Founded by an Israeli entrepreneur, QoL Devices has created a tool that helps make monitoring asthma fun. While it has yet to win FDA approval, it is already making waves in the field
The best way to get kids to do things is to turn chores into a game. Need them to clean their room? How about play the magic scrap, where one thing on the floor is “magic” so kids have to keep picking items up and putting them away until they find the lucky piece. Or when they need to go to sleep, why not plan a pajama party?
Some things are a little harder to turn into fun, like monitoring asthma, but startup QoL Devices Inc. has recently developed a new tool that turns monitoring the disease into an iPad game. QoL created the Alvio, a device that is basically a game controller that tracks breathing, can update parents on symptoms and progress and helps children exercise their lungs.
The device is attached via Bluetooth to iPad games in which inhaling and exhaling moves the character in the game up or down to collect targets that are placed on the screen based on respiratory protocol. Other games measure how hard someone can exhale: the more the child can exhale, the higher the character goes and the more points the user gets. These sorts of exercises can improve lung strength and have been shown to help children with asthma need their inhalers less.
A breath of fresh air
While it has yet to be approved by the FDA, the little device has been making waves in the medical field and on June 26 received a $100,000 grant from Pilot Health Tech NYC, which awards health tech companies with innovative pilot projects to help the startups test new technologies in healthcare settings. QoL right now is on a roll, as only last week it won two awards at the Cannes Lions International Competition, an annual event in France that awards creative companies in the mobile, design and advertising industries. Furthermore, TEDMED, the health and medical edition of the famous TED Talks Conference, recently announced its speakers for the 2014 conference, which includes Alvio.
Israeli entrepreneur Bezalel Arkush founded QoL – which stands for Quality of Life – in 2012 in New Jersey. Previously Arkush had founded or co-founded several startups in Israel, including Microcosmos, a computer retail operation; Plastronics, an educational multimedia company that created “edutainment” CD ROM products; Odyssey Interactive, which sold educational products to digital publishers and other companies such as IBM; and MainXchange, an internet-based stock market simulation game for teens.
Arkush then came up with the idea for Alvio after hearing about asthmatic care from friends who had asthmatic kids. He did some research and applied for patents to start his company that was originally called RespiRight and Respii. The startup was then accepted to participate in the R/GA Accelerator, which has a three-month program in NYC powered by Techstars. The program focuses on connected devices and helped QoL rebrand before it graduated the program in April.
Not just for asthma
QoL now has a working prototype of its device and is currently testing the product at the pediatrics department at the Montefiore Medical Center in NYC. The testing includes six weeks in the hospital and then six months at home with patients. Arkush said QoL intends to release the product to consumers by the beginning of next year and is now in the middle of looking for investors to help it complete its studies and manufacture the device. Meanwhile, QoL is also looking to do some more development in Israel and will soon conduct a trial in Israel in partnership with a leading medical organization, Arkush said. That deal should be finalized in about a month.
One obstacle right now, however, is that the device is not yet approved by the FDA. While the company does anticipate full regulatory approval, QoL intends to sell the breath training device to consumers before approval, but without making any health claims. Arkush noted that while asthma treatment is the main use for the product, it can be marketed to opera singers and others that want to exercise their lungs for nonmedical reasons.
Medical or nonmedical, the device is already making waves in the field, and what kind of kid wouldn’t have fun with a new iPad game with an innovative controller?