Having the upper hand over companies such as Fitbit, Apple and other technology giants, Aktiia launches the very first blood pressure bracelet. The young Swiss-based company is also the first to obtain permission to sell a smart device that measures blood pressure.
Earlier this month, the company announced that it had obtained authorisation to affix the CE mark, allowing it to distribute its bracelet in the European Economic Area and other countries where CE marking is mandatory, such as the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.
Aktiia’s CEO Michael Kisch clarified the company’s position in the market by pointing out that the bracelet, which has been designed to measure the user’s blood pressure up to 100 times a week using an innovative optical sensor, is more than just a consumer gadget. It is the result of 15 years of R&D, and is extremely accurate, explains Kisch.
Collecting medical grade data and being validated by a series of clinical studies, Aktiia’s product is designed to be easy to use by consumers and accurately readable by physicians.
As a classified medical device, the company hopes that Aktiia will stand out from other manufacturers of wearable health products. “Most doctors don’t trust consumer wearable data. And I think that’s where we’re very different and pursuing a different approach – we have to achieve that higher standard.” The CEO stated.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the leading cause of death worldwide is cardiovascular disease, responsible for approximately 17.9 million deaths each year. With the proportion of people suffering from high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, projected to rise from 26% in 2019 to 29% in 2025, the burden on public health is set to increase.
Moreover, according to Kisch, a large percentage of the population suffering from hypertension is never properly diagnosed.
This too often results in avoidable drug prescription or lack of treatment for those who are meant to receive it. These often-fatal inaccuracies are at the very heart of what Aktiia does. .
The company does not focus on its hardware but rather pays attention to data to ensure that people suffering from hypertension can be accurately diagnosed and treated.
The tools for measuring hypertension, used both at home and in the clinic, have not changed much over the last century. By introducing a wearable device offering multiple readings per day to the market, this could change, according to Aktiia’s CEO.
The optimal goal of the bracelet is to allow the observation of a pattern of arterial pressure both day and night, and therefore having the possibility to compare data at any time, which will ultimately decrease the risk to health. It is currently impossible to find people who are informed in real time about their blood pressure pattern, Kisch emphasizes.
While Aktiia’s product focuses on blood pressure monitoring, there are many other things this data can be used to improve.
“By having this continuous flow of data, day or night, you can coach that person to improve the lifestyle, medication or his or her diet.” Said Josep Solà, Co-founder and CTO of the young company.
With over 1m data points collected on their servers and waiting to be analyzed and which were gatherd by testing the product on its employees for the last couple of yeats, Aktiia wants to have a medical grade impact on the overall quality of life of its consumers. With Solà highlighting the endless possibilities by stating “nothing has been done yet”.
15 YEARS OF OPTICAL SENSORS RESEARCH
Aktiia, which was founded in 2018, is a by-product of the Swiss Centre for Electronics and Microtechnology, where Solà and Mattia Bertschi worked on optical sensors for many years.
Already in 2004, they had realized the potential of this technology and how underused it was. They began research not only on blood pressure, but also on pregnancy, heart rate and various other health conditions.
In an effort to develop a truly innovative use of optical sensors, they ignored the conventional heart rate reading and by 2015 they had begun to see results. And so, they began to commercialize the product of years of research.
The way it works:
The optical sensors in the bracelet, combined with Aktiia’s algorithms, generate blood pressure values by analyzing certain signals resulting from the change in the diameter of the arteries that occurs with each heartbeat of the wearer.
By focusing on a single function: blood pressure counting, Aktiia has managed to continue to grow by relying solely on the $10 million it has raised between 2018 and 2020.
“Where most startups in the US and Europe have failed is that they have tried to focus on areas other than just blood pressure,” says Solà. At the same time, pointing out how focusing on too many areas at once can actually distract a company from its objective.
Regarding Aktiia’s choice to launch in the UK instead of its native Switzerland, the company’s CEO explained that the UK is Europe’s largest market for blood pressure monitors, so it was a logical choice. This has not stopped the health innovators from planning expansion into France, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands over the next 6-12 months.