Philips has recently launched EmoGraphy, a stress management technology to measure someone’s stress levels and then predict them an hour into the future. The company worked out the sensing and algorithm calculation methods, and are now licensing their technology to firms that want to expand it into their devices.
We met with Navin Natoewal, the Head of Integrated Technology Solutions at Philips, to learn more about EmoGraphy, its applications, the potential benefits, and how the technology will find its way into real products.
Ben Ouyang, Medgadget: Tell us about Philips Integrated Technology Solutions.
Navin Natoewal: The role here is to take innovations that are available within Phillips and develop them into software building blocks that we license to third parties. The reason for doing the development from innovation to software building is to help our customers reduce the time to market. There’s a lot of development risks, especially if you have very new innovative technologies, and especially in the biophysical space where you have to do a lot of validation. By taking up those investments and doing the development at our site, we enable our customers to have their products on market much faster.
Medgadget: Please introduce us to EmoGraphy.
Natoewal: We know that the body gets a lot of signals about stress and over-arousal. People tend to ignore those signals that the body gives and this leads to more stress. We’ve seen in several studies that skin conductance is an accurate measurement of sympathetic nervous system activity, which indicates arousal and stress. The sweat glands are uniquely coupled to the sympathetic nervous system and give very clean measurements. One of the signals of the sympathetic nervous system activity is stress-induced cortisol release, which can negatively impact your cognitive performance. We have found a unique algorithm where we can correlate the sweat gland activity to cortisol levels in your body. We are focusing mainly with our technology to give the immediate arousal measurements into what we call the stress level and we interpret that signal into what we call the cognitive zone.
Medgadget: How do you define stress?
Natoewal: Stress can be defined as any deviation as a nonspecific response to the body. We’re not looking at stress only from an emotional point of view. Stress can be caused by any anything – it could also be a strong physical exercise, spicy food, or the temperature. For example, you can ask people who do high intensity interval training after their intervals to just count to 10. For them, it’s very difficult, because strong physical exercise also leads to stress and cortisol release that impacts cognitive performance. So we take all those measurements into account when we calculate our cognitive zone and predictions.
Medgadget: Can you walk us through how a finished EmoGraphy device might work?
Natoewal: For now we’re focusing on a wrist-based wearable. We’ll present two outputs: stress level and cognitive zone. So the user goes in and puts it on first thing in the morning and it takes 30 minutes to calibrate. Hopefully, in the morning it’s green and he’s in a good position. If a meeting with his boss doesn’t go well or his experiment fails, we will output a prediction that says that if he continues to do what he’s doing, he’ll enter a red zone where his cognitive performance will be affected an hour from now. So then he should take a break or go for a walk or have a relaxing activity.
Medgadget: What happens if it’s a hot day and the user is relaxing but sweating a little bit? Would this increase skin conductance and do you measure that as high stress?
Natoewal: We ignore the continuous rise of the skin conductance level from sweat. We instead look at the Boucsein peaks that are associated with stress. We look for those in the signal and we can filter out the noise.
Medgadget: How can you predict how much stress a person will feel an hour into the future?
Natoewal: The cortisol peak follows 20-30 minutes after the stressor occurred. You cannot prevent this, as the stressor already occurred. What we can do is predict that if you continue to do what you’ve been doing in the last half hour, then you will be overstimulated one or two hours from now. The prediction gives an opportunity to deflect that trend. Basically, to take a break and go for some relaxation activities to prevent becoming overstimulated.
Medgadget: When will finished EmoGraphy devices become available?
Natoewal: Hopefully, next year, you will see the products on the market. There two things: either as a consumer buying a device in the store, or actually, we’re looking also at pilots with the employee benefits kind of programs. We have some concepts and pilots running where we engage with medical professionals in a B2B setting, so doctors get devices from the hospitals to better manage stress.
Medgadget: What’s Philips role in such finished devices?
Natoewal: At Phillips, we provide the measurements and predictions of high stress, low stress, or medium stress. Coaching for the perceived stress – that’s something that’s more for our licensing customers or partners because it requires different skill sets and applications.
Medgadget: How does the licensing work and how can companies get involved with Philips?
Natoewal: Our license goes to device makers. They can approach us and we will happily make our software development kit available along with the integration that so that we can build a product with them. We’re also exploring with apps for meditation, mindfulness, etc. and open to partnerships with companies who wish to enable their existing users to objectively measure stress as a signal to know when to go into meditation exercises.
Medgadget: What other technologies has Philips been working on?
Natoewal: Our portfolio consists of biophysical technologies overall. We have the VitalSigns Camera where we can measure heart rate and breathing rate using any standard camera, and the VitalSigns Optical, which measures heart rate at the wrist.