Wearable Tech and 3D Printing Used to Hack Health in Toronto This Weekend

Over the weekend Hacking Health wrapped up its second Toronto-based Hackathon, bringing together developers, designers and healthcare professionals to improve healthcare through technology.

42 teams spent 48 hours hacking on health related projects aimed at solving a wide range of problems from streamlining clinic workflows to virtually connecting cancer patients to provide support.

The two-day hack culminated in two-minute presentations from 25 groups on Sunday. Teams were asked to state their problem, present their solution, and field questions from the judging panel. Many of the teams had working prototypes to demo during their time on stage which was a pretty amazing considering the time constraints.

Taking home the Hacking Health Choice award this year was Glia, a web solution which matches people with the right psychotherapist. Best Consumer solution went to My Baby and Me Infant Passport, a mobile app developed by St. Michael’s Hospital for underprivileged expecting mothers. Best Healthcare and Administration award went to PatientFlow, an automated patient assignment and ticketing system, and Best Clinical Application award was given to SOS, an app to help caregivers emergency states of clients of long-term care.

Standing out amongst a sea of web solutions and mobile apps at this year’s hackathon for the very first time were three hardware projects which used 3D printing and wearable technology to tackle healthcare related issues.

Ginger Coons, a PhD student at University of Toronto’s Critical Making Lab, led a team to create Project Porphyry. Porphyry uses 3D printing and 3D scanning to make prosthetics more accessible and affordable in developing countries. The team created a platform which would use a light-sensor wand to scan the leg of patients in order to create a 3D scan. The scan in turn could be used to 3D print a prosthetic.     

Inventor Martin Labrecque took the stage with an exo-glove, the Glove Sensor. A wearable sensor device for the hands, the Glove Sensor would be used as an alternative of the traditional mouse and keyboard for individuals with accessibility needs or mobility concerns such as arthritis. Labrecque demonstrated a working prototype on Sunday which showcased the gloves precise responsiveness and its ability to work without a camera.

Also using wearable technology were winners of the People’s Choice award Breathe.io. Led by team members behind Kiwi Wearables, Breathe.io is wearable technology’s answer to helping smokers kick their habit. The solution uses a wearable sensor to recognize and classify when you are smoking. The companion app allows users to visualize this data along with gamify their attempt to quit by comparing them to others who are trying to butt out at the same time. The app also provides users with challenges to complete in between puffs to help reduce the level of nicotine they enter in to their system.

“We all know people who smoke and have difficulty quitting so the app’s value proposition was likely to resonate with a very wide audience,” explained Breathe.io team lead Ashley Beattie. “It also shows that the health community can readily see the value in leveraging wearable technology for behaviour change; in this case: helping someone quit smoking.”

In speaking with Beattie, the team has already spoken about continuing the development of the application and are all interested in seeing where it goes. This seemed to be a common goal for many of the projects who presented at the Toronto event this year.
Hacking Health is headed to Edmonton next with an event schedule for November 22.