11/06/2019 – Startup: equil — auf Deutsch lesen
Stiff neck? A problem of the past
The Ulm-based startup equil wants to take care of the widespread disease of shoulder and neck tension – with a smart textile T-shirt.
Eight or more hours in one place, draughts and monotonous movements at work often lead to poor posture and tension in the neck and shoulders. Stress, lack of movement and overuse of mobile phones are filling the diaries of physiotherapists, GPs and orthopaedic specialists. A smart-clothes product has now been invented to wage war against this international ailment. Equipped with a sensor function and a signal, the intelligent T-Shirt is worn as an invisible undergarment and is perfect for office workers and companies keen to improve the wellbeing of their staff.
The micro-fibre top takes sensor measurements in the neck area which could finally put a stop to the often irritating reminders of well-meaning colleagues to “sit up straight”! If, when working on a computer, the shoulders are pulled up around the ears for long periods, the muscles suffer from a lack of oxygen and nutrients. This muscular deficit leads to a painful stiffening of the shoulders, which is detected by flexible sensors worked into the seam of the T-Shirt. The sensors activate a signal to the wearer either through a vibration in the garment or through personal feedback on their mobile phone. This should prompt the wearer to adjust their posture.
equil’s founder Constantin Diesch (29) is a fully trained physiotherapist and a medical engineering graduate. Entering the world of smart textiles from a completely different field, he has come up with an idea that targets the therapy market and hundreds of thousands of patients – a number that looks set to rise.
The core team also includes Lukas Kühnbach, in charge of software development, and CFO Kevin Liebholz.
As a spin-off company, the five-strong start-up has received initial support from Ulm’s University of Applied Sciences which has allowed it to continue using its office space and to extend its collaboration with the biomechanics laboratory. An Exist grant from the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs has secured the team’s wages for the first year. This will allow the product and the business plan which would preferably include a rental model (five tops including software will cost EUR 299 plus a monthly fee of EUR 29.99) to be developed further. In addition, the venture needs to attract pilot customers comprising companies, doctors and physiotherapists, as well as investors.
Search for investors
“We need to find a new source of finance starting this autumn. To be able to operate on a market with such huge potential, we’re probably looking at around a million euros,” states CEO Constantin Diesch, when speaking about the company’s next step. This will be a critical phase in the development of this young enterprise which is well aware that time is money and money is time… The team only recently commissioned its first small production batch of 30 T-Shirts. The start-up hopes that the feedback from its test subjects will be helpful in providing comments and ideas that ultimately lead to an enhanced product that can be launched onto the market by the end of the year.
Wearables will be a major trend over the next ten years. equil hopes to make a firm contribution to the preventive healthcare industry with a rare product destined for mass production.