The Story of SmartSocks

Milbotix is a fast growing, venture-backed digital health company with offices in Bristol, UK. We create accurate, AI-enabled wearable devices embedded in everyday items of clothing for use in research, social care and healthcare.

Our first family of products is called SmartSocks®. A sock wearable, SmartSocks® is user-friendly, comfortable, familiar and non-stigmatising. The socks contain e-textile and silicon sensors measuring pulse, temperature, sweat, and motion.

Our proprietary Physiometrix® software running in the cloud incorporates sophisticated signal processing algorithms which analyse signals from the sensors to extract stress biomarkers. Advanced machine learning algorithms operate on the biomarkers to recognise periods of emotional distress relative to the wearer’s physiological baseline.

Breakthrough technology

  • Groundbreaking innovation combining multidisciplinary breakthroughs in physiological monitoring, signal processing, electronics, e-textiles, mechanical engineering and product design.
  • The result of five years of research at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, the most comprehensive academic centre for multi-disciplinary robotics research in the UK, led by Milbotix founder, Dr Zeke Steer.
  • Backed by Alzheimer’s Society, the UK’s leading dementia charity, and recognised by respected organisations like AbilityNet, Medilink and others.

Our mission

To meet the biggest global health challenges by providing innovative, AI-enabled wearable devices for people with unmet health and care needs. Consistent with this aim, we have pledged to donate 10% of our profits to charitable causes including research into dementia.

Our mission

To meet the biggest global health challenges by providing innovative, AI-enabled wearable devices for people with unmet health and care needs. Consistent with this aim, we have pledged to donate 10% of our profits to charitable causes including research into dementia.

How it all began

The foundational research began in 2015 after Dr Steer’s great grandmother was placed in a care home when worsening agitation and aggression meant she could no longer be care for by family. Unmanaged pain and anxiety are recognised triggers for agitation and aggression in Alzheimer’s Disease and other neurological disorders.

Dr Steer’s research at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory focused on finding a well-tolerated technology-based solution to detect forms of (unverbalised) distress.

Qualitative research involving frontline care workers was instrumental in identifying a sock as the form factor of choice for people living with dementia. Wrist-worn devices are often removed, can be perceived as stigmatising, and may increase agitation.

During the research, Dr Steer volunteered at a dementia unit operated by St Monica Trust. There he found that at least half of people diagnosed with dementia experience episodes of agitation and aggression – so called ‘distressed behaviours’.

During the research, Dr Steer volunteered at a dementia unit operated by St Monica Trust. There he found that at least half of people diagnosed with dementia experience episodes of agitation and aggression – so called ‘distressed behaviours’.

“Zeke’s passion was clear from his first day with us and he worked closely with staff, relatives and residents to better understand the effects and treatment of dementia.”

“We were really impressed at the potential of his assisted technology to predict impending agitation and help alert staff to intervene before it can escalate into distressed behaviours.”

“In the future I hope SmartSocks® will help enable people living with dementia to retain their dignity and have better quality outcomes for their day-to-day life.”

— Fran Ashby, care home manager at Garden House, St Monica Trust

Early findings of the research were exciting enough to secure the backing of Alzheimer’s Society through their Accelerator programme. As the UK’s leading dementia charity, Alzheimer’s Society’s support and investment acted as a catalyst for the commercialisation of the technology.

We are still testing our second product SmartSocks®COMFORT with people living with mid to late-stage dementia. SmartSocks®COMFORT will be launched in early 2024 as a solution for monitoring emotional distress in people with a communication difficulty due to dementia, severe autism, or a learning disability.

“Some people with dementia may present behaviours such as aggression, irritability and resistance to care.”

“This innovative wearable tech is a fantastic, accessible way for staff to better monitor residents’ distress and agitation.”


— Natasha Howard-Murray, Senior Innovator, Alzheimer’s Society

Research

Research continues to be a driving force at Milbotix. Academic collaborations with Brunel University, University of Exeter, Imperial College London, the UK Dementia Research Institute, University of Southampton, University of the West of England and others are providing independent validation of SmartSocks and shedding light on new applications of the technology.

Milestones

2020 | Milbotix founded

2021 | Joined Conception X, the UK’s leading PhD deeptech venture programme

2022 | Recipient of an UnLtd Millenium Award

2022 | Secured investment and support from Alzheimer’s Society through the Accelerator programme

2022 | Medilink South West Award

2022 | Joined SETsquared, ranked as the world’s top business incubator

2023 | Awarded three Innovate UK grants totalling £900k to fund SmartSocks’ development and undertake evaluations in care homes
and the community

2023 | Awarded Business Innovation Fund grant from the West of England Combined Authority

2022 | Santander X UK Awards Accelerate category winner

2023 | AbilityNet Tech4Good Award winner

2023 | Completed a financing round led by British Design Fund, supported by Two Magnolias, Crowdcube and angels

2024 | Milbotix invited to present SmartSocks research findings at the Alzheimer’s Society International Conference (AAIC), the world’s largest forum for the dementia research community