The Braze Mobility Blog

 

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Seasoned CRT executive joins Braze Mobility as Vice President of Business Development to grow sales and partnerships

03/31/2021

TORONTO, ON – March 31, 2021 – The team at Braze Mobility, a company that’s created the world’s first blind spot sensors that can be added to any wheelchair transforming it into a ‘smart wheelchair’, is excited to announce that Allan Boyd, a seasoned Complex Rehab Technology (CRT) industry leader, is joining as Vice President of Business Development. Boyd will leverage his established relationships and experience within the industry to lead Braze Mobility’s business development strategy and support their mission of helping millions of wheelchair users around the world navigate boldly, independently, and safely.

Boyd brings with him over 25 years of experience in CRT. He served as the General Manager at Permobil Canada from 2010 to 2020, where he built and established the company’s presence throughout the country. Prior to Permobil, he managed Invacare Corporation’s seating division. He also worked as Director of Operations at Special Health Systems and was a partner at Motion Concepts, both of which were acquired by Invacare.

“I am thrilled to have Allan on our team,” said Pooja Viswanathan, CEO, and co-founder of Braze Mobility. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for not only his experiences and what he has accomplished in the industry, but also for his hunger to keep learning and staying abreast of the latest innovations. In fact, I met Allan because of a research-industry partnership while I was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Toronto and he was managing Permobil Canada. The timing of Allan’s onboarding could not be better as we at Braze Mobility prepare to accelerate our growth in North America and overseas.”

Since launching in 2016, Braze Mobility’s blind spot sensor systems have been transforming the lives of wheelchair users. The system mounts on any powered or manual wheelchair, automatically detecting obstacles and providing feedback to the user through intuitive lights, sounds, and vibrations. By providing alerts and leaving the user fully in control, the system maximizes user independence and freedom, while improving safety.

“I met Pooja in 2014, and have watched her create Braze Mobility from years of clinical research, and evidence,” Boyd said. “Sharing the same client-focused core values, I’m excited to be part of a team bringing this innovative technology that the majority of us take for granted in the vehicles we drive every day, to wheelchairs. I’m equally excited in what lies ahead, as Braze Mobility has many more technical innovations in development.”

Braze Mobility blind spot sensor systems are available for purchase globally starting at $1,655 US MSRP. For more information visit: www.brazemobility.com

About Braze Mobility: Based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, the company was founded by Dr. Pooja Viswanathan, who has incorporated over a decade of smart wheelchair research into state-of-the-art technology that improves accessibility and independence for people with physical disabilities.

Braze Mobility is dedicated to increasing independence, safety, and overall quality of life for people living with mobility challenges. We engage with end-users throughout the design process to create accessible and innovative technologies that are affordable and easy to use.

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Digital healthcare start-ups building solutions for aging adults to watch for 2021

03/08/2021

Read the full story on Hospital News:

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Meet the Finalists of CABHI’s MC² Market Readiness Program

01/12/2021

In August 2020, the Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation (CABHI) launched a Call for Innovations for its Mentorship, Capital and Continuation (MC2) program, presented in partnership with National Bank. MCMarket Readiness sought early-stage companies creating solutions for aging adults in the healthtech space. The program addresses critical innovation gaps, not only by providing early-stage companies with direct access to two leading global accelerators, CABHI and Berkeley SkyDeck, but also by helping companies unlock funding to achieve their specific business milestones.

More than 50 companies applied, which indicates a thriving Ontario healthtech sector invested in building solutions for aging adults. Given that the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on older adults’ lives, it is encouraging to see the scope of companies tackling these needs in-depth.

Semi-finalists were invited to pitch last autumn, and now CABHI is proud to announce the program’s six winning companies. They are currently (and virtually) participating in Berkeley SkyDeck, which offers access to the Silicon Valley ecosystem and a Pitch Showcase event, at which CABHI’s innovators may have the opportunity to pitch their solution to world-leading investors, buyers, industry leaders, and advisors. Typically, two out of every three companies that participate in this Pitch Showcase receive venture funding to scale and grow.

Read the entire article here https://www.cabhi.com/blog/meet-the-finalists-of-cabhis-2020-mc%C2%B2-market-readiness-program/

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BMO Announces 10 Recipients of $100,000 Grant Program for Women-Owned Businesses

11/19/2020

To mark Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, BMO Financial Group today announced the ten recipients of its $100,000 grant program. As part of its longstanding commitment to helping the advancement of women, the new grant program celebrates Canadian women business owners’ innovation and resilience during the pandemic.

To assist with the grant recipient selection process, BMO collaborated with key strategic partners to establish an advisory committee and judging panel consisting of leaders from GroYourBiz, Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO), Women Get On Board, Women Business Enterprises Canada Council (WBE Canada), Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub, and Deloitte.

Each business will receive $10,000 and have the opportunity to receive ongoing support through one of the bank’s partners, including a one-year membership with a peer advisory group for women business owners and a one-year certification with Women Business Enterprise Canada.

The BMO Celebrating Women 2020 Grant Recipients are:

  • Ayanna Lee Rivears, Socacize Fitness: Socacize Fitness is a creative blend of Caribbean and African dance techniques, with effective fitness movements.
  • Dr. Irit Van-Ham and Dr. Monika Yazdanian, ToeFX Inc.: Founded by two scientists, ToeFX is driven by innovation with a vision to create the world’s most effective foot care treatments.
  • Kim Knight and Shanelle McKenzie, The Villij: The Villij creates an inclusive, accessible, and nurturing community for women of colour to connect, heal and expand. It provides health and wellness services, including yoga, meditation, walking clubs, conversations, and workshops.
  • Meghan Peters and Kristin Verbeek, Lathered Cleaning Company Inc.: Established in 2013, Lathered Cleaning uses only natural cleaning products and is dedicated to giving time back safely and effectively to other busy people.
  • Pam Fanjoy, Fan/Joy: Chef Pam’s culinary passion has led her to create a line of Gourmet To Go prepared meals, the junior chef culinary and life skills programs and the youth-run café and marketplace to help improve the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of local youths and families.
  • Pooja Rao, got BALLZ Inc.: With a goal to produce high quality products, made with the utmost care from locally sourced ingredients, got BALLZ re-invents snacks and foods we love with a healthy twist.
  • Pooja Viswanathan, Braze Mobility Inc.: Braze Mobility has developed the world’s first blind-spot sensor system for wheelchairs, which automatically detects obstacles and provides multi-modal alerts (visual, vibration, and/or audio feedback) to the driver.
  • Rebecca Taylor, Ready to go Foods Inc.: With a passion for cooking and Caribbean flavours, Ready to go Foods allows those with busy lifestyles to enjoy healthy, Caribbean flavoured meals in their own kitchen.
  • Robyn Ledoux, A Touch of Health: Launched in 2009, A Touch of Health began as a simple one-woman massage therapy clinic. Since then, the business has grown to employ 10 people and has diversified to include a health food café, A Taste of Health.
  • Shehreen Zaman, Math Project: Math Project offers students the opportunity to strengthen their math skills through on-site and online interactive sessions with a qualified team of tutors.

“A large part of supporting the advancement of women is celebrating the contributions made by women leaders, entrepreneurs and mentors in local communities,” said Erminia (Ernie) Johannson, Group Head, North American Personal and Business Banking, BMO Financial Group. “We’re proud to recognize these women and their ability to innovate in their businesses and persevere during this difficult time. Congratulations to this year’s honourees on all their achievements.”

Since its inception in 2012, BMO Celebrating Women has honoured more than 180 women in communities across Canada and the United States. In addition to the new grant program, BMO has developed programs and invested in solutions to support women entrepreneurs. The bank committed to making $3 billion in capital available to women-owned businesses across Canada over three years, has embedded diversity-focused procurement programs, and has created a new women’s business directory.

“These women – who have clearly demonstrated unrelenting drive and resilience throughout this last year – are essential not only to our economy, but to the future of Canada; their achievements cannot be overstated,” said Linda Blair, Managing Partner, Ontario, Deloitte Canada. “Deloitte is proud to assist BMO in recognizing the value of these entrepreneurs, to elevate their success, and to help them thrive at every step along the way.”

To learn more about the grant recipients and BMO Celebrating Women, visit bmoforwomen.com and join the social conversation using #BMOforWomen.

https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/bmo-announces-10-recipients-of-100-000-grant-program-for-women-owned-businesses-880466698.html

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Melinda Gates’ Pivotal Ventures and Techstars unveil cohort for ‘Future of Longevity’ Accelerator

09/02/2020

A group of ten startups will spend the next 13 weeks coming up with innovative caregiving solutions for aging adults.

Melinda Gates’ Pivotal Ventures and Techstars unveiled the first cohort for the new Future of Longevity Accelerator, a program that supports startups building products and services for caregivers.

Companies range from device makers to software platforms. Seven of the 10 CEOs are women, and nearly half of the founders are Black or Latinx. See the full list of companies below, with descriptions from the program.

  • Braze Mobility: Braze Mobility has developed the world’s first blind spot sensor system that can be attached to any motorized wheelchair, transforming it into a “smart” wheelchair. With Braze Mobility, users can more easily spot obstacles, helping to reduce the risks of injury and wheelchair damage and help users maintain their dignity and independence.
  • Candoo Tech: Candoo Tech provides on-demand tech support and training specifically designed to help older adults stay safe, independent, and connected. The company provides one-off sessions, device setup, and ongoing support for members looking to use technology to connect with family members, attend telehealth appointments, and go online.
  • Naborforce: Naborforce connects a network of community members, “Nabors,” to older adults for assistance with basic tasks and social engagement. These “backup” sons and daughters address the caregiver shortage while also helping combat loneliness.
  • UpsideHōm: UpsideHōm offers the only fully managed, shared living option for older adults to address the problems of loneliness and cost of housing.
  • ConnectCareHero: ConnectCareHero is an activities management platform that enables the teams supporting senior citizens to streamline state-required documentation, keep families easily connected, and provide a place where they can plan curated activities.
  • MemoryWell: MemoryWell is a digital platform that uses storytelling to improve the care of older people. Using its network of professional writers, MemoryWell works with families, senior living communities, and home- and community-based providers to replace intake questionnaires with brief, intimate stories designed to build empathy and be poignant keepsakes for families.
  • Rezilient Health: Rezilient’s robotic telehealth platform allows physicians to not only provide standard video visits, but also remotely control the positioning of medical devices that are located with the patient at another physician’s office, pharmacy, or nursing home, among other locations.
  • Rubitection: Rubitection’s skin health and care management tool improves the detection, risk assessment, and care management of dermatological and vascular conditions with an initial application to bedsores and diabetic foot ulcers for seniors at home, in nursing homes, or in hospitals.
  • Authored: Authored creates apparel that is thoughtfully engineered with discreet openings that adapt to body needs and limitations. The startup’s clothing promotes and prolongs independence, enables safer dressing, and reduces stigma and injuries.
  • Wysefit: Wysefit is a fitness app created specifically for older people. Taught by certified instructors and health professionals, the app’s programs address the needs of people as they age—from stretches to help with arthritis to exercises to build muscle and reduce lower back pain.

https://www.geekwire.com/2020/melinda-gates-pivotal-ventures-techstars-unveil-cohort-future-longevity-accelerator/

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AMI This Week: Shortcut with Alex Smyth

08/10/2020

Alex Smyth learns about Braze Mobility, a company making blind spot detectors for wheelchair users, and chats with the CEO, Dr. Pooja Viswanathan, and a client to discover more.

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Bethel University Students, Toronto Entrepreneurs take home top honors at Destination Medical Center’s Assistive Tech Challenge Virtual Pitch Competition

06/05/2020

Braze Mobility from Toronto placed First in the Professional Division for its patent-pending blind spot sensor system that can transform a wheelchair into a ‘smart’ wheelchair that automatically detects obstacles and provides multi-modal alerts to the driver. Dr. Pooja Viswanathan, co-founder and CEO pitched the product. Other team members include Namit Sharma, Dr. Alex Mihailidis and Madeleine Rawling.

“The DMC Assistive Tech Challenge was a great virtual experience,” said Viswanathan. “It was incredible to see so many companies working on assistive technologies that will impact millions of lives. Braze Mobility will be using the prize money to help accelerate development of sensor technology that will enable safe and independent wheelchair navigation.”

Read the full article here: https://dmc.mn/bethel-university-students-toronto-entrepreneurs-take-home-top-honors-at-destination-medical-centers-assistive-tech-challenge-virtual-pitch-competition/

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Finalists announced in startup competition that will showcase technology-based solutions for seniors and caregivers

05/28/2020

Fifteen Canadian startups have been chosen to compete in this year’s AGE-WELL National Impact Challenge, it was announced today.

Finalists will be challenged to explain how their technology-based solution can positively impact older Canadians or their caregivers.

Five finalists will compete in each of three virtual events reflecting the broad spectrum of innovation that exists in Canada’s AgeTech sector. The winner at each event will receive $20,000 in cash, plus in-kind prizes.

Finalists in Competition #1 (June 18 livestream):

  • eNable Analytics
  • HomeEXCEPT
  • Novalte
  • ServUs Health
  • Sparrow Acoustics

Finalists in Competition #2 (July 9 livestream):

  • Able Innovations
  • Braze Mobility
  • Neurofit
  • Stabilo Medical
  • VitalTracer

Finalists in Competition #3 (Sept 29 livestream, in conjunction with the BC Seniors Living Association annual conference):

  • GTCare
  • MatchWork
  • Seven Movements
  • Tochtech Technologies
  • Virtual Gym

Read about the finalists here.

To register to watch the first two pitch events via livestream, please visit the competition main page. Registered audience members will have a chance to win a Kobo eReader.

Each event also includes a lively panel discussion on the future of AgeTech and its impact on areas such as brain health.

“The need for technologies and services that benefit older Canadians and caregivers is more apparent than ever in these challenging times,” said Dr. Alex Mihailidis, Scientific Co-Director and CEO of the AGE-WELL Network of Centres of Excellence. “This competition will spotlight top Canadian startups whose innovations can support the health and quality of life of seniors and those who care for them.”

The competition will also support entrepreneurship in Canada’s AgeTech sector, and advance our country’s leadership in technology-based solutions that benefit people everywhere, Dr. Mihailidis said.

AGE-WELL, Canada’s Technology and Aging Network, brings together researchers, older adults, caregivers, partner organizations and future leaders to accelerate the delivery of technology-based solutions that make a meaningful difference in the lives of Canadians.

AGE-WELL thanks all startups and entrepreneurs who submitted applications to the AGE-WELL National Impact Challenge, and congratulates the finalists. Each finalist will deliver a 5-minute pitch, followed by a 5-minute Q&A with a panel of expert judges.

Thank you to the sponsors of this competition: Aging2.0 Local I Halifax Chapter, BC Seniors Living Association, Bereskin & Parr LLP, CARP, IBM Canada Ltd., Impact Centre, Innovacorp, Innovation PEI, New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, Ontario Brain Institute, Spectrum Health Care, and YouAreUNLTD.

newswire.ca/news-releases/finalists-announced-in-startup-competition-that-will-showcase-technology-based-solutions-for-seniors-and-caregivers-814690251.html

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HELLO, TOMORROW!

03/01/2020

Robotics have the potential to impact CRT in a big way. How are startups and researchers tackling the complicated landscape?

When Dan Ding first started as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pittsburgh in 2001, she had never heard the term “rehabilitation robotics.” She attended robotics conferences while earning her Ph.D. in Hong Kong, but rarely saw sessions on healthcare applications, much less the type of work that would soon change the complex rehab technology (CRT) industry.

“I don’t think at the time the term was coined,” Ding, now an associate professor in the university’s Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, told Mobility Management. “I definitely witnessed the whole growth of this technology’s involvement in rehabilitation and assistive technology, so I feel very fortunate that, before that happened, I was able to get into this field.”

Ding’s early experiences are a far cry from the landscape of robotics in complex rehab today, where new startups have introduced technology ranging from eye-gaze wheelchair controls to blind-spot sensors that can be mounted on several parts of a power chair. Large manufacturers are following suit by integrating new developments, such as patient monitoring technology, into their seat cushions and chairs.

While there is a sense of unlimited possibilities for the applications of robotic technology, experts in the field say there are also immense challenges facing the industry, particularly in terms of the high costs for patients seeking the latest equipment and the regulatory hurdles for CRT companies trying to bring innovative products to market.

Braze Mobility Sensor System

Braze Mobility’s sensor system

For Pooja Viswanathan, the CEO and founder of the Toronto-based blind-spot sensor manufacturer Braze Mobility, the CRT industry is just “skimming the surface” of what’s possible in terms of finding solutions for patients.

“I think there’s tremendous opportunity for growth as long as it’s customer-centric,” Viswanathan said in an interview. “The challenge in robotics is that it often ends up being a technology push. As long as the focus stays on the problems rather than the solutions and on the customer rather than the developer, there is tremendous opportunity.”

A WINDING ROAD FOR IBOT & TOYOTA

The path for robotics in complex rehab has been long and winding over the past two decades, including the widely publicized production (and later discontinuation) of the iBOT stair-climbing wheelchair system.

In 2003, Independence Technology — a division of healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson — introduced the iBOT to rave reviews from mainstream media, who hailed the wheelchair as a revolutionary device that “will force [wheelchair users] to reconsider virtually all the presumed boundaries in the world,” according to one Dateline NBC reporter.

But as Mobility Management reported at the time, Independence Technology hit several snags in its quest to sell the iBOT directly to consumers via clinician assessment and cut CRT providers from the distribution chain. The chair cost $26,000 at the time the company ceased production in 2009, and Medicare declined to classify its seat elevation or stairclimbing abilities as “medically necessary.” While popular with veterans and some clinicians, the iBOT also did not offer typical rehab functions, such as tilt, recline or elevating legrests. In addition, users needed the ability to use a traditional joystick.
Mobius Mobility iBOT

Mobius Mobility’s iBOT

In turn, Independence Technology struggled to sell the chair, citing low demand before dissolving in 2009. The iBOT has continued to be revived by other companies, including Toyota North America and most recently by Mobius Mobility, which began promoting the chair last year with some added rehab functions.

Toyota is no longer involved with the iBOT nearly four years after signing an agreement with inventor Dean Kamen to develop the “next generation” of iBOT, according to Doug Moore, GM, Technology for Human Support at Toyota North America. Instead, Toyota has been at work on several mobility-related projects, demonstrating the Japanese mega-corporation’s commitment to becoming a “mobility company” rather than an automotive company, Moore said.

“We have been spending a ton of time, especially in this complex rehab area, making sure that we understand the real needs,” Moore told Mobility Management in an interview. “We’ve been looking at the end customers, whether it’s direct users, caregivers, care receivers or ATPs, PTs, DMEs, all these individuals. We’ve been having conversations across the whole world to understand what are the real challenges and what are the real needs that are out there.”

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2020 in January, Toyota’s display featured examples of mobility products that would be included in the company’s ideal “Woven City.” Those products included the Human Support Robot (HSR), an AI robot with voice-control capability, and a wheelchair-link battery electric vehicle (BEV) designed for “those who have difficulty walking and those in wheelchairs,” according to a press release.

Moore, who has risen to the top of the robotics team since joining Toyota in 2011, stopped short of committing to any mobility product releases from the company. He noted his experience working on Project BLAID, a wearable device for blind and visually impaired people that the company first publicized in 2016. While that and other mobility products have not been released yet, showcasing that Toyota is focused on developing inclusive products is important, Moore said.

“I’ve intentionally tried to make sure we don’t over-promise and under-deliver, because there’s still a lot of thinking that has to go into these platforms to make sure we can execute it right,” Moore said. “We want to show people that we are thinking and considering the true needs and the true value of what it means to bring solutions to the whole broad community, but at the same time we have to be careful and cautious about what we put out there.”

ROBOTICS PRODUCTS COME TO COMPLEX REHAB

Robotics engineers in the CRT and mobility world have one trait in common: a desire to see their algorithms and technical work turn into an application that changes people’s lives.

For Jay Beavers, a co-founder and managing member of Seattle-based Evergreen Circuits, the inspiration came from Steve Gleason, the former NFL player turned ALS activist. When Gleason challenged a group of Microsoft employees to create a system allowing him to drive his wheelchair with his eyes, they answered the call.

After Microsoft decided not to proceed into the medical device sector, Beavers and his partners created their own company and began to sell the Independence Drive system, which combines a power wheelchair, tablet computer and eye-tracking camera, in 2018.

“The thing that I think robotics will do that will really impact this industry is provide for more independent living and reduce the need for 24-hour caregivers,” Beavers said in an interview. “Japan is kind of on the cusp of this because they’re ahead of us in terms of having an aging population and not having enough caregivers. We in the U.S. are going to need to address the same issue in the next 20 to 30 years. That’s the biggest opportunity.”

Read the full article here: https://mobilitymgmt.com/Articles/2020/03/01/Robotics.aspx

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New Technology Helps Older Canadians Age In Place At Home Safely

12/06/2019

Soon after turning 70, Marianne Buzza knew it was time to downsize. But it wasn’t about the size of the house. “I love to garden and had created a bit of a monster. We needed a smaller yard!” she says with a laugh.

She and her husband, Wally, also wanted to live in the town of Wasaga Beach, ON, so they didn’t have to rely so much on driving. They found a townhouse that’s “perfect for us,” with plenty of extra space in the basement and a loft for visits from the kids and grandkids.

The new home also came with two flights of stairs. While Marianne, now 75, and Wally, 86, are both mobile, they recognized that the stairs put them at greater risk for falls. “A lot of people our age have mobility, but our balance is sometimes not what it used to be. We need that extra bit of stability.”

The couple found the solution in a new product called StairSteady (see below for details), manufactured in Whitby, ON. The fixed handrail uses a moveable support handle for users to grasp when going up or down stairs (see sidebar). “It goes at your pace because it’s not motorized. It can take a lot of weight and you can really lean into it,” says Buzza, adding that it blends right in with the décor. “It will be a selling feature because a lot of retirees move here.”

As more baby boomers enter their 70s and 80s, home safety will become increasingly important. For example, products and services to prevent falls, or to reduce the risk of wandering for people with dementia, are fast becoming available. Perhaps it’s time to update the old saying to, “There’s no place like a safe home.”

And it’s not just about safety. It’s increasingly about building and equipping homes that better support the changing needs of older adults, particularly in the areas of mobility and memory. Such foresight may help avoid moves to retirement homes or assisted living. In fact, Mary Huang, a family caregiver who helped move her 86-year-old mother and 90-year-old father out of their house to a condominium, would describe home-based support as a societal priority.

“Many people have no option but to stay home,” says Huang, an information technology consultant. “Retirement homes are expensive, and the waiting lists for long-term care are crazy. We need to be more creative, and this is where technology can come into play.”

Big plans for high tech

In 2016 Huang became involved with AGE-WELL, a national network of researchers partnering with government, businesses and non-profit organizations to develop innovations that support “aging well,” ideally in the comfort of one’s own home. As a caregiver and with her background in technology, Huang is excited by what’s coming from the network. “It’s good to see the federal government investing money in research outside the current models for healthcare and homecare.”

Smart sensor technology, for example, is a big focus for AGE-WELL. From garbage cans that signal when they need to be emptied to furniture that monitors vital signs and movements, homeowners can live more independently, and caregivers can provide support more efficiently. Artificial intelligence and non-intrusive computer vision will lead to devices, such as “social robots,” that learn people’s habits, interact with them and notify caregivers if issues emerge.

One of the first AGE-WELL products to become commercially available is Braze Mobility’s sensor technology for wheelchairs, to help people (of all ages) navigate their chairs more safely (see below). More than 60 products and services are in the works, all of which aim to transition from research to reality in the near future. “The start-up companies coming out of AGE-WELL are going to accelerate, which will lead to competition and more options for consumers,” says Dr. Pooja Viswanathan, a Toronto-based researcher and CEO of Braze Mobility. “This is especially important for the aging population, because so many of their needs are currently unmet.”

YouAreUNLTD.com is pleased to launch “No Place Like Safe Home,” a series of articles about what you can do to continue living safely and independently at home. Coming next: how building standards are changing, and retrofitting options for your current home.

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