Tech For Good – Feat. EarSwitch

We had the opportunity to speak with Nick Gompertz and Garry Pratt, EarSwitch founder and chief commercial officer respectively.

The purpose of the Tech For Good series of interviews is to create a platform that showcases and champions companies, products and technologists who are using technology as a force for positive change in the world.

Sky @ ADLIB: Can you please introduce yourself, what your business does and what makes your business a offering unique and a force for good?  

We’re Nick Gompertz and Garry Pratt, EarSwitch founder and chief commercial officer respectively. Nick noticed the untapped potential of the ear and created EarSwitch in 2019. EarSwitch has developed a sensor which can be controlled by a tiny muscle in the ear. The company’s core value is 100% a force for good; to enhance ease of communication – particularly for people with disabilities and chronic conditions, and to improve health monitoring both in and out of clinical settings. 

Sky @ ADLIB: Can you share the story behind the origin of your business and Service / Product? 

As a former NHS GP for more than 30 years, Nick was inspired to help motor neurone disease (MND) and cerebral palsy patients better communicate. Nick realised the ear may hold the key to transforming these patients’ lives and began research into how it could be harnessed to control assistive technology.  

Since then, the team has discovered the possibilities are even more far-reaching. EarSwitch has developed and patented the technology for a globally-relevant medical monitoring device which resolves significant health inequalities that emerged during the COVID pandemic. 

Sky @ ADLIB: Can you share some tech challenges or barriers you had to overcome to create a Product / Service offering with potential, whilst remaining ‘for good’?  

One of the biggest challenges for Nick, who had the initial concept for this revolutionary technology, was to convince other people to come along on the journey with him! He met Garry, who introduced him to a research team at the University of Bath. There, EarSwitch was awarded its first grant to investigate how effective this ear muscle was – with a view to using it to control assistive technology. Nick’s belief is that if the technology can unlock the gift of communication for one locked-in person, it’s worthwhile. The added benefit of this collaboration was that Garry then joined the team as CCO of EarSwitch and has been working with Nick, developing the scope of this incredible technology ever since. 

Sky @ ADLIB: Why do you think it is a growing trend for tech professionals to seek out opportunities to work in purpose-driven businesses? 

Increasingly people want to do work that does good and makes them feel good too. Given a chance, most people would want the job they do to have a positive impact. So, we feel really lucky to be building a sustainable business around technology that could really change a lot of people’s lives for the better.  

When you’re talking about medical technology too, it’s something most people can relate to; most people have had a thermometer in their ear and their blood pressure measured at some point in their lives. If we can do a job that makes both patients’ and doctors’ lives better by providing them with new technology that is easier to use, gives more accurate readings, and offers more opportunity to collate valuable health data, it’s a win-win situation! 

Sky @ ADLIB: What has been the key thing you’ve learned about ‘tech for good’ and your target audience specifically? 

The biggest learning has to be the massive unmet need of health tech in clinical settings. Many reports have recently pointed to the inaccuracy of the readings given by the finger-clip pulse oximeters in certain conditions. One of the factors thought to affect its accuracy is skin pigmentation – the device is more accurate on lighter skins compared to darker. Our EarSwitch sensor is not only racially agnostic, but it can take multiple readings at the same time, including blood oxygen levels, temperature, pulse, heart rate and more. The NHS is struggling with capacity issues. As a hearable – an in-ear device worn constantly or several times a day – that could send its data to a central location to be monitored, our technology could be a great reassurance to patients being treated at home in virtual wards. 

And as we believe that tiny ear muscle is one of the last to keep functioning in motor neurone disease patients, our technology could give that power of communication back to those individuals.  

Work like this is worth getting out of bed for! You can find out all about it on our website or our social channels. 

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