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Enabling carers and nurses to retrieve the memories of people with dementia. That’s what the three HvA-engineering graduates from illi Engineering have achieved by developing their Magical Interactive Painting. Although not officially a medtech company, their product is of tremendous help to nurses and carers, and increases the quality of life for elderly people with alzheimers by bringing back cherished memories. This Ace Venture Lab Alumnus consists of founders Ruurd Bell, Mike Oudshoorn and Laurean Serné. Ruurd explains to us how they developed their invention.
Personal Interactive Wall
When explaining how they got the idea we obviously were waiting for a moving human interest-story about how one of the founders wanted to help his grandma regain her memories, but that’s not how illi started. During their studies Engineering, Design & Innovation at the HvA the three students did a minor in Care Technology. Their assignment during this minor was to improve the quality of life for elderly people with dementia, who are living in enclosed nursing homes. The three innovators developed a concept called the Personal Interactive Wall, the PIM. It categorises all kinds of content, ranging from videos to music or personal photos. Personal profiles can be set up for patients that use it, and as a result nurses and other staff members, as well as family members, can bring back old songs or photos that have personal meaning for the patients.
The PIM was such a success that Ruurd and Mike decided to develop it further with a whole team and get the required funding to do so. Once they did a temporary test with the final PIM in a nursing home, the manager wanted to keep it. That’s how illi Engineering started. While illi started manufacturing producing more PIMs they realized a smaller product would be less costly and easier to produce. That’s how they got the idea of the MIS, Magical Interactive Painting. The approach is similar but it has an even stronger focus on personal patient profiles. The concept took off, Ruurd explains: “At this point there are already 15 locations in the Benelux that use the MIS. We aim to expand this to at least 40 by the end of year. Eventually we should have an MIS in every psycho-geriatric ward in the country”.
In 2014 illi Engineering joined ACE Venture Lab. How did the HvA students end up at the UVA incubator? “While we were arranging our Proof of Concept funding to develop the PIM we got in touch with ACE”, Ruurd explains. Suddenly the tech students found themselves doing a crash course in starting your own business: “During our studies we mainly learned scientific knowledge, but with this one week bootcamp we found out the basics of entrepreneurship. This was very intense and insightful. We underestimated how much the progam is focused on starting a business, but we can recommend it to everyone for the many new contacts you make, and for finding a reliable coach that can continue to help you. We are still having bi-weekly meetings with our ACE-coach. In these sessions we can discuss everything that’s going on, and the outsider perspective is often very insightful and helpful”.
More than MedTech
While iLLi is making a name for itself in the field of Care Technology, the startup does more than that. Ruurd describes illi Engineering as “a startup specialized in sensor and fabricating techniques and solutions”. Right now illi is now working on a smaller version of the MIS that can connect to a TV. Besides the MIS illi also produces the Toonpaal which is an interactive information booth. The pole may look familiar to HvA students as the Wibauthuis faculty already has a few. The HvA grads have more connections with their former school, as besides the help from ACE, illi also received help from the HvA’s own Start-up your Business in Technology incubator: “They helped us graduate within our own company and they set us up with office space”, Ruurd tells us from their office in Amstelveen.
Recognition Module requires funding
Illi is about to take the concept of their MIS one step further by adding a recognition module: “ This way the MIS can recognize patients walking past and bring up their favourite music or photos straight away”, Ruurd reveals. In order to fully develop it, illi Engineering will require more funding: “With our POC financing in 2014 we validated our idea, but we are currently looking for an investor. We proved the strength of our product and now we can make it scalable. Care homes and nursing homes really need a product like the MIS, especially once we manage to implement the recognition module. With an investment we can really make this recognition module work”.