Emego – a switch to bring greater independence to people with profound disability caused by significantly reduced muscle control

People with very limited movement need improved communication and control of their environment.  Emego senses small electrical signals from muscles over which the patients still have control, and use these to control communications and environmental control systems.

Project Lead and Organisation

Paul Marsh, Managing Director, GSPK Design Ltd

When did project start?

2015

Clinical Requirement

People with very limited movement need better methods to control of their environment and to communicate. One way to address this is to sense the small electrical signals from muscles (EMG) over which the patients still have control and use these signals in combination with assistive technologies. There are around 1,200 people with the most severe control limitations in the UK, and an estimated 12,000 further people who are able to use existing control methods but for whom an alternative may offer significant improvements to their quality of life.

The Solution

Our network became aware of a new kind of EMG sensor that would eliminate the main limitations of traditional EMG sensing, making the switch work more reliably.

D4D worked closely to support GSPK Design in making a successful proposal for development funding to a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) scheme. While GSPK Design had all the necessary electronic, software and other technical design capabilities, D4D was able to bring the expertise necessary to work with patients to define the main needs and performance specification for the product; to rigorously test the initial prototypes with users and to quantify the size of the markets, the competition and come up with a robust exploitation plan.  Armed with these robust outputs of the Phase 1 of the SBRI, GSPK Design was successful in getting significant additional funding for Phase 2 of the project which has allowed a full production design to be completed and further tested with users.

The project team is confident that the Emego product will be available to launch during the first half of 2017.  The exploitation plan was developed based on D4D’s existing experience.  GSPK have successfully implemented a ISO 13485 compliant Quality Management System, and the Emego product will meet all the necessary EU regulations to allow it to be marketed as soon as the development programme is complete.

Impact

Initial market feedback for the Emego switch has been extremely positive, both in its primary role (supporting people with severe disabilities), as well as for its use to help people with less severe impairments who are using eye gaze technology for communication and control purposes.

It is anticipated that initially, purchases of Emego will be used primarily for environmental control and communication; however, once Emego is established in this application, GSPK Design will work with D4D and its expert rehabilitation network to identify additional uses to which Emego may be put: these could cover a range of applications such as mobility control, patient controlled analgesia and support for rehabilitation exercising therapies.

Partners

  • GSPK Design Ltd
  • Devices for Dignity HTC at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • University of Sheffield (ScHARR; CATCH)
  • Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Investment   

This project has received support from the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI).