From Adversity to Innovation: The Journey of SweatID

May 29, 2024 | Ideas

We know that today, SweatID, is a solution for athletes seeking to optimize their performance through sweat analysis. The technology aims to disrupt traditional approaches to measuring sweat sodium levels, a crucial metric for personalizing hydration strategy and performance enhancement.

But where did SweatID get its start? And how did it evolve into what it is today?  We caught up with Dr. Chelsea Monty-Bromer, founder and CTO of SweatID, for a deep dive into the history of a technology that’s revolutionizing sweat sensing.

When One Door Closes…

While at the University of Akron, Dr. Chelsea Monty-Bromer had the idea to develop fabric sensors for prosthetics, aiming for user flexibility and comfort. Their initial goal of using these sensors to monitor and address sweating discomfort for amputees hit a roadblock due to the impractical power needs of the cooling device. Undeterred, Dr. Monty-Bromer explored new avenues through the NSF I-Corps program, eventually finding inspiration in athletes’ need for tracking electrolyte losses from their sweat, especially those training for lengthy endurance events.

…Another Opens.

Using the basis research from the prosthetics sensor, Dr. Monty-Bromer and her team began creating nonwoven fabric sensors using a basic electrospinning setup with the goal of using the fabric sensors to monitor sweat composition. They started small, making one-centimeter sensors and testing them on glass slides for validation. As they progressed, they shifted to hand-sewing these sensors onto athletic fabric, setting up an assembly line within the lab. Despite some initial setbacks and mishaps during testing, these trials provided valuable insights, laying the groundwork for further development.

With funding from partners like The Advanced Manufacturing Fund, SweatID began to scale operations. Collaboration with AMF and others allowed for the transition from lab-scale production to small-scale manufacturing. The introduction of portable electronics with the help of a local partner, Tiny Circuits, enabled broader testing and facilitated IRB-approved human testing trials at Cleveland State University and The University of Akron with help of Chief Exercise Scientist Dr. Ronald Otterstetter.

The SweatID Journey 

Through interactions with athletes, coaches, and trainers at races and endurance events, the need for a reliable sensor capable of tracking electrolyte levels outside of a lab became increasingly clear. While athletes diligently track metrics like heart rate or power output during everyday workouts, sweat analysis remained an enigma, with individuals left to speculate about their hydration needs and fluid-electrolyte balance. These early conversations served as catalysts for refining the product-market fit, giving the SweatID team fresh inspiration to continue pushing forward.

With successful initial prototypes and a strong market demand, the next step for SweatID was to lock in a prototype system and compatible app that athletes or coaches could use on their own. The road to field testing was long and consisted of many lab sweat tests at the University of Akron and Cleveland State University, three IRB-approved human testing studies (see cycling results here), scale-up of sensor manufacturing, app and data architecture development, small-scale production of the beta prototype system, followed by the launch and success of SweatID’s Kickstarter campaign.

With a small team consisting mostly of engineers whose expertise surrounded the sensor technology, Dr. Monty-Bromer and the team knew the end goals could not be reached without the help of experts in areas that the team was lacking, like Tiny Circuits with the electronics design and manufacturing. Local company, Smart Shape, assisted SweatID in designing the electronics housing and UI/UX for the beta app.

A company that specializes in Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) fitness technology, collaborated with SweatID to develop a versatile app, enabling athletes to track their individual sweat sodium concentration while also giving coaches the capability to monitor multiple athletes simultaneously. With the help of a company that specialized in cloud-based data architecture, SweatID’s data platform was built to communicate with the app, creating and managing storage for user data, and performing calculations in the cloud using SweatID’s algorithm.

It Takes a Village

SweatID’s journey has been significantly shaped by the support of key partners within the Northeast Ohio entrepreneurial ecosystem. Dr. Chelsea Monty-Bromer emphasizes the pivotal role these organizations have played in enabling SweatID to thrive and grow. “I tell people all the time, it allows small companies to act like much bigger companies because they give you resources that you just can’t afford to have in-house,” she explains.

Among the major players in SweatID’s journey are institutions like Bounce Innovation Hub in Akron, which provides marketing support and guidance on developing essential tools such as pitch decks and financials. The University of Akron Research Foundation played a crucial role in providing foundational support, helping SweatID establish itself and lay the groundwork for future endeavors.

Additionally, the Small Business Development Office helped in navigating the intricacies of starting and running a business. Their guidance proved instrumental in shaping SweatID’s early stages of development. JumpStart, MAGNET’s Advanced Manufacturing Fund, and the Innovation Fund (GLIDE) provided essential capital, enabling SweatID to transition from a lab-scale research project to a viable product accessible to consumers.

Dr. Monty-Bromer specifically acknowledges the critical support received from Magnet and the Advanced Manufacturing Fund. Their assistance was instrumental in scaling up SweatID’s operations, facilitating its transition to a larger-scale production model.

What is the future of SweatID

With sodium as the initial target, SweatID’s long-term goal is diving deeper into sweat composition, exploring markers such as cortisol to gauge stress levels and lactate to assess training intensity zones. This holistic approach to sweat analysis promises to empower athletes with a comprehensive understanding of their physiological responses during training sessions.

Additionally, central to SweatID’s future work is a dedicated focus on women’s health. Recognizing the unique fluctuations that women’s bodies undergo daily, the technology aims to cater to their specific physiological needs.

Learn more about the SweatID solution.





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