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The Gerard & Anton Awards have been presented again! So it’s high time to take a closer look at the winners and what we can expect from these start-ups in the coming years. Today: Mentech Innovation.

Read all articles about the winners of the Gerard & Anton Awards here.

Mentech Innovation is developing HUME, a digital system that allows you to interpret emotions. HUME uses wearable sensors which measure physiological parameters such as heart rate, skin conductance (which is an indication of stress, such as sweat), temperature, and a person’s activity. In the future, the startup will also add audio and facial recognition.

Erwin Meinders explains: “For example, if you see a smiling face, you’ll recognize an expression of joy. You have learnt and have been trained how to interpret facial expressions. We use similar methods for recognizing emotions.” The first application is for the recognition of stress. “The measured physiological data is converted into a stress indicator using smart algorithms and artificial intelligence. With a web application, such as an app, you can view these stress indicators in real time. Then you get to see an ’emotion radar’, with ‘arcs of tensions’ that occur. We have also made a signalling system, a type of traffic light: green for when someone is calm, orange for when stress is building up, and red for when the person is under severe stress. In this way, the careworker can gain insight into a client’s stress build-up via a smartphone.”

The Mentech Innovation team is diverse and works closely with healthcare institutions. For example, some employees also work part-time as personal supervisors at a Severinus residential care group. “They are responsible for the data collection for our healthcare partners. We also work closely with GZ psychologists and orthopaedists on behalf of our healthcare partners when it comes to interpreting the data measured.” Besides the the healthcare aspect, there is also a strong engineering team. Meinders: “Our multidisciplinary team also has deep knowledge of cloud-based platforms, the core of HUME, and data science for developing these smart models.”

How did you come up with this idea?

“I worked for Philips for a long time, at the Natlab amongst other places, and later also for TNO. That’s my technical innovation background. I have also been a volunteer at Severinus for a long time. I came to the conclusion that people with severe mental disabilities often have difficulty expressing themselves. Every Tuesday I swim with a severely mentally challenged boy. He is unable to express or name pain. When he came home from a day out, it turned out that he had been agitated by a shoe that was apparently pinching him all day. Yet he was unable to say so himself. From that moment on, I started thinking about the use of sensor technology for the objective measurement of pain. That’s how it started four years ago.” Meinders did exploratory research at Severinus, founded Mentech Innovation in 2016, and together with Reon Smits, who joined the company as CTO in 2017, further developed the company.

What is your motivation?

“Our motivation is passion for people with complex care needs. We want to offer a solution that will contribute to the happiness and quality of life of these vulnerable people. A solution that helps reduce the cost of care and stress for the healthcare professional. Recognizing stress, emotions and pain in people with behaviour that is difficult to understand contributes to this. We believe, however, that this can only be achieved with a proposition that is both scalable and applicable in other markets.”

” You can help people with psychological or addiction problems by using stress and emotion recognition tools. You could support children with autism by providing insight into their processing of stimuli. By allowing the elderly to live at home longer. But we also see potential in non-healthcare markets, such as the use of stress recognition to prevent aggressive driving behaviour, for instance. Or through self-measurement during training by security services to help facilitate better performances, or for research into emotions in purchasing behaviour.”

What can we expect from Mentech Innovation in the coming year?

Next year, Mentech Innovation will have HUME approved by its healthcare partners, including Severinus, De Opbouw/Prinsenstichting/Zideris, ORO, SWZ. This is followed by implementation and further roll-out in long-term care for people with complex healthcare needs and home support. This will be followed up with pilot studies in new growth markets.”

Founder:  Erwin Meinders

Purpose:  Mentech Innovation provides people with dementia or severe mental disabilities with a voice using sensor technology and smart algorithms to indicate their tension, pain or other emotions.

Founded in 2016

Number of employees:  team is made up of about 20 employees (including a number of students).

Funding:  is provided by the Rabo bank, shareholders and a pilot study with care providers for the elderly, people with intellectual disabilities and young people (these include: Severinus, De Opbouw/Prinsenstichting/Zideris, ORO, SWZ).