Haelvoet makes the care beds of the future smart and connected

Haelvoet is a producer of furniture for care institutions. With a smart and connected bed, this company wants to improve the safety and comfort of patients and improve the care efficiency. Their innovation was recently presented to the general public. How did Haelvoet handle the development?

Haelvoet has been active in the world of healthcare furniture for more than 80 years. This SME, based in Ingelmunster in West-Vlaanderen, designs and produces furniture for hospitals and care centres. In order to be able to continue to stand out among foreign competitors, Haelvoet focuses on product innovation that meets the evolving needs of the healthcare sector. Due to the increasing number of people in need of care and the growing need for personnel and infrastructure, the focus in this sector is increasingly on operational efficiency.

For its care beds, Haelvoet has looked at the various aspects that improve patient comfort and efficiency. One of the aspects is the logistics of beds in a care environment: which beds are needed where and what about maintenance? And a little closer to the patient: is the patient in bed, or not, and is the bed in a safe position?

No business as usual

Providing a care bed with sensors, intelligence and connectivity opens the way to new applications. At the same time, Haelvoet was faced with many new challenges when exploring the possibilities.

How does the smart care bed fit into the value chain and how does this solution work together with other systems in a care environment? For which parties involved does the new solution bring value and which are the best parties for the company to cooperate with? Companies which develop smart connected products, quickly face strategic choices due to new business opportunities.

Haelvoet’s starting point is that its smart care bed makes data available to a nurse call system, which is already being used in care centres to digitally support care tasks. The nurse call system in turn uses the data to inform healthcare providers. Haelvoet will not initially develop its own applications. In order to reduce installation costs, the existing communication network of a nurse call system will also be used to centralise the data of the smart care beds.

Another challenge is to determine which technology can be used and how to do this at the right cost. To start with, a solution must be technologically feasible, but not every feasible solution can be found off-the-shelf or can simply be added to a product. On the other hand, a completely new development is not always necessary. For companies which are less familiar with smart connected technology, making these considerations is not easy.

From principle to prototype

Haelvoet consulted Sirris with their product idea. First we had to investigate whether the ideas were feasible in terms of technology: can you actually measure whether a patient leaves the bed (out-of-bed detection)? Once some basic principles had been demonstrated, Sirris experts helped Haelvoet to assess what the most important challenges would be and also to draw up a development plan. With this plan, Haelvoet started a development project with financial support from Flanders Innovation and Entrepreneurship (VLAIO).

In the development project, Sirris investigated which sensor technology allows for reliable and cost-efficient out-of-bed detection. Not only the cost of the sensors themselves, but also the cost of integration and assembly had to be considered. Sirris experts then built a proof-of-concept to evaluate different sensor solutions and algorithms in their lab. Skipping this step and immediately building a prototype would put forward a number of risks that could have major consequences later in the development.

Together with Sirris, Haelvoet also looked at the architecture of the entire solution, of which the smart care bed will be one aspect. This helped Haelvoet in making strategic choices and making agreements with partners for the further development of the total solution. At the end of the development project Sirris built - literally - a test bed for Haelvoet in order to be able to do tests in a care centre as well.

The future of the smart care bed

In the meantime, Haelvoet is working on the integration of the prototype with a nurse call system in collaboration with an industrial partner that supplies digital solutions to care centres. In September, they presented the ‘Haelvoet Connect Solutions’ to the general public at the European Association of Hospital Managers Congress in Ghent. Haelvoet is now focusing on the industrialisation and marketing of out-of-bed detection. In addition, they are developing a number of other ideas, such as an application for the maintenance of the beds and additional functionalities based on sensors.

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(Source picture above: Shutterstock)

(Source picture on top : Haelvoet)