SwipeSense’s goal to get hospital staff to wash their hands more often led to something much bigger.
The company raised $10.6 million to keep building what CEO Mert Iseri calls an “indoor GPS for hospitals.” San Francisco-based Eclipse Ventures led the round, with participation from Chicago’s Sandbox Industries.
SwipeSense, which traces its roots to Northwestern University, got its start peddling hand sanitizers that tracked how often employees washed their hands. That’s a big deal to hospitals trying to cut down on infections transmitted from staff to patients.
Iseri’s team soon discovered that only about 10 percent of the staff used portable sanitizers. Most workers preferred to use wall-mounted dispensers in patient rooms. So SwipeSense went back to the drawing board and came up with a way to put a sensor in the drip trays attached to dispensers. And it put a sensor on a card that could be paired with an employee ID badge. Add in a wireless beacon plugged into a wall, and SwipeSense basically had an IoT network for a hospital.
SwipeSense began focusing more on data and analytics after a $10 million investment led by Eclipse in 2015. It took some serious engineering and reworking to come up with the sensor network, Iseri said.
In mid-2016 it launched a pilot test, rolling it out to four hospitals. Today it has signed up 20 hospitals, including MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn, Iseri says. They pay for the technology with a flat per-bed fee, which SwipeSense declines to disclose.
The technology helped solve the original problem of hygiene. He says one hospital reported a 300 percent increase in hand hygiene by staff; another saw a 49 percent drop in hospital-acquired patient infections. Customers found other uses beyond hygiene, Iseri said.
“We built a low-cost, asset-tracking solution,” he said. The company has raised $23.3 million overall, and it doubled headcount to 42 in the past year, Iseri said. He’s looking to drum up more sales for the product and build out the technology for additional uses.
A bigger market also means SwipeSense will be facing off against bigger competitors, such as Stanley Healthcare in Waltham, Mass., San Diego-based Awarepoint and Versus Technology in Traverse City, Mich. “There are a lot of people doing asset tracking,” says Jim Gagnard, former CEO of Lisle-based SmartSignal, an early internet of things company focused on manufacturing that was bought by GE in 2011. “If you try to be a platform, you better have some staying power. I don’t know if (SwipeSense is) big enough to do that.”