Startup Interview

  • [Startup Interview] CEO Byung-hwan Lee of ‘SkyLabs’, a startup developing a ring type cardio monitoring platform CART-I that detects Atrial Fibrillation
  • 창업원
  • 2022-10-30 20:31:46
  • 206

The company we will meet today is SkyLabs, a startup developing an AI-based cardio monitoring platform CART-I. SkyLabs monitors atrial fibrillation through a ring-type cardio tracker CART-I, and provides services using stored data in the ring. As a global company collaborating with foreign countries like Germany, SkyLabs is expanding into a global healthcare company.

Let’s meet CEO Byung-hwan Lee of SkyLabs!

Please briefly introduce yourself and SkyLabs.

SkyLabs provides services and platforms that treats and manages patients with chronic diseases outside the hospital. The first product developed by SkyLabs to accomplish this is CART-I, a wearable medical device that can simply be worn in our daily lives. Atrial fibrillation is monitored using CART-I to collect cardiac signals used in diagnosis and monitoring, and analyzes the data with cloud server-based deep learning methods.

Before I founded SkyLabs, I led the world’s first development of 5G mobile communication technology at Samsung Electronics. You could say that the flower of electrical engineering in the 20th and 21st centuries is mobile/wireless communication field, and I have gained deep knowledge and experience in signal processing through developing the world’s best technologies and products.

With the know-hows and skills gained at Samsung Electronics, CEO Lee successfully created an atrial fibrillation monitoring wearable device CART-I. CART-I not only monitors, but also provides a platform that guides users to future treatment. As wearable devices are being widely used, CART-I and its services will become easily accessible to anyone.

How did SkyLabs decide on CART-I as its startup product?

I personally have an experience of going to the emergency room due to atrial fibrillation symptoms. After spending a night in ER, I returned home without I felt the need to be more aware of atrial fibrillation and diagnose symptoms. The need for a platform that monitors chronic diseases daily and connects to hospitals like CART-I made me start SkyLabs.

Many people nowadays are unaware of their cardiac disorders. Especially, atrial fibrillation can cause strokes, so it is crucial to prevent such diseases in advance. CART-I can detect the unnoticeable symptoms and continuously monitor and manage chronic patients.

Please explain more about CART-I and how it operates.

CART-I is a ring-type wearable medical device that automatically collects various bio-signals. However, describing CART-I as simply a medical device is underrating its utility. CART-I is a complicated system and platform that is connected to smartphones, collects and stores data onto a cloud server, and analyzes the data in real-time with deep learning algorithms (This is why we introduce SkyLabs as a service and platform company instead of a medical device company).

CART-I can collect various bio-signals, mainly the electrocardiogram (ECG) signals and photoplethysmography (PPG) signals. ECG signals are important electrical signals produced by contractions in the heart walls that allows us to analyze the heart rhythms. Yet, there is a limit to monitoring various cardiac diseases other than arrhythmia. Thus, CART-I uses light sensors to collect and analyze blood flow signals in the finger arteries. This enables monitoring of various heart, respiratory, and nervous system diseases. In addition, deep learning provides a strong base for detecting various features that humans cannot recognize.

What are some characteristics and advantages of CART-I?

CART-I is a continuous monitoring medical device that people can use without user intervention. It continuously collects and analyzes data in real-time even when a user is asleep. Such continuous monitoring without user intervention removes inconvenience on the user’s side and allows mass data collection. Since screening, diagnosis, and future monitoring of chronic diseases require a lot of data, CART-I’s continuous monitoring will become extremely useful.

For example, atrial fibrillation patients never know when the disease may occur, so it is important to continuously collect data for a long period of time. However, existing devices are uncomfortable and short-lived because they need to be controlled by the user or expensive because of surgeries to insert devices within the body. Compared to existing products, CART-I does not require user intervention or surgeries and can be worn for a long period of time.

Even though smartwatches nowadays get approved for medical use, it is difficult to collect mass data because users need to collect data themselves in upright postures. In addition, there are issues of low accuracy on measuring PPG signals on the wrist to monitor the body. CART-I is a licensed medical device that automatically collects data without user intervention, and achieves a very high accuracy through PPG signal measurements using fingers. In addition, real-time deep learning analysis based on cloud servers enables various analyses that cannot be implemented in smartwatches or smartphones.

Furthermore, since PPG signals used by CART-I utilizes blood flow information to monitor various diseases, there is work for future extensions. We are verifying not only arrhythmia, but also other diseases like circulatory, respiratory, and nervous system diseases through clinical trials.

Recently, there has been news of smartwatches successfully detecting abnormal symptoms in users. However, those are only a part of the huge medical device market. Most devices are simply wearable devices not medical devices, whereas CART-I is certified as a medical device. CART-I reduces the inconvenience of users by automatically collecting data in daily life and provides continuous monitoring of cardiac diseases. Soon, the day will come where CART-I develops to monitor diseases other than atrial fibrillation.

Currently, CART-I is drawing attention as a ring-type cardio monitoring device overseas, including Europe. It also recently received the CE marking, and is now available for sale. What was difficult about entering the global market, and how did you overcome them to achieve SkyLabs’ current status?

SkyLabs is still striving to become a global company, so I cannot say that we overcame the difficulties yet. However, SkyLabs is making every effort to develop a product and service that the world can acknowledge, and I can confidently say that our efforts have created a valuable and unique product. In the end, a good product and service itself explains the value of the company. I believe that a product should provide unparalleled values that can be recognized by anyone in the world.

Of course, it is undeniable that SkyLabs have travelled around the world to be recognized abroad in the initial stages of SkyLabs. Although overseas business trips have been limited due to COVID-19, we are planning more active overseas trips in the future.

I am pleased to see SkyLabs and CART-I being recognized in the global market. We hope in the future that SkyLabs collaborate with more international companies, and its platform and services become user around the world. Also, COVID-19 should definitely be gone so overseas travel become possible!

There are strict regulations on medical devices in Korea. Recently, regulations have been eased, and now SkyLabs is collaborating with Chong Kun Dangb2 to pursue B2C. How effective is CART-I in the use of healthcare services like hospital treatment?

The data collected and analyzed through CART-I is utilized in hospitals to diagnose and treat arrhythmia. The data analyzes the patients’ arrhythmia and prescribes according anticoagulants. Previously, diagnosis itself was imperfect, and it took a long time to rent devices from hospitals. CART-I is available to patients without waiting, and the device can also increase the accuracy of diagnosis.

In addition, CART-I is utilized to remotely monitor people suspected of COVID-19 and actual COVID-19 patients. This type of remote monitoring is an active topic overseas as well.

CART-I’s data can be followed up by medical services, thus reducing time and costs for cardiac patients. It’s also surprising that CART-I has been monitoring COVID-19 patients! We expect CART-I expanding in a wide range of directions ????

There are still limitations for wearable devices to make accurate diagnosis yet. For example, a device may be trustworthy, but also induce anxiety for users. What other limitations are there and how are you resolving them?

It’s true that a small number of measurements, inconsistent data collection, and device use based on user intervention are limited in diagnosing and monitoring chronic diseases. Thus, it is very important to collect mass data to properly analyze the patient’s status. In fact, even in the clinical field, doctors do not diagnose chronic diseases through a few measurements. For example, we do not diagnose hypertensive patients with a few blood pressure measurements. It is crucial to fully understand the patient’s status through many measurements and data collection, and with more and more data, we can accurately diagnose and provide customized treatment depending on the patient’s condition.

Since CART-I is a continuous monitoring medical device without user intervention, it can collect mass data. The goal of CART-I’s platform is to analyze the collected data and provide meaningful information necessary for doctors to diagnose diseases. This information is provided in a form of a report bi-weekly or monthly. We are designing the UX to provide device users with simple and understandable information, and also access more information if necessary. Through this method, we are working to prevent excessive anxiety or excessive medical treatment caused by existing medical devices.

It is known to diagnose hypertension through measuring daily blood pressure throughout the day. Diagnosing chronic diseases through a few abnormal symptoms is prone to error, which makes CART-I a more accurate device through its mass collected data. This will also prevent excessive anxiety of patients.

What does SkyLabs want to develop next?

I can’t say in detail because it’s too early to disclose our projects in progress, but as I mentioned earlier, we are conducting clinical tests related to circulatory, respiratory, and nervous system diseases and will provide additional services in the future. Through the deep learning model trained using high-quality mass datasets, we expect that SkyLabs will gradually expand to deal with other chronic diseases.

We hope beyond CART-I, and that CART-II, CART-III will monitor and assist diagnosis of a wide variety of diseases. Since early detection is the most important problem in treatment, we expect the medical devices, services, and platforms by SkyLabs will be of great help.

What is SkyLabs’ ultimate goal and vision?

As I mentioned earlier, SkyLabs is a company that provides a platform and service that allows remote treatment and monitoring of chronic patients, which is known as a Data-Driven Preventive Healthcare Company. Since our establishment, we call ourselves the ‘World-Best Data-Driven Preventive Healthcare Company. We will continue to establish ourselves as the world’s leading data-based preventive healthcare company, allowing easier treatment and monitoring of chronic diseases at a lower cost.

When I first heard of CART-I, I simply thought of it as a medical device that analyzes cardio signals and diagnoses cardiac diseases. However, CART-I is also a platform that continuously monitors patients, analyzes mass collected data, and links to medical services. In addition, CART-I will become of great help in the COVID-19 era, where telemedicine is becoming mainstream. We hope SkyLabs monitor and manage more and more patients, as well as other diseases to create healthier lives.

This was CEO Byung-hwan Lee of SkyLabs.