For the third year in a row, Farnell element14 is proud to be an official partner of Startupbootcamp IoT, an intensive three-month acceleration program for tech-based startups. We recently traveled to Startupbootcamp IoT's London headquarters to meet the participating startups for the 2018 cohort.
Mechion is a UK-based IoT startup that uses computer vision and deep learning to detect the visual indicators and emotional behaviour patterns that are often an early sign of dementia.
How it works
For many elderly and vulnerable people, signs of the onset and progress of dementia can only be tracked through hospitals and specialised clinics. Mechion uses an unobtrusive hardware device that can be installed in the home to detect and record key indicators of concern. This is then collected as non-visual meta data and sent to a back-end platform where the data is processed into reports, analytics and insights which can be shared with the user's family and medical professionals. The company is currently preparing to begin clinical trials with several hospitals to explore how this information can be used to predict dementia and to track whether a patient's condition is getting worse.
Initial versions of Mechion's hardware device used an NVIDIA Tegra TX2 module with custom-built carrier boards and Intel D414 depth-sensing cameras to collect data such as facial expressions, movement and gait analysis. However, due to the high cost of the platform, they are now working with the Raspberry Pi 0W and using convolutional neural networks to provide image classification and segmentation. Using Raspberry Pi as an end-point, data is collected and sent to a cloud platform for processing.
Mechion's software incorporates custom-built neural architectures and state-of-the-art existing models such as Google's ResNet, which can be trained to process the data collected by the hardware device. This is achieved using the PyTorch deep learning platform and NVIDIA's CUDA compute capabilities.
According to Mechion co-founder Dr. Alexander Gkiokas, the key selling point of his product is that it's a very passive system that in no way interferes with the user's life. Once installed, it collects data round the clock, learning from the user's unique behaviour to generate highly specific insights and analytics in a way that is absolutely safe and private. No images or video footage is collected, the reports purely look at metadata based on information collected by the hardware. This means that the user can potentially enjoy more independence and autonomy during the early stages of dementia while also allowing for family and healthcare professionals to respond more quickly should more serious issues arise.
Looking to the future
In the short term, the Mechion team are keeping the focus on dementia, working to improve the accuracy with which they can pinpoint the signs and detect potential issues. One of the biggest challenges they currently face is the logistics of processing the huge amounts of data required to generate their reports. Their current prototype produces around 20GB of data per day, per person. They are currently working on an algorithm to reduce this amount of data so that it can be processed as close to real time as possible.
Once these issues have been resolved, they also have ambitions to look at adapting their technology to help identify early signs of infection, which can often develop into major issues and create secondary problems in older people.
Joining the Startupbootcamp IoT Program...
"We were a little sceptical at first" admits Dr. Gkiokas about his reasons for joining the Startupbootcamp IoT program. "However, our attitude has chained dramatically since we actually started. From the mentoring and workshops to the constant feedback, advice and constructive criticism, it's really driven us to refine our product and our approach not only to the business side of running a startup, but also the technical strategy. It's a truly unique experience, and I think it's going to help us to become more feasible and sustainable as a business."
We'll be continuing to check in with Mechion and the other Startupbootcamp IoT 2018 participants over the coming weeks, so keep checking this space for more updates. You can also learn more about Mechion on their official website and on the Startupbootcamp website.