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The next time you strap an Apple Watch or a FitBit onto your wrist, consider this for a second: every statistic saved onto this tiny device -including your heart rate, your blood sugar levels, and even your sleep schedule- could be used to create a database of real-time information on your overall health. (And, by the way, this includes your mental health- as you will find out later in this piece!)
As digital health tools continue to progress, one avenue that has opened an array of opportunities for medical providers is that of digital biomarkers, which are basically all the quantifiable, physiological, and behavioral data collected and measured by digital wearable devices. And capitalizing on all of it is Spike, a California-headquartered B2B, software-as-a-service, data-architecture-as-a-service startup. Founded in 2022, Spike has been built as an application program interface (API) that can access all major wearable and internet of things (IoT) providers.
“Wearable sensors are becoming much smaller, more accurate, and accessible to a broader user base,” Povilas Gudzius, co-founder and CEO of Spike, says. “Our solution helps digital health companies easily integrate biosensor data, process it, and apply artificial intelligence (AI) models. Developing this tech in-house is complicated, expensive, and resource-heavy. Spike therefore aims to make this data management journey effortless, and open opportunities to the next-generation of healthcare and disease prevention. We work with companies in professional fitness, corporate wellness, chronic disease care, female health, telehealth, clinical research, and other digital health verticals in the Middle East, USA, and Europe.”
Here is how the Spike model operates: the startup enables its medical business clients to integrate digital biomarkers -such as heart rate variability (HRV), glucose and cortisol levels, calories, sleep depth, and blood pressure, among others- from commercially used optical, electrical, electrochemical, and electromechanical biosensors onto a cloud. This is done via a data pipeline management service, and once the data has been processed, Spike’s AI tools offer health-related predictions, recommendations, and prevention.
“There is a lot of value in gathering and analyzing biomarkers data,” Gudzius explains. “For example, fitness or weight management apps might want to track their users’ activity, sleep, and nutrition to suggest personalized and optimal fitness plans. On the other side, with a couple of clicks, users can connect wearable devices they already own and allow apps to leverage data from their smartwatches, continuous glucose monitors, or fitness equipment. Garmin, Fitbit, Whoop, Apple Watch are just a few examples from our wide network of sensors.”
But access to an exhaustive user information database isn’t all that Spike aims to offer. There is also, Gudzius assures, an opportunity for digital health providers to save on time and money. “Instead of firms having to spend six months and thousands of dollars to implement 5-10 wearable provider connections, Spike helps health related companies to get access to 200+ sensors -fitness trackers, gym equipment, medical devices, IoT, etc.- via one simple connection,” Gudzius points out. “We provide a technology that reduces implementation time from six months to six hours, and it does that ten times cheaper as compared to building it in-house. This is extremely valuable for firms that don’t have large engineering and data science teams, yet want to get access to innovative health technology. We level the playing field, so that more end users could benefit from it.”
Spike’s solution helps digital health companies easily integrate biosensor and werables data, process it, and apply AI models to offer offer health-related predictions, recommendation, and prevention. Source: Spike
Now, Gudzius and Spike’s claims are backed by hard facts, of course. A 2021 report by Emergen Research has shown that the global digital biomarkers market is expected to grow to $10.38 billion by 2027, at a compound annual growth rate of 39.2%. On the other hand, a Deloitte Insights report highlights that, by 2024, 440 million consumer health and wellness wearable devices will be shipped worldwide. The same report highlights that much of this increased interest in wearables was seen over the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic- a phase during which many used smartwatches to measure blood oxygen saturation.
The situation is not very different in the UAE- a May 2022 report by AppDynamics showed that 88% of respondents in the country intend to use medical wearables in 2023. “In fact, adoption of wearable devices in the UAE is significantly above the average of 40% in the developed countries,” Gudzius adds. “Additionally, consumers in the UAE have sufficient disposable income to be able to afford high quality wearable and IoT devices from [companies like] Garmin, Whoop, Apple Watch, or even IoT devices from the likes of Peloton, Lumen, or EightSleep. Therefore, sensors and data quality is better. Perhaps the only bottleneck is that the healthcare sector should be more aware of the wearables adoption and preventative health.”
Now, while Gudzius laments how the medical providers themselves must be more proactive, there is a major stakeholder group that hasn’t yet been discussed: the users of wearable devices themselves. A 2023 study by Insider Intelligence highlights that ease of access to healthcare and personalized care are among the top five factors -selected by 89% and 88% of respondents respectively- when it comes to the public use of wearables’ data.
But raking up equal numbers (and concern), in the same study, are the topics of data security and confidentiality of private health information. The latter is where Gudzius assures Spike is completely trustworthy. “Data security and privacy is one of the most important aspects to our clients and to Spike Technologies too,” he explains. “Spike is a General Data Protection Regulation and California Consumer Privacy Act-compliant data technology firm. We do not redistribute customers data. In fact we have our customers to ensure that the API protocols that are used to secure data privacy are at the forefront of our technology.”
With such assurance offered, this is perhaps the right place to introduce how Spike aims to use private health information to also improve mental health resources. Having made its way to the UAE, the startup has already started working with other startups in the mental health and corporate wellness space in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. “Mental health use cases are relatively new when it comes to leveraging wearables data,” Gudzius explains. “With cardiovascular biomarkers (like HRV and resting heart rate) becoming more accurate, meditation, corporate wellness and stress management apps can now quantitatively measure status of distress and help prevent the triggers long term or personalize the suggestions for ways to mitigate that. Above all, it allows users themselves to self-realize the drivers and how their own body and mind reacts to certain external factors.”
Gudzius believes that with the level of already existing innovation in the UAE’s healthcare ecosystem, the country could very well fare better than the location of Spike’s headquarters, i.e. the US. “The US healthcare system is extremely complex and will be much slower to evolve, whereas the UAE has an opportunity to be the leader in healthcare innovation in the region, if not the world,” Gudzius states. “I believe Spike will be the catalyst of this innovation, and removes one of the largest bottlenecks in the adoption of valuable health data and enables the applications of it in healthcare. Using solutions like Spike and other digital health innovations driven by AI technology, the UAE could set an example for others.”
Povilas Gudzius, co-founder and CEO, Spike. Source: Spike
To ensure smooth operations in the US as well as the UAE, the startup raised $700,000 in a pre-seed round in December 2022. The round was led by New York-based venture capital (VC) firm Geek Ventures, with participation from Florida-based VC firms CEAS Investments and APX. An early-stage investor based in Berlin and backed by European media publishing firm Axel Springer and German automobile enterprise Porsche, as well as angel investors from Dubai, Austin, and Silicon Valley also participated in the round. This fresh influx of capital holds the startup in good stead to achieve its UAE-oriented objectives, believes Gudzius. “Remote care, preventive health, digital health are the three areas that we would love to engage in with the UAE institutions,” he adds. “We believe our knowledge in how to apply data science and data engineering in improving patients’ health could be extremely valuable to some of the UAE public institutions. At the moment, we do not yet have an engagement in this area yet, but would be open to explore the partnership.”
It must be highlighted that Gudzius’ comments come during a time when the UAE government continually seeks for a more synergetic public-private partnership within the healthcare domain. While how Spike can play its part in that collaboration is yet to be seen, Gudzius remains confident that his startup will be able to rise to the occasion. “In general, the quantity of data patients/users generate from various sensors will only increase, and businesses need to leverage it accordingly,” he says. “Spike is built to gather and analyze this type of data effectively. We are excited to help healthcare and healthtech players in the UAE to drive innovation forward and will be happy to share our know-how from across the globe.”
And so, while Gudzius and his team have plenty of goals to work towards in the short-term, the co-founder believes they’ve only scratched the surface in terms of what Spike can offer. “90% of the world’s data was created in the last two years,” Gudzius says. “It’s predicted that there will be 38.6 billion IoT-connected devices around the world by 2025 and 50 billion by 2030. We at Spike truly believe that we are just at the very beginning of the data revolution, and we want to be the enabler of innovation on the back of this neo data across multiple industries. We want to be the connector between multiple sensors on the earth (or the human body) and the internet to be able to leverage this data for applications beyond healthcare to industries such as climate-tech/carbon reduction, energy optimization, logistics, automation insurance and others!”