January 15, 2020

Developing an end-to-end system keeps Prevayl ahead of the competition

Q&A with Michael John Lynch, Prevayl’s Director of Electronics

Michael John Lynch, Director of Electronics at Prevayl®, is an electronic engineer who spent much of his early career at the forefront of plasma physics.

He has over 8 years’ experience in designing and manufacturing wearable technology for FTSE100 companies as well as numerous celebrities. Before joining the business he had two years leading research and development for Wearable Technologies Ltd. 

We sat down with him to discuss the latest innovations in hardware as well as to find out what sets Prevayl apart.

What do you predict will be the most influential hardware releases in the health sector in 2020?

While I don’t believe there will be a single stand out product from 2020, I feel that this year will finally be the year that patient-care and self-care will really come into their own.

Telehealth has been instrumental in redefining healthcare within a society that can struggle to find the time. Services such as video conferencing, remote patient monitoring and remote consultations have finally become streamlined thanks to the infrastructure being in place for these cost-effective methods to be adopted on mass.  

The concept of wellness is moving away from being a trend and becoming a basic approach to life.

It’s a common industry phrase that “hardware is hard”. Hardware-focused start-ups are still facing difficulties, with the likes of Peleton struggling after going public in 2019. Why is the landscape so difficult?

I often dispel that phrase as it’s frequently used in headlines to show the latest tech flop.

While there is some truth behind the myth, often there are number of reasons why start-ups developing hardware fail; from poor market position, to team alignment, hands-off manufacturing, and the dreaded ‘feature creep’.

Peleton is one of those great Kickstarter success stories, raising over 22% of its funding goal of $250,000; it should be noted that it required over a further $14 million of funding to bring the product to market.

Peleton is a fantastic idea that integrated a number of various technologies. Just as the video game console disrupted video arcades and the VHS disrupted the cinema, when it comes to the home, hardware-enabled convenience wins over centralised locations.

How does Prevayl achieve the right balance between hardware, electronics, garments and software?

Quite simply it’s the team. Having worked in many companies (big and small) the team at Prevayl are the most respectful and knowledgeable team I have worked with.

Everyone is a leader in their field but also understand that unity is vital to achieve what we have set out to deliver. The group here are well and truly fuelled by passion, and that translates into pride and ownership of their work.

Why is hands-on manufacturing so important when it comes to hardware and electronics development?

I have always been a supporter of hands-on manufacturing.

Developing an end-to-end system and designing our hardware in house keeps Prevayl ahead of the competition. We aren’t at the mercy of existing platforms and we aren’t limited by other manufacturers’ devices which are often built upon outdated legacy designs.

Our ‘Life cycle thinking’ not only helps us with our approach to sustainability at every stage of the product’s life. It also allows our engineers to think ahead and work seamlessly with our in-house patent team to protect ideas in a cost effective manner and to eliminate any impediment in innovation.

None of this would be possible without the ability to produce and iterate in-house.

According to global hardware accelerator, HAX, in their Hardware Trends for 2019, the last year was a record year for health-tech funding, why is this market growing so quickly?

Health and wellbeing technology are becoming more accessible, creating opportunities for non-health companies to disrupt existing models.

Convenience and affordability have always been desirable to consumers. The rise of automation, sensors and connectivity have enabled entirely new products and business models.

This has led to a shift in the market due to many traditional software-focused companies making bigger investments into hardware, as well as new entrants to the market scaling rapidly, and opening the door for new start-ups to emerge with compelling new hardware.

What role does regulation play in the development of hardware in the health-tech industry? For example, the 4th version of the Apple Watch included FDA-approved ECG monitoring.

Regulation is a vital when developing health tech. It acts as the barometer to ensure excellent quality control and follow a strict design process along with reputable and traceable manufacturing. Most importantly it plays an important part in the testing of equipment, ensuring a low failure of operation.

Regulation shouldn’t be the barrier to innovation. It can be quite a costly, however, with lengthy processes. Historically FDA-approved devices have only come from the bigger players, while often the priority for a health-tech start-up is speed to market.

These bigger companies are slow to innovate due to their size.

Recently there has been an increase in medical devices going through the FDA approvals process due to the availability of new technologies from faster, more agile start-up companies.

With data showing that FDA pathways tend to lead to more successful exits and higher deal values, being novel and complex is no longer a bad thing.

If you look at what has been driving the success of start-ups in the medical technology and medical device spaces, the core tenets are consumer access, cost, ease of use and improved outcomes.

At Prevayl, we are working hard to strike the balance between good regulation and great technology.

One of the trends from January’s CES 2020 was how emerging technologies are empowering precise, on-demand self-care solutions to provide actionable health insight. How is Prevayl making use of these technologies in product development?

CES has been very interesting to watch this year. We are seeing a number of technology companies showcasing how they are moving up the value chain. For example, some companies are moving from being a component manufacturer to a solutions provider.

While the focus recently has been around ‘Big Data’ or data processing, it is important not to forget about data collection and the quality of data. A software platform is only as good as the quality of data it receives.

It’s also worth noting that virtually all of the honourees within CES’ innovation awards in healthcare were hardware-based products. This is an honour that I was proud to receive as part of a team that earned this title in 2015 for another wearable product.

From a hardware perspective, at Prevayl we are utilising a number of innovative technologies in order to bring an invisible approach to functionality. For instance, we are designing Machine Learning processing capability into our electronics at a chip level allowing us to move some algorithms off the application processor, enabling consistent reduction of power consumption.

We’re seeing more and more health-tech hardware enter the market with specific core functions, such as blood pressure-sensing earbuds set to launch in 2020. How will the capabilities of Prevayl’s wearables differ from this and why is it so important to track multiple streams of biodata?

One of the core design principles at Prevayl has been invisibility. Any design decision or specification we write has to conform to that ethos.

We want the Prevayl meta-wearables to be unnoticeable to the wearer, even after extended periods of time, meaning we are designing to tight size and weight constraints in order to meet our goal.

Having the Prevayl wearable allows for us to collate data for longer periods in a more natural setting. The user is not having to interrupt their routine because an earbud has fallen out, nor do they have to remain still in order to record measurements.

While we aim to become experts in the insight we offer, we know that in order to provide the best actionable insights we need to be able to ingest data from multiple datasets in addition to our own high-quality data streams.

This is one of the many unique ways that Prevayl’s health-tech ecosystem differs from the rest. Our agile form allows us to quickly develop and integrate data from a variety of device vendors who are offering the latest technical advancements in their own areas.