Phil is a 1st year Computer Science student at King’s College, London, where, he says, “the tech vibe is just insane”. Whilst eating pizza with a mathematician friend at the College last Monday, Phil spoke to a colleague who had a friend with epilepsy; the colleague told him that there was little or no technology available to help people suffering with the disease, and that got Phil thinking.
He had already designed a gaming program that was capable of detecting movements such as shaking, and he began to wonder if it could be adapted into an early warning system that could be used to alert an epilepsy sufferer’s emergency contacts if they began to suffer a seizure.
After discussing the theory in detail with several friends and colleagues, and deciding that his reasoning was sound, Phil decided not to waste any more time, and dragged his mathematician friend along to our Co-Founder Speed Dating event.
“I wanted to gauge people’s reaction”, he explains, “would people think I was crazy, or would I get a positive response?” The response, as it turned out, was overwhelmingly positive, the idea generating a buzz that “helped us take the whole project more seriously straightaway”.
Buoyed by the reception, Phil began to realise he really could be onto something, and so he reached out to some more University friends; 3 second year students he knew with amazing developer skills, and one masters student, who would be the technical lead. Together they decided to enter the Tech Crunch Disrupt Hackathon, a gruelling challenge where teams are given just 20 hours to develop their idea from the conception stage right through to producing a fully operational app.
Appilepsy uses an intelligent algorithm to analyse accelerometer data in real time to detect if someone is experiencing a convulsive epileptic seizure. If a seizure is detected, the app will run a countdown for a predetermined period of time in which the alarm can be deactivated in case of a false positive. If not deactivated, the app takes action by sending a text and a computer generated voice message to a pre-arranged list of emergency contacts, using Nexmo API. The texts contain a link to a responsive web app that is able to pinpoint the sufferer’s location, and uses Citymapper to plot the quickest route to their location, as well as directions to the nearest medical facilities. It also sends updates confirming who has seen the messages and/or received the computer generated voice message.
It seems incredible that a team comprising just 5 university students could build such a complex piece of software in such a short time period, but Phil and his colleagues surpassed themselves, placing 2nd overall in a field containing 89 teams, and over 300 participants, and being invited to present their app at the conference proper the following day.
“It’s not perfect yet from a user standpoint”, Phil says, “we need to rethink certain elements and revisit every stage of the building process, but the goal is to have a fully functioning app on both iOS and Android by early 2015.”
It’s no coincidence the team have chosen this date, as that is when Apple will be releasing their long awaited watch, a huge step forward for wearable tech, and ultimately the device Phil sees as being the perfect home for Appilepsy. “We definitely want to integrate with wearable tech”, he says, “if you think about it, people don’t always have their phones to hand, but a watch is something people wear all the time, which makes our product far more reliable.”
Phil had heard about the Hipsters, Hackers & Hustlers gang through his network of fellow tech enthusiasts at King’s, but it was the first time he had attended one of their legendary pitching nights at Google Campus, where founders and developers are invited to pitch their ideas, be they just that, ideas, or ask for funding, or a technical co-founder, for example, for their fully fledged start-up. The event is popular because it combines serious networking and the exchange of ideas whilst making sure the audience is engaged and entertained, often by water-pistol wielding volunteers, and well known keynote speakers.
“The event really helped us”, Phil says, “it got us thinking, this could a pretty big thing, and that helped us take the whole project more seriously. There is really nothing like getting up on stage and trying to convince fellow techies and entrepreneurs that you are on to something. If you can win these people over, then going forward anything is possible”.
So what next for Phil and the rest of the Appilepsy team? “We have a fully functioning app now, and we need to test it and test it to make sure we iron out any faults, then clean it up a little. After that, we’ll be looking to partner with any university that is willing and able to help us make the most accurate and dependable device we possibly can”.
Tech Crunch has described Appilepsy as “the kind of hack that is both cool and useful”. “We should say the same about Co-Founder Dating, a big thank-you!”, adds Phil. Appilepsy. You heard it there first.
The next co-founder dating event takes place at ExCel on November 12th. Full details here.
Could you be the next Phil Efstathiou?