SME Spotlight

Rest easy with vital-signs monitor that you can sleep on

The co-founders of Juvo Labs, Mr Mah (standing) and Mr Tan, hope to develop Internet of Things products in the future.
The co-founders of Juvo Labs, Mr Mah (standing) and Mr Tan, hope to develop Internet of Things products in the future.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

Distinguishing Singapore's products through cutting-edge technology remains a vital means of generating economic growth, but bringing innovations to market can seem daunting to many firms. Juvo Labs founders Tan Toi Ngee and Mah Chern Wern tell Jeremy Koh how the company used technology developed at A*Star to create a sleep-monitoring device.

Q What does your product, Juvo, do?

A Juvo is a sleep and vitals monitor.

You slip a sensor under your mattress and it picks up and records things like your heartbeat, breathing and your movement pattern - how often you shift and toss and turn.

As a result, you can tell what kind of sleep you're experiencing, what's the quality of sleep you have.

Simultaneously, it will know how much light and sound there is in your room - without actually recording the conversations - and the temperature of the room to see how it correlates to your sleep quality.

The unit is Wi-Fi-connected, so it sends the data to a server without you having to sync your phone, wear a device or charge anything, so it's very convenient. You just have to install it once.

Q How can the data be used to help with someone's sleep?

A Based on the environmental and sleep data collected, you may find you sleep better when your air-conditioning is set to 25 or 24 deg C. So you can decide to change your thermostat settings.

We can also sync your sleep patterns to a smart light. Should the system sense you are moving into deeper sleep during a period of time before your alarm goes off, the light can make the room brighter during this period.

The light inhibits production of a certain hormone in your brain, driving you into a lighter sleep. As you get driven into the light-sleep part before you wake up, you feel more awake when you are woken up by the alarm.

This system can also improve the quality of elderly care. If something happens in the night, it can send an alert to say: "I'm not sensing the correct signals, can you go and check on this person."

Q What was A*Star's role in the product's creation?

A They developed a sensor which, if put below a mattress, is sensitive enough to sense changes in breathing and heart rate, etc.

Our team then worked on its design to make it mass producible and tested it with different mattresses, ages, genders and physiques to make sure it was accurate.

We also developed an algorithm that the system uses to determine whether you are in a state of light sleep, deep sleep or REM sleep - a state where you dream. It looks at your breathing, heartbeat and movement to determine this.

Throughout the development process, A*Star's researchers addressed questions we had, and we went to their lab often to try things out.

Q How did you decide to make this product?

A Toi Ngee was working at another job when he attended an event where A*Star showed different technologies, including this sensor.

We'd always been interested in tracking vitals and what happens to your body in everyday activities. Actually, we always thought the Fitbit thing was interesting, if only it were more accurate and you didn't have to wear it.

Hence, we were interested in the product and spoke to Exploit Technologies and licensed the technology from A*Star.

Q Who will you be marketing the product to?

A Parents whose kids are either newborn or growing, people with elderly parents or grandparents, and individuals in general.

We are targeting the United States, Australia, South-east Asia and Europe, and aim to sell 20,000 units worldwide in the next 12 months.

The product will cost US$199 (S$285) off the shelf and we have already sold 500 units through means like crowdfunding platforms.

We are also working with a hospital and a nursing home here to see how this can best be adapted for their needs.

Q Given that there are many sleep- monitoring products in the market, what is Juvo's edge?

A To our knowledge, no other widely available sleep-monitoring product goes under the mattress, is unobtrusive, connects to Wi-Fi and is easy to use.

Q How much has development cost?

A Development, which started one year ago, has cost about $250,000 so far, excluding licensing costs.

We have received funding from venture capitalists and angel investors.

Q How did you pay for the development?

A We also raised around $52,000 through crowdfunding.

Via a crowdfunding platform, customers bought Juvo from us before its release on shelves, based on the fact that we had developed a prototype. We are delivering their purchases in April.

Juvo also received an iJam grant - short for IDM (Interactive Digital Media) Jump-start and Mentor grant - of $50,000 from the Media Development Authority of Singapore.

Q How many staff do you have?

A We have a team of five, which includes individuals with backgrounds in engineering and computer science.

Our team is both very young in some sense, but also very experienced in other senses.

For instance, Chern Wern used to be an industrial designer at HP, so he has experience in transforming a device into something that gets put on the shelf.

Our engineer from India has a lot of experience in networking devices, and our software guy has worked in a start-up.

Toi Ngee has a background in computer engineering and has worked at Bosch, an Internet of Things company.

Q Do you have plans to develop further products in the future?

A Have to. We hope to develop Internet of Things products that help enrich the relationships between you and your family members. We may develop sensors that track your behaviour in the house - like how much time you're spending in a certain room, and how your wellness is affected by this.

Another possibility is developing a product to train and motivate children to sleep more and sleep punctually.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2016, with the headline 'Rest easy with vital-signs monitor that you can sleep on'. Print Edition | Subscribe