According to cofounder Dr. Yechiel Engelhard, there hasn’t been much innovation in inhalers in the last decade or so. Some inhalers and research prototypes have a simple counter for the number of uses, and another device tried GPS to collect public data about the most asthma-unfriendly locations. Stepping into this space, Engelhard and a team at the MIT Media Lab built the Chameleon, a “spacer” that connects to the inhaler to make it more effective for kids.
That product was abandoned for a number of reasons, one of which was regulation. Because it affects how you take a medicine, it would have required substantial FDA regulation. And if a device isn’t deemed “easy to use,” it also needs a prescription.
The new model featured on Indiegogo is called the GeckoCap, which sits on the top part of the inhaler. A parent can set the device to glow when a dose is due. Parents can also monitor when it gets used and when it’s running low (each canister has a set number of uses). On top of that, parents can record triggers of asthma attacks and set goals for their kids to achieve – like an ice cream for two weeks of no missed doses.
In the end, the goal is what physicians call “compliance”: getting kids to take their maintenance doses on time and prevent asthma attacks. Besides being quite scary, asthma attacks require the use of a rescue inhaler with stronger side effects.
A graduate of the Healthbox accelerator, GeckoCap has been tested at the Boston Medical Center and the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Engelhard and cofounders Mark Maalouf and Michael Chiu have worked with child psychologists to figure out an app design that entertains kids, rather than boring them.
GeckoCap showcased at CES in 2013 and plans to ship near the end of the year.