Connect’inh was designed and developed by Kappa Santé, a French company specializing in digital solutions for epidemiology and pharmacoepidemiology, that is, the study of patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease in defined populations. By making public health a priority, Kappa Santé designs new tools to assist researchers in conducting wide-scale studies to identify risk factors, drug effects, and preventative healthcare measures.
The prototype itself was 3D printed by Aptatio, a design and engineering studio specializing in 3D printing smart and connected digital devices. It consists of a 3D printed shell with a soft interior that can fit around prescribed aerosol asthma inhalers. Aptatio used a multimaterial Projet 3D printer capable of printing both rigid and flexible materials to achieve this functional design.
Thanks to integrated GPS, a small memory card and Bluetooth connectivity, each time the patient releases the inhaler’s medication, specific data is automatically collected and stored, such as geolocation, date, and time. This data can then be processed and read through an accompanying smartphone app. If the user’s smartphone happens to be out of reach, the data remains safely stored until the connection is re-established.
Kappa Santé’s goal of tracking where and when asthmatics use their inhalers is to help both doctors and the asthma community better understand the disease. By cross-referencing Connect’inh geolocation data with open data resources, such as AirParif, an air quality-monitoring network, and RSNA, which tracks allergen and pollen alerts, researchers can study the correlations between asthma triggers, patients, and attacks. Eventually, they could even compare the effects of these triggers on asthmatics of different age groups, at different times of the year, or establish patterns between severe and mild asthma attacks.
At the same time, Connect’inh could be a powerful tool for asthmatics in their day-to-day lives. Online mapping not only shows the user specific areas where they have used their inhaler in the past, but also where all other Connect’inh users have recently used theirs. This creates a community aspect whereby asthmatics can help each other out (the data remains anonymous, however, for patient confidentiality).
If a particular park, for example, shows extremely high activity, asthmatics who know they are prone to allergen triggers could decide ahead of time to avoid it. Patients can also easily download their inhaler history as a PDF file and send it directly to their doctors.
Connect’inh, the first connected inhaler for asthmatics, represents a new era of smart medical devices that not only treat existing diseases, but can actually be used to change our understanding of them, discover new treatment options, or shape public policy in favor of preventative healthcare. According to Martial Medjber, co-founder and industrial design manager at Aptatio, 3D printing is a key tool in creating connected devices, as it allows the flexibility to rapidly prototype new designs while directly integrating functional materials and electronic components.
Kappa Santé presented their 3D printed prototype, which received funding from the région Île-de-France, at Paris’ Futur-en-Seine digital design festival last summer. The innovative medtech company is currently working with commercial partners to further develop the prototype and hopes to bring a finished product to market by next year.