In 2015, Carl and two other engineer friends, Tord Are Meisterplass and Nikolai Hiort, went on a downhill skiing trip. There was nothing particularly special about this trip, given that hiking, mountain climbing and skiing was their favorite activities. However, it turned out to be life changing for all of them in so many ways. In an unfortunate moment, Tord hit a tree and broke his neck. As a result, he was paralyzed from the chest down, and he also had some impaired function in his arms.
In rehab at Haukeland Sykehus in Bergen, Tord’s biggest challenge was needing help to go to the toilet. He was very uncomfortable needing help with such a task, and strongly felt the need to win back his independency in this area. Together the three friends came up with idea of Dignum, which would be the first product from Independence gear. It took seven months of trying and failing before they came up with a prototype that actually worked, and Tord could finally use the toilet without help.
With the prototype ready, Independence Gear was established in 2016. The broader idea was to develop solutions to make people independent in their daily life and enable them to live a life with dignity.
Soon after they got in touch with Sunnaas Rehabilitation Hospital, that is a part of the Nordic Proof Network of test facilities in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Together with Sunnaas, Independence Gear could further develop their product through testing and feedback from actual users.
–Establishing a partnership with Sunnaas, was vital for the company to go forward. The partnership with such a recognized organization opened doors. When a serious partner wanted to work with us, it brought a new feeling to the team. It was recognition of our work and the need for the product, says Sole Semb.
As a company they had to think broader, and not be too depended of Sunnaas. Through Nordic Proof there was a connection established with Vihtek Videncenter for Velfærdsteknologi, that represents all hospitals in the Cobenhagen region, and the Rehab Station connected to The Dandryds Hospital in Sweden. In both places, Dignum was being tested by different kinds of users.
– Connection to the hospital units that have access to real users makes progress much easier. It´s a big difference whether we say someone should use it, or if the hospital says so. Over a period of time we got valuable feedback from these new environments, both on product design and how it could be used, says Sole Semb.
What turned out to be Dignum’s next application and focus was skin inspection. People who sit and lie over extensive periods of time are in danger of getting pressure ulcers. This is very painful and it´s challenging to heal. Pressure ulcers may develop fast, so it´s important to spot them at early stages. Inspection of the skin should therefore be done daily. Yet, they often reside on the backside of the body, so the inspection of the skin is not easy.
In June 2019 Independence Gear launched Spectum as the company’s second product. Spectum allows the user to inspect certain areas of the body that are not visable due to their restricted field of vision. With Spectum, they use their mobile phone or PC screen and camera, which enables them to digitally observe skin developments over time. Then the user can take these images to health professionals if changes in the skin are detected.
–Thanks to Nordic Proof, Independence Gear got in contact with our hospital. It’s been a constructive collaboration, in large part thanks to a responsive company who has taken the feedback seriously. Several professionals at the hospital have seen the potential value and spent invaluable time and resources on the collaboration. This has also contributed to one product becoming two. We are very happy about the fact that many of our patients will now potentially become more independent and be less prone to complications, Lene Mosberg, Testbed Coordinator at Sunnaas Rehabilitation Hospital.
Because of the partnership with Sunnaas Rehabilitation Hospital, it did not take long before the Norwegian welfare administration, NAV, decided to purchase Spectum for the users. With the prevention of pressure ulcers it is likely to save a substantial amount of public resources.
–But, very important for us is to secure independent lives for the users. Over time the idea is to have several new applications that can contribute to this, says Sole Semb.
Working with Nordic Proof-partners in three countries has also provided important knowledge of how to sell the products in different markets. The Nordics countries are now a base for Independence Gear to take the step out into much larger markets such as Germany.
INDEPENDENCE GEAR AS
Company country: Norway
Contact name: Carl Christian Sole Semb
Contact phone: +47 97524353
Contact e-mail: [email protected]