Mobile ID World president Peter O’Neill recently spoke with Dr. Steven LeBoeuf, president of Valencell—a company specializing in wearable biometric technology that can measure vital signs using photoplethysmography, an optical measurement technique.
Here are the six most interesting things we learned in conversation with Dr. Steven LeBoeuf, President, Valencell:
The company’s blood pressure technology works via touch, doing away with traditional apparatuses like cuffs
Valencell was at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas where it was demonstrating its recently announced blood pressure assessment tool. The solution is innovative in its methodology, using optical sensors to gauge a user’s blood pressure without the need for a traditional cuff.
According to LeBoeuf, the tech works by “simply putting your finger on an optical sensor and then getting a measurement 30 seconds later or an approximation of what your blood pressure is in terms of systolic and diastolic information.”
The biometric earpiece market has been a long time coming
Last month, Valencell licensed its PerformTek technology to BioConnected, a wearbale tech developer, to be integrated into an earphones product. While the idea of fitness tracking earbuds will sound intuitive to anyone with a special workout playlist on their phone, and indeed we’ve seen some major audio brands go biometric, the concept took some time to get going.
“Valencell, when we started our company, the primary focus on our development was focused on earpieces, and that market took longer to get here than we anticipated,” said LeBoeuf. “It’s only now starting to get to the point where very large companies have products that are launching within a year or a year and a half in that category. Market makers are launching products. That’s new.”
Customers and OEMs are demanding biometrics
Recent research from Tractica has shown that fitness trackers featuring biometrics make up a large portion of the growing wearables market. LeBoeuf spoke about how manufacturers ended up coming to Valencell for its biometrics solutions after trying to find shortcuts in meeting the demand for biometrics in their wearables and failing.
“Back in 2014 a lot of manufacturers decided that they would launch wrist worn heart rate monitors,” said LeBoeuf. “And not all of those companies came to us during that time. Some of them tried to use their own homegrown technology, or to use something that was extremely cheap or cost effective. One of the things that happened was that they launched the product and either: A) People were not happy with the accuracy or B) The applications that use the device didn’t really work because the accuracy was so poor. And it got to be a point where they needed some help.”
The demand goes beyond fitness trackers when wearables are concerned. The advent of smartwatch technology has opened up a new audience that demands vital biometrics.
“…a big component of smartwatches, one that users call out as a critical element for them to buy a smartwatch, is the biometrics side,” said LeBoeuf. “And so a lot of these companies now are aggressive… They’re either in the early exploratory phase – finally, because they’re so conservative – or they’re aggressively looking into how to get good biometrics, that are good enough for their use cases, into their products.”
Valencell’s tech is being licensed for health assessments
Beyond consumer, sports and fitness tech, Valencell is finding a place in the healthcare vertical, where vital biometrics are being used to better monitor and assess patients.
“Right now we have a tremendous amount of interest from traditional medical brands who are seeing opportunities to take accurate biometrics and convert that information into accurate health assessments,” said LeBoeuf. “In some cases, assessments that are chronic assessments – such as just overall health based off of a variety of things that we measure – and others that are acute assessments such as, “Do you have ventricular fib? Are you about to have a heart attack? Do you have an arrhythmia?” This type of thing.”
Vital biometrics have applications in gaming
Another space Valencell is seeing interest from is gaming.
“Companies are trying to figure out how to implement biometrics into the game where what’s going on inside of you changes the gameplay,” said LeBoeuf. “For example, you can imagine a scenario where- I don’t know if you’re a Star Wars fan, but let’s say you’re a Jedi in the game, and in order to use your Jedi powers you have to concentrate. Well, we can sense that and have that be part of the game play.”
The military is looking to vital biometrics tech for its first responders
On a more serious note when it comes to areas of application, Valencell is also finding success in the military sector.
“One of our partners is a very well known- extremely well known– global brand in a variety of things, but one of them is first responder military, and we have been providing technology to them for their military headsets and this kind of raised our awareness in the military space. And we’ve now had other companies come to use saying they heard about us from the military to want to evaluate our technology in their devices, whether they’re armbands, or earbuds, or wristbands, or whatever the case may be.”