99 percent of them fail to ever hit the shelves. And that there is a huge demand for gathering data on how patients use their medicines. And I realized that there could be a vast potential for new technology to supply that data.”
Three years ago, Danneels and De Clerq quit their jobs and founded Byteflies in Berchem, near Antwerp, with a branch in Berkeley, California. “As a startup company we have definite advantages in this new field over larger established companies. We are ‘lean and mean’ and can manoeuver very quickly. Our mission is to create wearables that are much more than just a nice high-tech gadget. We aim to gather and provide essential data for the medical profession, for pharmaceutical companies and for the patient.”
Sensor Dot delivers constant stream of reliable data
“There is a lot of competition in this developing market and there are quite a few wearables around”, Danneels continues. “But there is also a lot of fragmentation going on. It is not easy to find reliable data in sufficient amounts, and it is often hard to determine how reliable the data is. Take for example a condition like epilepsy. Patients are asked to write down when they have seizures, and describe how bad these seizures are. But this data is not very accurate: sometimes seizures occur during sleep, or the patient forgets to write down the exact time, etc. Inaccurate data is no better than having no data at all. It is very difficult to prescribe the correct medication without solid, reliable data.” Now meet the Sensor Dot, Byteflies’ wearable solution. A little rectangle with the size of a postage stamp, that can either be mounted on a bracelet, or simply stuck behind the ear. It is currently able to measure five vital signs: respiration, motion, the functioning of the heart by means of an electrocardiogram (ECG), electrodermal activity (EDA) and a photoplethysmogram (PPG), a means to monitor blood flow. “We have developed the Byteflies Sensor Dot ourselves. What this Sensor Dot does is monitor the wearer’s vital signs 24/7. It measures several important parameters that are relevant for epilepsy research.” The more people use the system, the more data becomes available and ultimately this will enable an early warning system for patients. The Sensor Dot notices an upcoming seizure before the patient does and can even send out a warning to doctors or caregivers.
Datamining in oncology
Other trials are also ongoing, for instance a trial where the Sensor Dot is configured to monitor fatigue in patients undergoing cancer treatment. “At this moment I cannot give too much information regarding this project, since it is still very new,” Danneels explains. “Byteflies Sensor Dots are capable of keeping track of many vital parameters and are therefore adaptable to monitorm many different medical conditions. Collecting data on fatigue in people undergoing cancer treatment can provide vital information to medical specialists as well as pharmaceutical companies.” The Sensor Dot is a miracle of nanotechnology and it comes with its own docking station, where five Sensor Dots can be charged at the same time. “And each time a Sensor Dot is clicked into the docking station, the collected data is automatically uploaded to a data cloud. Of course the Dots operate fully compliant with the latest European rules on privacy and data protection.”
Looking good, performing well
The design was deliberately kept as simple and elegant as possible. “Nobody wants to walk around with a bulky ugly thing attached to their head. We wanted the Sensor Dot to look good as well as perform well. And it has to be very easy to use since patients are the ones who have to use the Sensor Dot on a daily basis, and let’s face it, patients have enough to worry already. Therefore we like to enrich their lives with a convenient, trendy, though very helpful technical tool.” Danneels is confident about the future for wearables and for Byteflies. “We believe that our system can provide an enormous impact on the development of new medicines. We want to be a game-changer. Our aim is not to design and sell wearable hardware, but to collect large amounts of reliable, precise data. The Sensor Dot is a means to achieving just that.
Sensor Dot 2.0: set to become even smaller and smarter
The development of the next generation Sensor Dot has already begun. Hans Danneels reveals: “I foresee that the next generation Sensor Dot will be even smaller, and able to collect and transmit even more vital data in real time, so not just when it’s in the docking station.” Sensors under development include sensors for: temperature, oxygen saturation, electroencephalography (EEG), electrogastrography (EGG), electrooculography (EOG) and more.