Mah Chern Wern (left) and Tan Toi Ngee co-founded Juvo Labs to create fitness trackers for the elderly in nursing homes.
By Annabelle Liang
Fitness tracker Juvo ticks all the hallmarks of an Internet of Things device, monitoring metrics like breathing and heart rate from underneath your mattress. It now has to scale rapidly after discovering it could help solve a much bigger issue in nursing homes.
When linked to a smart thermostat, lights or switches, Juvo can tweak a room’s temperature and lighting to achieve ideal rest for the user. “We thought it would be interesting to give users insights, knowledge and data without being intrusive,” said Mah Chern Wern, Co-Founder, Juvo Labs.
The tracker saw success when it was first marketed on Indiegogo, a crowdfunding platform, in December 2015. It raised some US$54,000 (S$77,500) and sold 300 personal units at US$199 a set. The company then went on to receive a $50,000 iJam (Interactive Digital Media Jump-start and Mentor) grant from the Infocomm Media Development Authority that helped with development.
“Many venture capitalists look for a return (on their investment), but (iJAM) was not like that. It focused on us creating a product,” Chern Wern said.
Little did they know that a new opportunity would quickly bring them back to the drawing board. “Someone on Indiegogo asked if we were able to build a variation of Juvo to be used in (nursing) homes,” said Tan Toi Ngee, 34, Juvo’s other Co-Founder. “At first, we were sceptical. There were new pain points that the product had to meet.”
“No one likes the feeling of being monitored. The elderly would be especially uncomfortable with wearing a health tracker. Their skin may be sensitive or break easily,” Chern Wern added. It made sense, then, for Juvo’s non-intrusive tracker to help address the issues.
Given that Juvo was to be used in daily operations, data needed to be available in near real-time so nurses could react quickly. For instance, they would need to know when a patient was about to get out of bed, to reduce the risk of falls, Toi Ngee said.
Staff also needed an overview of how multiple patients were doing, and alerts when it was time to flip a user to prevent bedsores. Useful business intelligence had to thus be identified and culled from the data collected, then presented quickly and clearly.
“This is not a hospital, where they can expect to be discharged within weeks. Patients in nursing homes will benefit from staff having a long-term view of their health and well-being,” Toi Ngee said.
It took just two months for the new variation to meet these extensive additional needs, while retaining its compact form. The nursing home variant is expected to retail at $500 per set.
Two Singapore-based institutions, ECON Healthcare and voluntary welfare organisation All Saints Home, are now conducting trials with 10 sets each. Another three homes will start Juvo trials by the end of 2016. Juvo is also being tested by distributors in the Philippines and Thailand, Toi Ngee shared.
With more than half a million nursing homes around the world, the next stops for Juvo include the United States, Britain, Japan, China and Australia. That's huge for a lean team of five, working out of a co-working space in one-north.
“We're ready for it. Juvo has a lot to offer, and I believe many opportunities will continue to open in a way which we may not have anticipated,” Toi Ngee said.