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Got a Dangerous Job? This Wearable Keeps Tabs on Your Vitals

Bodytrak

Does that 3 p.m. slump call for a jolt of caffeine or a visit to the ER? How is your body handling that outdoor job? Is it hot in here? With Bodytrak, an in-ear device that monitors vital signs, you no longer have to guess.

On a recent trip to the UK, PCMag met with Bodytrak CEO Leon Marsh. As we sat in a glass-walled meeting room at the company’s London HQ, Marsh opened a black ballistics-style case and there, nestled in steel gray foam inserts, were the Bodytrak wearables.

Bodytrak

Worn inside the ear, Bodytrak records—in real time—a constant flow of physiological data, including core body temperature, heart rate, VO2, and motion (including fall detection). If you’re a commanding officer with up to 800 soldiers in your battalion, the algorithms and machine learning provide a comprehensive read—and alerts—on everyone in the battlescape or during basic training. At a glance, you can see which recruits will make it and which ones are at risk of collapsing from heat stroke.

“I set up Bodytrak in 2013 after my then-employer, Nokia, sold its smartphone business to Microsoft,” Marsh told PCMag. “I’d been researching sports physiology for a while, and saw a gap in the market to bring highly accurate real-time monitoring to people who are active, in the field, and not contained in a controlled lab environment.”

Around that time, there were British soldier fatalities in the SAS division (equivalent to US Navy SEALS) during training exercises on the Brecon Beacons. As a result, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) solicited new innovations to combat heat stress in soldiers. Marsh had his Bodytrak concept ready to submit.

Bodytrak

“I knew there was a wide market for a device like ours because of fatalities in the fire service purely due to heat stroke,” he explained. “I then found out around 50 percent of fatalities are related to cardiac arrest, [so] we could monitor all vital signs with our product.

“In addition, I could see many industrial use cases for it, across mining, oil and gas, and other utility workers in hazardous or remote environments. In fact we estimate the total market potential, in aggregate, across defense and industry is £51 billion [$ 66 billion]”

Marsh’s team has registered seven patents, raised about $ 4.9 million in seed funding and is planning a Series A round for next year. The business model is subscription-based and dependent on the number of units used and complexity required of data inputs from those wearing them.

“Unlike other wearables, I see Bodytrak’s key value is that it’s a unique combination of hardware, software, platform, analytics, [and] machine learning, so the system can ascertain a baseline behavior for individuals and know, instantly, when something is about to go wrong,” Marsh argued.

Bodytrak is currently designed for use by enterprises, but Marsh is interested in licensing the technology to consumer brands in the future. Which would be excellent, because it looks like an advanced Secret Service earpiece, which are always good for envious stares in the office.

“Once the current stage trials are over—and there are 40 such trials in progress or planned—we’ll be going for official certification under the CE/FCC/ATEX directives for hazardous environments in 2019.”

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