Luminate startup makes ‘Fitbit on steroids’
If the term “wearable biometric device” doesn’t ring a bell to you, you’re likely not alone. It’s a term seemingly pulled out of a science fiction novel, and comes off as something reserved solely for the world of synthetic humanoids.
But odds are you’re very familiar with these handy little tools. There’s likely someone near you wearing one. You may even be wearing one yourself.
Products like Fitbit and Apple watches have become nearly ubiquitous in day-to-day life, and Think Biosolution, a company in the Luminate NY business accelerator, is looking to capitalize on the next step of that industry. Their product, which CEO Shourjya Sanyal referred to as “Fitbit on steroids” is an egg-shaped module about the size of a computer mouse dubbed the QuasaR device. Through a series of sensors, it can measure heart rate, blood oxygen saturation, heart rate variability and respiratory rate, in real time with medical-grade accuracy.
“You can see similar technologies to this in things like Apple watches or Fitbit, but where we differ from those technologies in the market is that we use camera sensors instead of a photo diode,” Sanyal said. “So, we measure changes in color as opposed to light, which allows us to measure biometric signals up to 10 times more accurately than the devices currently on the market.”
Think Biosolution was born in 2016 from a partnership between Sanyal and CTO Koushik Kumar Nundy. Fellow undergraduates at the National Institute of Technology in Durgapur, India, the pair originally had plans to focus on health care.
“Both of our interests were in image processing and trying to build health care solutions using image processing,” Sanyal said. “Back in those days, it was early in what we’d now call AR or VR and those sort of technologies, so we played around and came up with an idea of how to use a camera as a low-cost pain detection system.”
After that, it was a slew of other applications in the medical field using image processing before finally landing on the current QuasaR device. The device still has medical use for identifying bio-indicators and fitness, but Sanyal also sees it having a future in the professional sports realm for measuring fitness in players, or in virtually any other field that contracts Think to create a personalized product.
“We think of ourselves as if you’re a health care platform or a brand who wants to have their own Fitbit, we can help you build that,” Sanyal said. “Basically we, as an ODM (Original Design Manufacturer), help brands and platforms build privately labeled, variable solutions but modifying or standard QuasaR device and platform.”
Sanyal ballparks commercial manufacturing at about six months out, which places them in a unique situation vis-a-vis current residents of the Luminate NY accelerator. Founded and based in Dublin, Think is the only company in Luminate NY from outside of the United States, and, in fact, Sanyal is splitting his time across the pond. This interview was done via video chat a day after Sanyal stepped off the plane in Ireland.
“We’re probably three to six months away from building our first batch of products. Our team is going for a minimum of 12,000 units of production, and that entire thing will be based out of Rochester,” Sanyal said. “We’ll be working with contract manufacturers, both in terms of the electronics, the casing and the strap system that holds QuasaR in place.”
In essence, Rochester will serve as the manufacturing base for both first run and United States market production for Think. By Q3 2019, Sanyal hopes to establish a European base for manufacturing as well, but for now, if a Think Biosolution hits the market, it will be manufactured in Rochester.
Sanyal credits Luminate NY for the decision to base original manufacturing in Rochester.
“Luminate is a great opportunity for any company anywhere in the world, particularly if you are focused on photonics, and particularly if you are focused on photonics manufacturing,” Sanyal said. “Before we came here, we had been in several other accelerator programs, both in America and in Europe. This is our third accelerator program in the past two years. Luminate has been, by far, the most hands-on program, which not only helped us figure out how to go into manufacturing, but helped us reshape our whole business from sales to marketing, figuring out technology like IT, as well as operations. It basically helped us with the small things in business that can make or break your startup.”
It’s a common sentiment among residents of the accelerator: it’s less focused on bettering your technology and more on the business aspects, the sustainable company models and the minutiae of operations protocol that a startup needs to thrive. And that makes sense — tech folk will always be good at tech, but running a business is rarely an innate skill.
As for Think, their first marketing run is hoping for brand partnerships with sports teams, creating customized products, from the harness to the device itself. It’s not the entirety of the list by any means; Sanyal points to professional sports monitoring alongside the smart clothing and health marketplaces as three key sectors to penetrate.
“They might seem like three completely different marketplaces, but at the end of the day, they’re all trying to help people who live an active lifestyle and want to lead an active lifestyle to reach their goals by collecting biometric data,” Sanyal said. “What we’re doing is enabling them to do that without having to develop their own R&D teams.”
Spotlight on Luminate
Ten companies composed of some of the brightest minds in
the field of optics, imaging and photonics are fine-tuning their technologies inside NextCorps’ Luminate accelerator. The winners of November’s first Lightning Awards, these companies each received $100,000 in funding, free residency in the accelerator and access to High Tech Rochester’s web of resources and mentoring. On June 28, the most promising of these 10 will receive a total of $2 million in follow-on funding. Leading up to that date, the Rochester Business Journal is featuring profiles of the companies holding
the keys to the next chapter in Rochester’s history as the world’s imaging center.