Written by Andrew Seale

While toying around with conductive textiles, Dr. Olivia Lin had an interesting thought: what if hospital bedsheets could talk? What if they could tell doctors when a patient is on or off the bed, the position they’re in, how long they’ve been lying in one spot, and whether they’re breathing heavy or shallow?

The possibilities could be endless, especially when you bring artificial intelligence into the mix, says Edward Shim, who co-founded Studio 1 Labs with Lin to explore the concept of “intelligent bedsheets.”

“We wanted to make it as simple as possible,” says Shim. “One thing that never changes is that everybody sits on a bed sheet – why not make that functional and make that the monitor?”

Although they both consider themselves non-technical, Lin and Shim were able to tap into the innovation network, drawing support from the ecosystem between Toronto and Waterloo (the pair met at University of Waterloo) and funding from sources like the National Research Council, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Ontario Centres of Excellence and the Industrial Research Assistance Program.

They developed their first fabric sensor in 2015 and had a prototype in 2016. “We wanted to collaborate with a university to validate the sensors and also have the prototype validated in a healthcare setting,” says Shim. Through the LaunchYU accelerator program at York University, Studio 1 Lab received $8,000 in grants which allowed them to file their first patent. The Lassonde School of Engineering helped validate the sensors and the company has recently started clinical trials at York University’s School of Nursing. The bedsheets monitoring platform web app was developed with Niagara College.

Industry support has also helped elevate their intelligent bedsheets concept. Both SOSCIP (Southern Ontario Smart Computing Innovation Platform) and IBM in general have been instrumental when it comes to computational capacity.

“There’s a high cost involved especially if it's going to be clinical data so our information gets stored on IBM servers and they provide encryption under all their compliance measures,” explains Shim.

The startup recently received funding from the Canadian Digital Media Network (CDMN) to go to China and run a full-scale clinical trial in conjunction with the one they’re already running through York University.

“We need more participants to make the AI of our device way more accurate,” explains Shim. “We’re trying to build a global collaboration so there can be collaborative studies to make the device more accurate.”

But Toronto will continue to be home base for Studio 1 Labs.

“We were offered a lot of funding in the beginning… (but) it was either take your company somewhere else or give up the patent,” says Shim. “Olivia and I, we come from a background where we care more about people systems and making that sustainable.”

Through the Upside Foundation, a Canadian charity that lets early stage companies give back by donating equity to charities, Studio 1 Labs has committed to supporting Sick Kids. “If we have a successful exit or acquisition or something, then we would donate a portion to Sick Kids,” says Shim, adding that it’s yet another aspect of the ecosystem that keeps him here.

“People don't realize a lot of the new emerging technology in the world is coming from the Toronto and Ontario region,” he says. “This is technology that is shaping the future and it all starts here.”

Photos: Cameron Bartlett (www.snappedbycam.com)