| SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO Aug 5 The Netherlands' Royal
Philips and IT consultancy Accenture are
developing software to help people with neurodegenerative
diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as
Lou Gehrig's disease, live more independently.
The companies said they have built a trial application that
lets patients with ALS, a disease that diminishes muscle action,
issue "brain commands" to turn lights on and off or send an
alert to a doctor.
The software works by connecting a wireless headset
developed by Emotiv, a San Francisco-based startup, to a
wearable device. Emotiv says its headset can read brain waves
and translate them into readable data, which is then used to
issue commands to Philips' existing suite of connected products,
such as "smart" TVs and lighting systems.
Wearers also can issue commands via their voice or eyes, and
the app lets patients store pre-recorded messages in their own
Accenture and Philips jointly developed the software that
connects the various technologies.
It marks the latest in a string of partnerships between
information technology and medical firms to develop products for
people with chronic conditions. In July, Google struck
a deal with Swiss drug maker Novartis to develop a
smart contact lens that can monitor blood-sugar levels, which
would particularly be useful to diabetics.
Accenture and Philips stress their app is a "proof of
concept" but they said they have tested it with patients. They
remain open to conversations with other consumer technology
providers, like Apple and Google, and are seeking
partnerships with caregiver associations.
"We are looking for our next set of partners," Thibaut
Sevestre, who heads innovation for Philips' IT architecture and
platforms, said in an interview with Reuters.
"Patients find that they can do less and less by themselves,
until they are completely paralyzed," Sevestre added. "So we
asked, how can we help them regain control?"
The app is not designed as a monitoring tool that can inform
doctors of a patient's current state. Instead, Sevestre said it
aimed to give people back "some capabilities they've lost." In
the later stages of ALS, people will sometimes be rendered
completely paralyzed but retain brain functions.
The project kicked off in May after several Accenture
employees pitched the idea, but its announcement was delayed
several weeks. A key employee was among those who died in the
downing of a Malaysia Airlines plane over eastern Ukraine in
Throughout the summer, Accenture conducted interviews and
tests with ALS patients at its research lab in San Jose,
California. Some 400,000 people suffer from the disease, but
Accenture's chief technology officer, Paul Daugherty, said the
goal is to adapt the application to a broad spectrum of
The firms estimate their app can eventually benefit some 40
(Reporting by Christina Farr; Editing by Paul Simao)