HealthQ Technologies, co-founded by Dr Riaan Conradie, built the research device, of which there are only 20 in the world, with the help of local businesses who either sponsored or provided the most expensive parts at low cost.
In return, HealthQ Technologies has made the entire project open-source, allowing individuals or businesses the chance to replicate their achievement. The company’s method of building the metabolic chamber ensured it cost one-tenth of its normal production cost.
Now in action, it will be used to enable scientists to measure human metabolism in controlled conditions during activities such as sleeping, eating, cycling and running.
Speaking to HumanIPO, Dr Conradie said: “As our primary focus is not to make and sell tools, but rather testing and industrialising new consumer solutions in the wellness space, we thought it might be a good idea to share our tool-making skills with the greater digital health ecosystem. This might stimulate other people to also work in this exciting field.
“The open source metabolic chamber project per se would not have interested sponsors if we did not sell a dream.”
Companies who contributed to the project include SPM specialized panel manufacturing, FESTO South Africa, Electrocomp, Beta-Layout SA as well as Scales Inc.
He added: “The technologies that we are testing, if proven to work, will be extremely disruptive and will change the digital health landscape completely.”
The chamber was put together within two months of the idea being conceived, compared to the four years it has taken in other parts of the world. It was built by four people and involved a range of skills from advanced mathematics to basic DIY.
Dr Conradie said: “We looked at the science and analysed what was absolutely necessary to get an accurate and fully functional metabolic chamber. We made a few quick pricing benchmarks that looked promising and immediately started to get our hands dirty.”
In addition to providing the knowledge, expertise and tools to outside players to help them develop their own technologies, HealthQ are engaging with Western Province Rugby and the Stormers to use their players as test subjects.
Dr Conradie added: “There are certainly opportunities for outsiders. And we would like to establish a platform where students and academics can slot in with us to test technologies of interest and expand our interdisciplinary and network.”
HumanIPO will publish a full transcript of the interview with Dr Riaan Conradie tomorrow.