Beyond tech: Brazilian innovations in the health field to keep an eye on

Beyond tech: Brazilian innovations in the health field to keep an eye on

These are different times. Never before have we been so oriented to the health field as we are now due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And whenever the entire world concentrates on a single subject, technology inevitably follows this, bringing innovations. This is what is happening with the health tech industry: institutions and companies dedicate themselves to bringing to light inventions that may help not only with COVID-19 but also with other health aspects. And it is with this in mind that Canaltech brings some of them which have potential.

Low-cost respirators

Mechanical respirators have been one of the main allies of health professionals in treating severe COVID-19 cases. However, the equipment in question may have a high cost, which impairs the effectiveness in the access by all patients who need it.

Straight from PUCPR

Robson Muniz, a student in the Civil Engineering program of the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Paraná (PUCPR), developed a device the cost of which is well below that verified in the market and which may be fundamental in caring for individuals infected with the disease.

The device is constituted of a manual resuscitation bag, and national components of easy access were aggregated to the project so the device may be replicated at scale. The average production cost is around R$ 2.5 thousand, while mechanical ventilators acquired by the Ministry of Health in April 2020 cost merely US$ 13 thousand each (i.e., about R$ 69.6 thousand in the current exchange rate).

Low-cost respirator (Image: Release/PUCPR)

“An electric window motor triggered by an Arduino development board, which already has incorporated hardware, was used. The mechanical part was designed to allow the machine to be robust but light. In brief, the device presses the Ambu bag, and the machine’s user can program the number of times per minute the bag will be pressed, as well as the air volume that will be applied to the patient”, the researcher accounts.

Basically, the emergency respirator should be used during the pandemic and collected at the end of this period, and the programming can be done in less than one minute. The project is in the clinical study protocol obtainment phase, a process directed toward evaluating a new treatment. Once the device is validated, the objective, the student says, is to distribute the respirator to hospitals and health centers in the area of Curitiba, Brazil. However, since it is a piece of equipment of simple manufacturing and assembly, he comments that the project could be reproduced at a national level so as to reach the most people possible.

Another from Paraná, of the IFPR

A pulmonary ventilator prototype elaborated at the Federal Institute of Paraná (IFPR) is also in an advanced design phase. The model has the support of fintech Zetra, who, in partnership with the IFPR, intends to boost the production of the device, which will be used by public and private hospitals for treating patients with severe COVID-19 conditions.

Idealized by professor Carlos Eduardo Araújo, PhD in electronics by the IFPR, in partnership with Rogério Gomes, a mechanics professor at the IFPR, the pulmonary ventilator is one of the pieces of equipment with the lowest availability during this crisis. The project was one of the three winners of the “Code Life Ventilator Challenge”, a challenge with 2,639 participants representing 94 countries.

“In general, this prototype was conceived from modern engineering techniques and sophisticated mechanical and electronic components. More specifically, this simple and efficient design works with an electromagnetic flow valve to measure and control the airflow to the patient. Besides, the device integrates a graphical display, allowing users to verify all the parameters controlled and measured by the device on the analysis screen”, states Rogério Gomes, one of the persons responsible for the initiative.

According to the team involved, the technology was tested and evaluated by a Canadian medical committee that highlighted the equipment’s quality and precision.  From the moment that the management of Zetra took note of the project, it endeavored to contribute with a fast solution for the difficulties found in the acquisition of these devices around the world.

Low-cost ventilator of the IFPR in partnership with Zetra (Photo: Release/IFPR).

Robot for hospital service

In Curitiba, Brazil, startup Human Robotics, accelerated by Hotmilk – Innovation Ecosystem of the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Paraná (PUCPR) -, created physical robots of in-person service and interaction to apply artificial intelligence in the improvement of hospital services. It was a three-month acceleration, and, currently, its office is installed within the Technopark of the PUCPR.

The Human Robotics robots are capable of interacting in Portuguese, detecting people, and moving autonomously. In the background, there is a software platform that allows configuring what the robot will say, ask, and show simply. “For having head movements, expressions, and speaking Portuguese, our robot brings a humanized self-service experience far superior to a static totem”, explains Olivier Smadja, founder of the startup.

At the Cajuru University Hospital (HUC), the robot will act as a means for family members to talk with the patients, something made impossible by the quarantine. The measure is important to establish the emotional bond of ICU patients with their family members. “In the ICU, the patient has no access to the Internet or mobile phone, and, with social isolation, all visits are suspended. We seek to offer a meaningful experience for the patients, and the robot humanizes the hospital process, merging care with the Marista values, always looking at the human being”, explains the director-general of the HUC, Juliano Gasparetto.

In this same footprint, Pixeon launched a new version of its Artificial Intelligence platform developed to provide efficient and humanized care to patients. Deployed in an integrated and native way to the various company solutions, Pixeon Lumia automatizes and renders intelligent the points in which the patient contacts health institutions.

(Image: Release/Pixeon)

Hence, in practice, someone who seeks a clinic to perform an examination, for example, will be able to have contact with the artificial intelligence upon making the appointment, may be received by a robot upon arriving at the clinic to do the examination, and, after, receive the results via WhatsApp, sent by Lumia itself.

The company will launch the commercialization of the offer to the market at the beginning of September in the SaaS (software as a service) model. With the launch of Pixeon Lumia, the company now also offers, as part of its artificial intelligence solution for Health, a line of robots that may be used both for receiving patients and for supporting medical care in hospitals. Among the resources, Lumia incorporated into robots may support and take on processes such as televisit, teleconsultation, teletriage, bedside assistance, among other possibilities of monitoring and support to medical and nursing professionals.

Pixeon even donated 5 telepresence robots to the Clinics Hospital of São Paulo. Pixeon will initially offer its robots in two models: a totally autonomous one, which is a humanoid robot capable of facially recognizing people, connecting to their charts, recognizing which physician is attending, and making connections for teleconsultation and telemedicine, and the other named telepresence, used more for implementations and use in simpler processes, focused on distance service with voice and video interactivity.

Thermal Camera

(Imagem: Divulgação/Um Telecom)

Digital solution company Um Telecom launched an Intelligent Video Cloud that has a Body Temperature Measurement (BTM) resource. In practice, it can measure the body temperature of 5 thousand people in 30 minutes, while an infrared forehead thermometer takes around 4 hours and 20 minutes to measure the same number of people.

The Intelligent Video Cloud can check temperatures, make facial recognitions, define the gender and age range of the people filmed, detect maskless faces in an environment, verify the volume of people and agglomerations, check the temperature of animals, and store such data on the cloud in realtime. The idea of the invention is to serve banks, airports, parking lots, universities, factories, stadiums and events, hospitals, corporate buildings, shopping malls, supermarkets, and retail.

Software and tracking

IdeiaGov, an Innovation Hub that brings market and society solutions to challenges from the Government of the State of São Paulo, announced at the beginning of August those selected from the public notices “Accessible and replicable diagnostic tests for COVID-19” and “Technological Offers for combating COVID-19”. For the second notice, two companies were chosen: Mindify, a company specialized in artificial intelligence, and NeuralMed, an artificial intelligence startup for health that already develops Artificial Intelligence tools for two years.


Excerpt of the article published in Canaltech on September 15th, 2020.

Check the full article here.


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