Carey Grads Target Workplace Injuries with Wearable Tech Startup
What is the value of technology that can predict the future? When it comes to detecting and preventing workplace injuries, the answer is a lot, says a trio of Carey Business School students who have formed a startup around the tech.
Formed in 2015, the company is called Motus Datum and was conceived by three Carey Business School students: Chris Colihan-Grillo, Andrew Maus, and David Yakimischak.
The company was spawned during Carey’s Discovery to Market class, a unique offering that focuses on entrepreneurship and the commercialization process for scientific materials. The class, taught by Associate Professor Toby Gordon, tasks students with developing a commercialization plan for a new technology that is pending patent.
As the trio was sifting through the batch of patents owned by the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health, they came upon a patent called PEAS, which stands for Portable Exposure Assessment System.
The wearable technology consists of a network of body-worn sensors the size of poker chips – including gyroscopes, vibration sensors, accelerometers, weight sensors – that gather information about a person’s movements. That information is uploaded to a mobile phone and then plugged into an algorithm that the founders say can predict and subsequently prevent future on-the-job injuries.
“Based on your physical profile and your individual movement, the technology can determine if you are moving in a way that over time would result in a musculoskeletal injury (MSI),” said Colihan-Grillo, the company’s CEO.
The group says the technology is ideal for industries in which workers are exposed to higher probabilities of on-the-job injuries, such as nurses, construction workers, and delivery people.
The benefit of such technology has the potential to be huge, the founders say.
“The goal here is to reduce injuries. And if we have some data that shows putting this system in place can reduce injuries, we have a home-run opportunity,” says Yakimischak, the company’s COO and CTO.
On top of that, the business behind the technology is solid. The group envisions working as a consultant for its clients, which could range from employers to insurance companies.
“Our business model is to provide data analytics as a service,” Colihan-Grillo says.
Maus, the company’s CFO, says direct health care costs for worker injuries exceeds $62 billion, which does not include indirect health care and financial benefits.
“There is a huge connection between workplace injuries and opioid use,” Maus said. “When you get a worker that hurts their back, they become dependent over months and even years due to overexertion, and repetitive movements at work. The result, chronic musculoskeletal injuries (MSI’s) predominantly treated by opioids, resulting in a much bigger problem.”
He later added: “If you are an insurance company paying out hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars a year to deal with these injuries — The ability to reduce MSI’s by a mere four percent more than demonstrates a return on investment.”
The startup began as a class project, but the group soon began to realize that something more was there.
“Just by happenstance during the class, the CDC was awarded the patent for PEAS,” Colihan-Grillo said, which added to the project’s momentum.
In the spring of 2016, the trio were looking for a project for their capstone class. They quickly settled on further developing a business around the PEAS technology.
“The three of us sat down and said, ‘This technology is pretty cool, and we actually think there is commercial viability here,’” Colihan-Grillo said.
Their work continued through the capstone class and their graduation in May 2016. Now, the company officials are looking to continue their momentum with a pilot program to test the viability of the technology. They are also looking for seed funding and to add a full-time employee to help manage the development of the company (all three still have their full-time jobs).
The founders say the company wouldn’t be possible without the Carey Business School. But in addition to bringing the group together and providing the entrepreneurial environment, they say the school has equipped them well to continue to develop the business.
“I learned a lot of different things; I learned to look at business issues as a multi-faceted, complex system,” Yakimischak said. “I couldn’t have written this business plan two years ago. I just couldn’t have done it, and now I can because of the education we received.”