By Ed Brennen
A wireless patch that would allow for 24/7 blood pressure monitoring — and potentially revolutionize the diagnosis and treatment of hypertension — won UMass Lowell’s inaugural Sensor Challenge, held recently at the Innovation Hub in downtown Lowell.
The pitch contest featured 10 startup companies from across the region that are developing sensor-based technologies. They competed for $30,000 in prizes.
“We want to learn as much as we can about the entrepreneurial community, and this is one of the many ways that we can support them,” said Arlene Parquette, associate vice chancellor for industry partnerships and economic development. “We had a lot of great applicants, and we are thankful to have them here.”
ARTritech Digital Health won the $15,000 first prize for its ARTus patch, a patent-pending blood pressure monitoring system that would replace 40-year-old cuff-based technology.
“We use an ultrasound sensor that fits in the hand of a Lego man — it’s that small,” said Nancy Briefs, an ARTritech advisor who delivered the winning pitch.
Leveraging existing sensor technology used in electrocardiograms, the ARTus patch would allow for continuous blood pressure monitoring, sending real-time data to the cloud.
Fueled by the Internet of Things, or the connection of physical devices to the internet, the global sensor market is projected to double in the next few years, from $167 billion in 2019 to $346 billion in 2028, according to Allied Market Research.
Sensors can detect physical inputs such as light, heat, motion, moisture and pressure and convert them to a readable signal. They can be used for monitoring in a wide range of industries, including medical, automotive, agriculture and aerospace.
A second-place prize of $10,000 went to myBiometry, which uses a patented sensor, mobile app and device to alert a user of an oncoming asthma attack.
Ian Goodine, a mechanical engineering student at UMass Amherst, took the third-place prize of $5,000 for his company rStream Recycling, which uses artificial intelligence technology to keep contaminated items out of the recycling stream.
The in-kind prize money can be used for office space at the Innovation Hub, as well as for the use of makerspace and core research facilities.
The pitches were judged by Parquette; Xingwei Wang, professor of electrical and computer engineering; Rajia Abdelaziz ’16, co-founder and CEO of invisaWear Technologies; Lily Thomas, senior consultant at aPriori Technologies; Farshid Ghassemi, consultant at Weddell Technologies; and Rory MacKean, chief product officer at Tertill Corp.
The event featured a keynote address from Dave Cadogan, president of Moonprint Solutions, a company that develops products and technologies for NASA and the Department of Defense.
The competition was sponsored by Draper, Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union, Enterprise Bank and UMass Lowell.
Alice Lin, CEO of ALLL Enterprise Corp., had planned to attend the competition and pitch her company’s solution of using nano ion water and nano-microbubbles to recycle biomass waste in the agricultural industry. When she missed her flight, she called on Lidan Cao, a third-year Ph.D. student in electrical engineering, to deliver her pitch.
“There are a lot of really impressive projects here,” said Cao, whose research is in fiber optic sensing technology. “If they can make them marketable, a lot of good things may come.”