Russell Overend, managing director Wideblue (Image: NC)
Currently monitoring of lung health – by measuring CO2 levels in exhaled breath – means people spending hours connected to a machine in hospital. But with new hand-held device N-Tidal, now in second stage clinical trials, accurate assessments using a traffic lights-style warning system can be done quickly by patients breathing in and out of a tube at home or in GPs’ surgeries. To develop the monitor and its intelligent software for client Cambridge Respiratory Innovations, Glasgow-based Wideblue reduced the size of the technology and introduced innovative infra-red optics.
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We get a good buzz out of our customers’ success, especially knowing how they can help people
“Miniaturisation allows the sensor we use to be located in front of someone’s mouth giving a much better resolution,” explains managing director Russell Overend.
“Replacement breath tubes means N-Tidal can be used by multiple patients with no cross-contamination.
“This is ground-breaking and far more comfortable for them. There is also potential application for use in other acute conditions affecting lungs such as Coronavirus, although this would require further research.”
Medical and optical devices offer the biggest growth prospects and now account for 70 percent of the projects undertaken by Wideblue, which has a team of 18 scientists and turns over £1.6m.
“Most product designers stop after the design or working prototype stage,” explains Overend.
The team in their labs in Glasgow’s West of Scotland Science Park (Image: NC)
Wideblue reduced the size of the technology and introduced innovative infra-red optics (Image: NC)
“But we do much more than that taking products right the way through to volume manufacture, software optimisation, testing, updates and cost reductions. Our engineers learn from the whole cycle which leads to better designs.”
With its roots in traditional camera technology that lost out when digital arrived, Overend’s 2006 management buyout of Polaroid’s European Design Centre allowed staff to apply their skills to new products and sowed the seeds of Wideblue today.
Customers include big firms, start-ups spurred on by crowd-funding, university spin-outs and R&D collaborations.
“We get to know the essence of each client’s ambitions and give them a thorough quote of what it will take to get to market,” says Overend.
“Having a realistic understanding of the process at the start is vital. Most appreciate this.”
With consumers increasingly buying into retro charm, Wideblue’s has designed the first in a new generation of Polaroid cameras now being sold by Currys PC World, and to expand the business’s reach in 2018 Overend sold a majority share to US engineer Pivot International.
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Breakthroughs are Wideblue’s business (Image: NC)
“This is not a common model but works well for medical devices. We operate independently, but the big benefit of access to their supply chain,” he adds.
Acquisition of advanced electronics specialist A2E, which has customers in the energy, smart metering and defence sectors, has strengthened Wideblue’s development of apps and software, essential features now in all new products.
Its work for British eye health pioneer Peek Vision on a prototype for a low cost, smart phone-based opthalmoscope (the instrument for examining eyes) for those developing countries has led to start-up manufacturing in the UK.
“We get a good buzz out of our customers’ success,” says Overend, “especially knowing how they can help people with their disease.”