When Manhattan startup AdhereTech needed outside expertise to take production of its wireless “smart pill bottle” to the next level, it turned to the engineers at Hauppauge product design firm Intelligent Product Solutions.
The bottle, now in production, works by using built-in sensors to determine when and how regularly it is used and sends that information to a remote server through cellular networks. It then compares the bottle’s usage rate to what the patient should be doing. If a user misses a dose, the bottle issues a reminder with flashing lights, sounds, or an automated text or phone call.
“The whole idea is that this product can leverage that analyzed data to improve the lives of users,” said AdhereTech co-founder and chief executive Josh Stein, who started the company while in business school. “It automatically compares what they are doing to what they should be doing.”
Founded in 2011, AdhereTech officials wanted to create a product for health care providers and pharmaceutical companies that could help them keep track of patients’ adherence to medication regimens, a growing concern in the health care sector.
Non-adherence is responsible for an estimated 30 percent to 50 percent of treatment failures, an annual death toll of about 125,000 patients, and carries a direct economic cost estimated at $100 billion to $289 billion annually, according to a 2013 Centers for Disease Control report.
To date, AdhereTech has secured $2.5 million in investment capital, and has already sold a limited number of “Generation 2” bottles to a handful of hospitals and pharma companies, including Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
Despite early successes with its “Generation 1” prototype — the smart bottles have increased medication adherence by 20 percent, according to the company — the startup needed to retool its product to scale operations.
“We needed to build something that could be manufactured on a mass scale,” Stein said. After looking at “every product design shop under the sun,” the startup found Intelligent Product Solutions.
Started in 2008 by Mitch Maiman and Paul Severino, two veteran engineers from Symbol Technologies, IPS has worked on designing a host of new products for clients including Zebra Technologies and PepsiCo.
“You have to really design a product so it’s suitable for high-volume manufacturing processes,” said Maiman, whose team began working with AdhereTech more than a year ago. Though the startup’s first model worked, its early design made it impractical for mass production on automated manufacturing equipment, a common problem with new products.
“You can’t scale that because you can’t get 50,000 engineers to sit there and put together individual boards for you, and even if you could, you couldn’t afford to,” Maiman said.
In addition to increasing the life of the bottle’s battery from 45 days to six months and making the product more bottlelike, IPS had to ensure the product met FCC and cellular carrier regulations. The biggest challenge though, Maiman said, was fitting “very complicated, dense electronics into a very, very small footprint.”
AdhereTech plans to manufacture 10,000 of its patented smart bottles this year, and credits much of the company’s progress to the work of Maiman’s team.
“It was the biggest decision we ever made and honestly our best,” Stein said.
How the ‘smart’ pill bottle works
- Sensors determine when and how regularly the bottle is used.
- That information is sent to a remote server through cellular networks.
- The bottle’s usage rate is compared to what the patient should be doing.
- If a user misses a dose, the bottle issues a reminder with flashing lights, sounds, or an automated text or phone call.