Samsung-backed Sensifree raises $5M to advance biometric sensor tech

Cupertino
(By Asadron (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Sensifree has raised $5 million to develop biometric sensor technology. The startup, which received seed funding from Samsung’s Catalyst fund, will use the cash to expand the product development and engineering teams that are driving the advance of its digital health sensors.

Cupertino, CA-based Sensifree has built its nascent business around a radio frequency-based method of measuring heart rate. Existing wearable devices typically use optical sensors to record heart rate, but, as Sensifree sees it, this technology has some drawbacks. As the optical approach is based upon shining a light on the body and capturing waves that are refracted back, the result can be affected by skin pigmentation and the presence of fabric or water. Equally, the approach is only effective when a device is close to the skin.

Sensifree thinks its approach can sidestep these issues, while also providing developers of digital health technologies with a less power-intensive way of recording heart rate. The approach uses radio frequencies to measure the expansion of arterial walls as blood passes through the vessel. By using radio frequencies instead of light, Sensifree thinks it can end the need for a device to be in contact with the skin to deliver heart rate data. In doing so, it could enable the development of more comfortable wearables that are unaffected by variations in skin pigmentation.

Initially, Sensifree is aiming its technology at designers of traditional watches, activity trackers and smart clothing. But, if it can deliver on its promise of enabling the creation of devices that yield more consistent heart rate data and have longer battery lives, it will likely attract the interest of researchers. As it stands, doubts about the accuracy and reliability of data generated by wearables and the risk that users will stop wearing them altogether--a risk that grows each time they are taken off for charging--are among the factors limiting their uptake in clinical trials.

The industry is some way off from learning whether Sensifree can address these issues. But, with the $5 million from TransLink Capital, UMC Capital and an undisclosed strategic investor adding to the $2 million seed round Samsung supported, Sensifree now has the means to advance its heart rate tech toward commercialization. In parallel, the firm is looking to apply its approach to blood pressure, a biomarker that is currently measured using bulky cuffs.

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