Many companies have been born in the heart of McGill University thanks to philanthropy. Portrait of three of them.

PhysioBiometrics: a sensor to support the mobility of seniors

The company has developed a device that helps older people continue exercising without the need for assistance.

Many seniors don’t walk well enough to experience the health benefits of this activity, says PhysioBiometrics president and co-founder Nancy Mayo. She adds that not walking enough increases the risk of falling.

Photo: Photo provided by PhysioBiometricsThe Heel2Toe sensor attaches to the patient’s shoe.

The one who worked for a long time as a clinical physiotherapist remembers her years of practice, during which she supported the elderly in rehabilitation. “We give a lot of verbal instructions to people on how to walk well. But once the healthcare professional stops providing this feedback, the patient can no longer continue the activity and they return to their usual pace. It can be dangerous, tiring, and usually not very pleasant,” says Ms.  Mayo.

About ten years ago, she therefore looked for a way to be able to continue to help the elderly with their mobility even in her absence. This is how the Heel2Toe sensor was born, which attaches to the patient’s shoe and emits an audible signal each time a step is correctly executed.

A viable business

The researcher and professor at the School of Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy at McGill University had no experience in entrepreneurship. “At university, all the work we do doesn’t really reach the general public. We write scientific articles, but it does not benefit anyone if I write a paper on a subject. It [the work performed] must exist as a product, a product that is made and made available to people,” emphasizes the researcher-entrepreneur.

It was then that she became aware of several initiatives aimed at supporting start-ups. Since then, thanks to its sensor, PhysioBiometrics has racked up accolades, winning the Dobson Cup for Medical Sciences in 2020 and a $100,000 scholarship from the McGill Innovation Fund two years later.

Today, PhysioBiometrics is a viable business with several clients, including Parkinson Québec. “He hired us to supply 100 sensors,” says Nancy Mayo.

The company also wants to implement a mobility project in residences for the elderly. In addition to the sensor, PhysioBiometrics’ WalkBest program includes a series of workshops to support seniors in their walking activities. “There is a work guide, an application that is in development. We have exercise platforms, a training circuit”, lists the researcher.

The device also helps other scientists in their collection of gait data from people with health conditions.

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