“Tactical Wireless Ltd (TWL) is a systems integrator providing connectivity solutions. TWL is registered in England but also has an office in the Highlands of Scotland. It supplies bespoke, secure, and resilient communications systems, optimised for use in poorly connected areas. TWL has a range of technologies to manage data, to reduce bandwidth demand, and can utilise all available cellular and satellite networks, to increase bandwidth availability. The Satellite Applications Catapult worked closely with TWL in 2014 to co-design a service that utilised TWL product that demonstrated the capabilities of improved connectivity in healthcare, which have since been significantly enhanced. Early adopters of our Healthy Living Lab process, they have since forged their own path and are a shining example of the benefits of the Living Lab concept.”
John Vesey, Health Business Manager
One of the biggest challenges in healthcare for rural communities is connectivity. Remote areas typically struggle with terrestrial signal causing issues for emergency care. Hard-to-reach areas also make relatively routine procedures formidable tasks due to the distance and therefore time it takes for patients in need of medical attention to receive it.
If found and treated at the earliest instance, diseases such as strokes and diabetes can be prevented from taking both limbs and lives. Innovating connectivity solutions for rural areas therefore has the potential to drastically improve the quality of care provided.
The Healthy Living Lab seeks to address inefficiencies within the healthcare system by collaborating with technology companies to develop solutions that are made for specific purposes.
Situated in the Wescott Venture Park, the Healthy Living Lab offers a workspace that allows companies to trial products in situ. By creating a space for the development of technology the facility not only helps businesses to trial their services but also gives healthcare providers and Trusts a space to work with the emerging solutions.
The Healthy Living Lab has been designed and developed by the Satellite Applications Catapult and NHS Arden & GEM Commissioning Support Unit along with other partners that have helped shape the facility and the methodology.
The Healthy Living Lab benefits both technology and healthcare providers through collaboration.
The technology providers – on the supply side of the project – focus on connectivity, with a more recent focus on 5G enabled Healthcare Solutions. The Living Lab can help take a company with a proof of concept through to funding and implementation, and then take the product to market and scale it. It is also very importantly located with access to the Catapult’s 5G and satellite network capabilities to understand the capabilities and to validate and test solutions.
Industry – the demand side of the project – focuses on the problem owners such as Health Trusts, Ambulance Trusts, Clinical Commissioning Groups, and Integrated Care Systems. The Living Lab provides a space where professionals working within healthcare can present problems that need solutions, and highlights which technological solutions are feasible in a real-world environment. The workspace also provides an area for healthcare providers to test, validate and implement the technology solutions.
The Catapult first collaborated with Tactical Wireless in 2014 – prior to the infrastructure of the Healthy Living Lab that exists at Wescott today. TWL made a successful bid to The Catapult for a universal sensor and communications hub, to look at how connectivity solutions might be tailored around user need. Tactical Wireless and the Catapult utilised a similar methodology to that of the Healthy Living Lab, by co-designing and co-creating solutions for Tactical Wireless’ Omni-Hub® to serve end user requirements, sometimes with bespoke features.
The Omni-Hub® is a portable connectivity solution designed specifically to address the challenges faced by remote communities. Using a range of networks -2G, 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi and satellite – the Omni-Hub® secures whichever connection is available to provide seamless data transfers. In practice, any peripatetic health and social care professional can carry TWL’s entry level products, such as the Omni-Route® Mini, to a patients’ home and set up the device outside. As the systems have a nominal 100 metre WiFi range, they can manage a range of tele-medicine devices. Following the Living Lab methodology, the Catapult then introduced TWL to the problem owners.
The Omni-Hub® was first trialled as part of a Highlands and Islands Enterprise project (funded by Innovate UK) which focused on improving connectivity in rural Scotland for ultrasound for strokes – Satellite Ultrasound for Rural Strokes (SURS), a project with the University of Aberdeen. The output from an ultrasound device was transmitted, from remote locations in the Highlands, to specialists at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness. If an individual has suffered a stroke, the sooner blood clots are reduced through treatment, the better chance the patient has of surviving. The connectivity the Omni-Hub® provided therefore facilitates potentially life-saving interventions, informing the best course of treatment for the patient. The system achieved 95% diagnostic quality, over bonded, weak 3G signals and/or a BGAN satellite system. TWL won the Scottish Enterprise Life Sciences Innovation Award in 2015, for this development.
As part of the NHS Highlands’ Reducing Amputations in People with Diabetes (RAPID) Project in 2016, the Omni-Hub was trialled in conjunction with the University of the Highlands and Islands Rural Health and Wellbeing department. The project, which ran from October 2016 until March 2017, deployed satellite connectivity alongside mobile connectivity, testing the efficacy of the Omni-Hub® in Rural Scotland for patients with diabetic ulcerations. Ulcers are more common among those with diabetes and can lead to amputation if left untreated. Boosting connectivity in remote locations to reach diabetic patients who are unable to make long journeys to hospitals and surgeries can therefore produce life changing results.
The Omni-Hub® was again successful in providing seamless connectivity across networks using satellite technology. In doing so, patients were able to communicate remotely to healthcare providers with instant, high quality images, improving the integration between community and specialist care. The system is now in routine use, based at the Diabetes Institute in Inverness. It is a model for the development of a system to manage chronic diseases.
After the projects, Tactical Wireless continued their relationship with Universities and Ambulance Trusts, offering bespoke connectivity products. Tactical Wireless continued to use the Living Lab methodology to develop bespoke technologies focussed on user need. Since collaborating with the Catapult, Tactical Wireless was awarded a contract by the UK Space Agency, in partnership with the Emergency Retrieval and Transfer Service (EMRTS – Cymru), to develop solutions for remote telemedicine in Wales, utilising space technology by using satellite and multi-cellular network links to create a resilient connection in Rural Wales. EMRTS and TWL are now collaborating to jointly develop telemedicine solutions and the relationship has led to the development of some new services. The most recent project provides a system for streaming foetal and paediatric cardiac ultrasound from hospitals to remotely located specialists. This system has been very successful and has substantially reduced costs and increased efficacy.
Tactical Wireless’s continuation of the work borne out of the Healthy Living Lab is testament to the success of the methodology. As early adopters of the concept, Tactical Wireless has been able to build upon co-design and collaboration by developing bespoke products that focus on the problem-owner’s user need, creating solutions for real-world problems. The specificity and innovation of their designs are boosting efficiency within the healthcare system, which is evident in the grant funding awarded by the UK Space Agency.
If you are a healthcare professional or technology developer, or would simply like to know more, you can reach the Living Lab by contacting John Vesey, Business Manager for Health, Wellbeing and Emergency Services at the Satellites Applications Catapult and/or Adrian Smith at NHS Arden and GEM Commissioning Support Unit.