BalanceBelt to be launched on the market
Thursday, November 1, 2018 was an unforgettable day for Prof. Dr. Herman Kingma. A vestibulologist specialized in equilibrium and the vestibular system and the only professor of clinical vestibulology in the Netherlands, Dr. Kingma is affiliated with Maastricht University. Fifteen years of hard work have gone into the completion of the technical aspects of his idea, the BalanceBelt. Clinical pilot studies have shown that the concept works. Today marks the day the product embarks on the road to the industry. The belt helps patients with problems in their vestibular system to keep more control over their balance. It enables them to take a more active part in their lives, and see a substantial improvement in their quality of life.
Your vestibular system is what regulates your sense of balance. Whenever you are at risk of losing your balance, for whatever reason, this system immediately corrects your posture. People whose vestibular system doesn’t work properly rarely have this “automatic” balance-correcting mechanism. They (literally) lose their balance, get very dizzy and nauseated and risk falling. One out of five people will suffer a disturbance of their equilibrium to a greater or lesser degree. Twenty-five percent of all people 65 and older suffer from an impaired vestibular system.
Developed at Herman Kingma’s initiative, the BalanceBelt can really help this group of patients who are no longer really capable of feeling when their body is at risk of tilting. Worn around the waist, the belt has over ten small vibration motors placed around its circumference that emit a vibrating alert if their bodies risk getting thrown off balance. Thanks to the improved information on their posture, the wearer of the belt subconsciously corrects their posture themselves. Forty patients tried the BalanceBelt in a clinical trial, both during consultation hours at the hospital as well as at home in their own surroundings. The results are a source of satisfaction: the BalanceBelt does what it says it will do. People are less afraid of falling and feel more self-confident, encouraging them to take part in daily life.
For 15 years, several different parties at the Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus have worked on the development and completion of the BalanceBelt. One of these parties is IDEE, the engineering division of Maastricht University that helps researchers turn their ideas into a technical reality. A team from Maastricht Instruments was also involved in the brainstorming and optimization process for BalanceBelt. The goal has always been to give as many people as possible the chance to use the BalanceBelt. The best way to make this possible is to have the BalanceBelt produced by a company with experience in wearable applications for tactile feedback.
As a representative of Maastricht University and the Maastricht UMC+, Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus is transferring the licensing rights and the results from the clinical study to the company Elitac BV, based in Utrecht. Elitac specializes in the development of haptic wearables and is developing the BalanceBelt to get it to the final product stage. The objective is for the BalanceBelt to be available to patients by the end of 2019. The expectation is that the product will help several thousand patients each year.