Do you ever find your wrist very sore or in pain because you’ve been in a certain position for too long? There’s no doubt that students at Cornell can get wrapped up in the cycle of work and stress, and with that comes poor habits when it comes down to crunch time. Still, repetitive motion injuries do not stop after college. In fact, these injuries become even more serious in the workplace and result in enormous costs to the workforce (read more here). A team of Cornell students—Jason Guss, Fnu Aporrva, Pankaj Singh, Will Weinlandt, and Pehuen Moure—saw this problem unfold in many industries and created OrthoFit to provide professionals with custom wearable solutions that enable posture monitoring and correction. As current CEO of OrthoFit, Jason Guss (PhD. ’18, Biomedical Engineering) recently sat down with E@D to share their story:
Tell me about OrthoFit and its mission.
OrthoFit creates smart wearables and software that aim to prevent repetitive motion injuries and improve the understanding and assessment of these injuries in the workplace. Repetitive motion injuries are soft tissue injuries that develop over long periods of time, and they are difficult to detect and diagnose. This is because the injury may have originated from a small habit, but having it done upon thousands and thousands of times, it eventually becomes a serious issue.
Our solution, which we are still currently working on, is a smart glove that can monitor and track the position, grip force, and vibration of your hand—all components that are linked to repetitive motion injuries. The glove collects this data, compares it to standards in the individual’s work field, and then ultimately assesses if such motions can put you at risk. From there on, you can then analyze your habits, your work environment OrthoFit, etc. to address the problem.
How do you connect and communicate with your target customers?
Our target customers are large corporations that have employees who are at high risk of developing repetitive motion injuries. Since firms will have to pay workers’ compensation costs and suffer from its workers taking off so many days, OrthoFit can help potentially cut down these expenses. We reached out to many industries, and the one industry we immediately got a lot of feedback from was the meat and poultry processing industry. Workers in this field are constantly doing cuts on poultry and meat in an assembly-line fashion, and as a result, they actually have the highest rate of developing injuries across all industries.
The feedback we get from the meat and poultry processing industry has always been consistent and strong. I previously reached out to Tyson simply through the “contact us” section on its website—the same place where people complain about their chicken—to introduce OrthoFit. Within a week, I got a message from the corporate health and safety center. The same situation has happened with many other companies as well, which has been awesome.
What do you think serves as OrthoFit’s differentiating point?
We have recently seen some companies have a similar business model, but there hasn’t been any companies specifically targeting the meat and poultry industry, as they embrace a broader focus. In addition, most of them focus on collecting data on the individual, whereas OrthoFit has more scalability to address an entire workforce. Ergonomic consulting companies are also experienced in this field to give companies analyses and suggestions, but they do not have the technology we are building and are only a one-time service.
What stage of development is OrthoFit currently in?
As of now, we’ve finished the second round of the prototype for our glove, and we are beginning to test it. For the software, we have a basic version of it but are looking to further develop it to ultimately get valuable feedback from the meat and poultry industry.
What are the next steps?
Moving forward, we are hoping to have a finished product that we can run a pilot study with during the summer. Many companies have expressed interest in the study and will in fact fund the pilot study. After that, we hope to get much feedback for improvements and from there, possibly scale up, and consider new facilities and industries.