20 February 2024
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My name is Caroline Ruijg and I am commercial director at Touchwaves. With this spin-off from TNO, we develop intelligent textiles that communicate with the body via touch waves. My fellow co-founders Pauline van Dongen and Charlotte Kjellander imagined a future where clothing directly addresses and guides our bodies. Together, they investigated how to integrate technological applications into textiles while maintaining flexibility and washability. The project is an initiative of TNO Holst Centre, with employees from twenty-eight countries working together to solve global societal challenges.
All three of us experienced the power of breathing. How it can positively influence your life and but also hinder it. AND how a good breathing technique can relieve anxiety, pain or stress. It was therefore a logical step for us to investigate whether an application could be devised in which interactive textiles could provide support and guidance for breathing.
600,000,000 people worldwide suffer from anxiety disorders.
Local market research shows that 25% of those surveyed are hampered by anxiety to the extent that their daily functioning suffers, while 75% of them seek help.
In 68% of cases, help focuses on teaching the right breathing technique, while 63% of people also seek physical tools to manage anxiety. Scientific research shows that learning proper breathing technique reduces anxiety and stress symptoms and has a positive impact on our health and well-being. Treatments for anxiety disorders often include various breathing exercises, making it possible to improve the balance between body and mind.
Imagine how nice it would be if you could get support from an invisible breathing coach? That's exactly how the MYSA shirt works. It is a soft shirt with patented haptic technology that you wear under your clothes, directly against your body. Thanks to invisible tiny vibration motors with ultra-thin wash-out electronics in strategic places, it subtly supports your breathing. MYSA-shirt shows that clothing and healthcare technology go perfectly well together.
We are currently developing a new design that has a substantially higher "Technological Readiness Level" than our current prototype. In Q1 next year, we are going to produce a significant number of shirts so that we can test on a larger scale through pilot programs. We plan to establish several collaborations with, among others, youth care, rehabilitation and pain clinics as well as an institute in stutter therapy, integrating the breathing therapy they have developed themselves into one of our shirts, so that we can investigate whether users can better understand and apply the therapy this way.
Our goal is to gain deeper insight into the effect of MYSA on the person and how MYSA is used; especially after the treatment sessions.
Because the data from the shirt is available throughout the day, we can analyze in detail and accurately what is effective and what is not.
The Dutch Air Force has indicated its intention to conduct further testing. During our initial tests, F-35 pilots wore a prototype of our shirts during flight simulations. This yielded very interesting results, such as increased alertness during flight. We will now investigate this further and also whether our technology contributes to an accelerated recovery process.
Touchwaves is also part of imec's istart acceleration program, awarded as the best acceleration program in the world. Imec is a leading university microelectronics center from Belgium that operates as a joint venture with TNO at the HighTech Campus in the Holst Centre. With the istart program they guide promising startups, and we are proud to be the first TNO spin-off selected for this program. They guide us to mold our innovation into a strong business model. They also invested in our company and through their network, among others, we did a market survey that interviewed a thousand people aged 25 to 60. It showed that one-fourth of this group suffers from stress or anxiety to such an extent that it affects their daily lives. And that three-quarters of this group actively sought help for their symptoms, but often lack the tools to manage it properly. This insight is valuable to us, as it shows that there is a clear problem and that people want to be helped. Even with a support system.
In five years, we aim to bring about a substantial change in the daily lives of people suffering from anxiety disorders. Our ambition is to work closely with this target group to develop a highly effective product that seamlessly addresses their specific needs. Our goal is to build a community of ten thousand users with whom we have direct contact to evaluate how they experience our shirt and how we can improve our products. In addition, we aim to become a leading B2C brand in the tech market; something that is quite unusual.
I am committed to the mission and values that represent our brand. It is essential for us to offer significant value to our users while providing great customer support with a high service level. It is also important for us to work with optimized research and development so that we can further improve and scale our technology in a very cost-effective way.
With Touchwaves, we aim to innovate not only in the field of breathwork, but also to develop other applications and technologies for various audiences.
We see promising opportunities for this technology, especially in the medical sector. People's interest in paying for a pain-relieving application with haptic feedback confirms the potential of our plans. Our goal in five years is to have built a solid position in the market on these foundations, making a tangible impact on the daily functioning of people struggling with anxiety disorders and other related conditions that limit their lives.
What innovative strategies are crucial in scaling up from a startup to a scale-up? I am curious to hear about "lessons learned" and smart, innovative steps for a successful transition during this exciting phase.