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KitMe: sounds on your wrist

Imagine a world without sounds.

by Alessandra Farris from IntendiMe

Imagine how your lifestyle would change. Your established habits, the ways you live your everyday life — if you were no longer able to hear the sounds around you.

Imagine you are sleeping in your bed at night. Suddenly in the kitchen, a short circuit burns an electric wire. There is smoke, but it is so light that the smell does not reach you. Electricity is out, and the fire alarm also starts while the smoke leads to flames. You are still in the room. You don’t notice anything; you keep sleeping.

Imagine you are at your computer, in the kitchen, while someone breaks into your house. The burglar alarm goes off, but you are focused on the monitor and do not see the light behind you. You don’t hear the window forced; you don’t hear footsteps approaching in the corridor. You are totally at the mercy of another person.

People who live with mild to severe-profound deafness have difficulty or are entirely unable to hear the surrounding environment’s daily sounds. Right from the simple sound of an intercom, knock on the door, or a child’s cry, to danger signals of burglary or fire alarms.

Whether they live alone or together with other deaf people, whether they share a home with the hearing impaired who can partially compensate with their own help, this condition of severe discomfort and exposure to risk makes deaf people less self-confident and more dependent on others. It can cause them an everlasting state of anxiety and agitation, with progressive loss of self-esteem and independence. Communication processes become very hard for them. It affects interpersonal relationships, pushing them to associate with more people in similar conditions, finally contributing to their progressive isolation.

Deaf people in the world

Globally, people who fall into the category of “disabled” due to profound hearing loss are 466 million[1] (more than 5% of the world population). A third is represented by the elderly over 65, while the remainder consists of young people or middle-aged people amid their life and work. And 34 million are children.

Hearing loss can result from genetic causes, birth complications, some infectious diseases, chronic ear infections, use of particular medications, and aging. But also exposure to excessive noise: it is estimated that in 2050 over 900 million people will have a disabling hearing loss.

People with mild to severe-profound hearing impairment can benefit from hearing aids, cochlear implants, or other assistance systems. Even if few and not fully satisfactory: they range from light alarms to apps for mobile devices, to the “hearing dogs” or the watches/alarm clocks with pad-vibrators. The former are static systems, installed near the sound sources or integrated into the home’s electrical system, connected to table or portable receivers. Hardly visible during the day, they require interventions to the plants and are quite expensive. On the other hand, the Apps can notify the user’s mobile device about previously recorded sounds through the same mobile device. They require internet connection, experience interference, and require a high battery level consumption. Trained dogs recognize sounds and warn their owners. Still, it means all the complications related to keeping a pet (time, effort, costs, space) and are not always reliable. The watches and alarm clocks come with intense vibration, an amplified ringer volume, and powerful light signals that only help the person wake up.

KitMe, the solution developed by intendiMe, fits into this scenario to effectively support deaf people in everyday life. Under subscription, the service allows you to detect sounds in real-time through sensors and receive the notification directly on your wrist via a dedicated smartwatch.

How does it work? As soon as the sensor detects the sound or vibration, it sends a signal to the smartwatch that lights up, vibrates, and displays a customizable text message with the sound/vibration source. Additionally, KitMe comes as a vibrating alarm clock, allows calls and notifications between smartwatches within the same environment, sends distress calls via recorded vocal/textual messages to three emergency numbers.

Unlike other systems, KitMe does not require electricity: once charged through the dedicated charger, the smartwatch can work for a whole day while the sensors can last up to 4–6 months. Likewise, it requires no Internet connection except for the first setup, because it’s based on a proprietary radio transmission system. This is why it has a wide signal coverage and it doesn’t experience interference.

You can apply the sensors to any sound or vibration source such as alarms, baby monitors, appliance timers, or doors and windows. They are removable: you can detach and reattach them anywhere, so that you can move the entire system wherever you like, from home to office to the boat, hotel, or mountain hut.

They have a range from 50 to 100 meters as the crow flies, depending on the structure of the building (reinforced concrete, wood, steel, bricks) and can also act as a beeper, i.e. they allow, if pressed, to contact the smartwatch of a person who is in another room in case of emergency or need.

The accessible and inclusive “Customer Happiness Center” customer service is finally available to cover every communication need, including video chat in sign language. The customer center’s operators are in fact both deaf and hearing people.

A portable and flexible system; therefore, it can be customized according to anybody’s needs. A tool that can help restore the safety and autonomy of deaf people in our current times where, unfortunately, opportunities for interaction and seeking help have drastically reduced.

[1] WHO https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/deafness-and-hearing-loss

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VV3TT is the first venture capital fund in Italy entirely dedicated to tech transfer from Universities and Public Research bodies. The early-stage fund is powered by VERTIS SGR and Venture Factory srl

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