Jackie Boyd in Investment


Interview: KMS Managing Director John Hearns on Developing Healthcare Tech

Manchester-based healthcare tech company KMS Solutions are doing something special. 

By creating bespoke software and user-friendly practical applications, their Keep In Touch tracking wristband (or KIT for short) allows carers to provide simple, direct and round-the-clock support to those in need. Having secured funding through our North West Interactive Healthcare Programme partnered with the Greater Manchester Academic Health Science Network,  the company are on the verge or releasing new tech and embracing exciting new opportunities.  

To find out more, we spoke to the company’s Managing Director John Hearns. Read the full Q&A below…

Hi John, can you tell us a little about the service KMS provides customers?

The Keep In Touch Wristband (KIT) is based on GSM cellular telephone and assisted GPS technologies miniaturised into a simple wristband. KIT enables the wearer to contact one of a nominated number of carers (up to five) with a simple one-click button. Once the call button is pressed KIT auto-dials the first programmed number and if unanswered rotates through the programmed carer numbers avoiding voicemail until the call is answered. Once contact is established only the carer can terminate the call ensuring that they are completely satisfied that any issues have been resolved.  

The carer can also call the wearer by simply dialling the mobile number of KIT. Once a call has been initiated by the carer, KIT will auto answer and again only the carer can terminate the call. In addition carers can through any internet enabled device locate the whereabouts of the wearer via KMS’s b.con platform and the status of the KIT wristband including battery level and signal strength. b.con can also be used to set up safe zones or specific routes along which the wearer is supposed to travel. If the wearer leaves a zone or route the carer will receive an alert either via text message. 

What gap in the market did you spot that you felt KMS could fill? 

KIT sits in the crossover of two very attractive and rapidly growing markets, namely, wearable devices and mobile healthcare. KIT is primarily aimed at vulnerable adults be they ageing persons or persons with physical/intellectual disabilities who still have the desire and need for an enhanced and or extended independent living experience. This market is being driven by a growing and ageing population and by a growing trend of social care in the community. However as our business has evolved we have also identified the opportunity for a secure, private, scalable and interoperable connected health platform that would be open for innovation enabling anyone developing a connected health device to securely take data feeds, analyse and report based on this data and most importantly share this data with others for better health informatics

What did the funding you received through Creative England’s Interactive Healthcare fund allow you to achieve?

KMS was fortunate to secure private equity funding early in the company’s development but as is so common with so many start-ups the development challenge and timescale far exceeded our initial calculations. The Creative England funding came at a point where we were invited to tender to provide an App for O2 and its client Newcastle City Council that is based on the b.con platform. The investment enabled us to push ahead and secure this tender while simultaneously putting together a second funding round. Securing the tender was a significant help in completing the second funding round as well as giving the company its first revenue stream. Without the Creative England funding it would have been incredibly difficult to have achieved all this at that time 

What is the biggest difficulty when developing a product for the healthcare market and how did you overcome it? 

For KMS the biggest challenge we faced was in miniaturizing existing GSM and GPS technology. In particular the GPS proved to be a major problem. We solved this by working with the School of Signal Processing at the University of Manchester who developed a bespoke flexible GPS antenna for KIT. 

What feedback have you received about your products so far? 

We have exhibited our KIT prototypes at CES Las Vegas and various trade shows in the UK. At CES we attracted considerable media attention and KIT was featured in the Guardian, Yahoo and even The Times of India. At the UK trade shows the response from the general public has always been very positive. The My Trav App has won the accolade of “Project of the Year: Public Sector” in the Dynamite 15 awards which are the technology awards for North East England. We are getting a lot of positive interest from the connected health community in the Greater Manchester area for the b.con proposition and we have several potential joint collaborations under discussion.

Would you recommend that other healthcare tech companies apply for similar support?

Of course, but I would advise companies considering applying not to look at the support as just cash. There is a huge amount of additional supports and expertise available from Creative England, so be sure to ask and engage to extract the maximum benefit.  

What do KMS have planned for 2016 - what is the next step for your product? 

We believe 2016 will be very busy for KMS. Firstly we have finished the design and development of KIT and we are now developing our manufacturing plan. So we look forward to the product finally being available for sale in 2016. My Trav will go into full field testing in April of this year and we expect the full solution to be on sale through O2 Local Government Sales teams in Q4 2016. Finally, we are busily putting plans together to build our first fully functional demonstrator of the b.con platform as a secure, scalable and interoperable connected health platform open for use to anyone with a connected health device. We are very excited about this last opportunity.

Are you a healthcare tech SME? Find out how you can apply for similar funding by visiting our Interactive Healthcare Programme page. Alternatively, follow the links to find out more about our interest free business loans and equity investment options.

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