What do you do if you find your child has a serious allergy – serious enough to be life-threatening?
Tracy Thomson was already working on a project to use QR codes in innovative ways while an undergraduate at the University of the West of Scotland. Then her son was diagnosed with egg allergy and ADHD. It’s serious enough for both school and home to have an EpiPen on hand, just in case. But she also wanted to make sure that he carried both emergency contact information and and details about both condition and medication wherever he went. Her solution was a modification of her existing work which has just reached the market.
Called a Tagie, it started off as a simple, colourful arm-band that a child would be happy to wear. But printed on it was a QR code. If something happened to the wearer, paramedics and hospital staff can simply scan the code with a smartphone or other similar device and immediately be able to see detailed information on that person’s condition. As with her son, it could be a food allergy. But with anyone else, it could be an intolerance to antibiotics or something equally important.
“What makes our product different to anything else on the market,” explains Tracy, “is the fact that the medics can access the information quickly. By using the QR Code, they’re tapping straight into the medical conditions of the individual. We see this as differentiating us from the wrist bands and bracelets that are out there already because the information will always be up to date.
“The most common one right now is a jewellery-type bracelet on which the information is engraved. What it contains is a phone number and three or four lines of engraved text. The phone number is that of a call centre. But if someone is having an anaphylactic episode, then you need the information there and then rather than having to wait for someone to answer the phone, no matter how quick the response time. And the moment there’s a change in the patient’s condition, it’s out of date. The product becomes obsolete and has to be replaced.”
Her initial market testing was done at home. Her son helped her to design the wristband. “It’s absolutely right for his age group” she says. “Let’s face it, children don’t often carry ID. This is a good way for them to carry that information in a fun way. It doesn’t say ‘I’m Different!’ it says ‘I’ve something fun to wear’.”
However, she’s taken the product further. The wrist bands appeal mainly to 2-12 year olds. But for teenagers and adults, she’s developed phone covers and wallet cards. As she points out, if someone’s unconscious, the first thing the emergency services will look at will be the phone and the wallet. In fact, everyone gets a membership card, one that child can easily fit it into a school bag or an adult can slip into the window of a wallet or purse.
“Our products come with 6-months’ membership,” she explains, “and we’ve adopted very disruptive pricing. We’re charging £7:50 for the wrist band and card and £12 for the phone cover and card. After the six months, there a monthly fee of just 99p so it’s not expensive. We wanted to price it so it was accessible to all markets.”
Her business recently won a Kick Start award at an event at Heriot-Watt University. She believes that, while the money that went with the award was important, it was the creditibility it gave her that really mattered. Her team has already pitched to a panel of angel investors and are currently waiting for their decision.