Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a heart condition that is the leading cause of sudden death among high performing athletes today. Many individuals with HCM have to put an end to high levels of physical activity because when their heart rate gets too high, the risk of heart failure increases, and they have no easy way of knowing when their heart rate gets too high.
P R O B L E M
Pulse Wearables provides peace of mind and higher quality of life to people suffering from heart conditions that are characterized by dangerously irregular heart rhythms. We offer a wearable patch with a preventative alert that helps users continue being physically active while maintaining safety.
Our product is a non-invasive, inconspicuous wearable patch worn on the user’s chest. The user first inputs the safe maximum heart rate that they can exercise at—given to them by their cardiologist—into the mobile app. The app then sends that information to the patch, which stores it so that the phone does not need to be present during physical activity. The patch alerts the user through a gentle vibration when their current heart rate reaches their safe maximum heart rate, giving them the control to slow down and prevent their heart rate from getting too high.
S O L U T I O N
I experienced this problem first-hand when my 12 year pre-professional ballet training came to an abrupt end when I was diagnosed with HCM. Suddenly, the one thing I loved to do more than anything else was taken away from me because I could not tell when my heart rate got to a level that was no longer safe. There were no products on the market that would give me the control to continue being active at a safe level, that would give my loved ones the peace of mind that I would be okay if I continued to dance at a recreational level.
W H Y ?
summer 2017 - present
founder | project & design lead
incubated at MIT Launch Entrepreneurship program
P R O C E S S
I first came up with the idea for this product when I was in the car coming back from ballet class in my sophomore year of high school. I was frustrated with two conflicting needs: my mom was telling me to keep my heart rate below 140 beats/minute because that's what my cardiologist advised, but I had no way of keeping track and I did not want to wear a bulky heart rate monitoring watch to ballet. I began thinking about the product that I did need.
In preparation for the MIT Launch Entrepreneurship Program the following summer (2017), I created the mindmap to the left, demonstrating the problem spaces that I am interested in. Pulse Wearables stemmed from the bottom left corner and fused into the top left area.
After identifying the problem, we reached out to and interviewed around 30 people with heart conditions to learn about the need beyond my own personal experiences.
This led to defining our initial target market as the 500,000 people in the US with HCM in the 15-50 age group, with plans to expand to the 16 million people in the US who experience irregular heart rhythms.
I later learned that we should have been more clear as a team during this stage – when defining our problem and target market -- as miscommunication and disagreement on our core problem led to team struggles later on.
IDEATION (product design)
Following user research and defining of the problem, I began visualizing ideas of what our product could look like. I started with a sleek bracelet and ring -- going for a traditional wearable that is less bulky and unobtrusive. However, to achieve the inconspicuousness, I began thinking about patches that could be worn on the user's chest, out of sight. The key components I kept in mind were bulk, where the sensors would me, size, what parts would be reusable/disposable, and if it would be comfortable.
To convey the form of the product that we were initially settling on, I created a non-functional prototype.
Our first functional MVP was built with an Arduino connected to a computer, a 12-lead ECG, and a piezo buzzer connected to a breadboard. This prototype performed the function of our product in its most basic form: the user inputs their safe threshold heart rates into the computer, loads that information into the Arduino, and then the piezo buzzer sounds when the user's heart rate exceeds those thresholds, roughly in real-time.
We then tested this with a PPG heart rate sensor rather than an ECG, as it only requires one lead but is less accurate.
As our original team members went home after the MIT Launch Summer Program, we back a global team, and it seemed like just meeting every week virtually was an accomplishment.
We struggled with:
- making progress on our hardware product when we weren't physically together.
- ensuring that we were all on the same page in terms of the problem we were solving and how exactly we were solving it. as the design lead who was also trying to lead the whole project, the fact that I didn't have a deep enough understanding of the technology that went into developing this product came in the way of me being able to communicate with the tech lead.
- maintaining team commitment and enthusiasm as we got busy with school and didn't see progress being made on the product development.
All of this struggle was a learning experience, and I learned to let go of our tech lead due to lack of commitment and willingness to communicate, which are important values to me for a team member.
I then tried to use this gap of technical knowledge on our team as an opportunity to learn and do the tech myself, so that I would have full control over the tech this time. I learned a lot about what goes into the software of this product which was and will be very beneficial, but I also realized that I cannot be the expert in every field, trying to do an exceptional job of the design, the tech, and the business.
FRESH START &
WHERE WE ARE NOW!
As I entered college at USC as a freshman, I decided that I wanted to start fresh. I wanted to take a few steps back: create a new team, perform updated market research, rethink how we are addressing the problem (even if it meant pivoting or completely changing our product), and re-branding.
And that's what I did.
I started a new team at USC, found new mentors, did updated and more mature market research, and we are currently in the process of rethinking our product and pursuing product development.
We're excited to continue working on this project and will keep you updated as we move forward!