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Soter Analytics, a London-based ergonomics tech company, has secured $12 million in new funding. The company’s solutions combine wearable ergonomics trackers, video analytics, and mobile apps to monitor and help prevent dangerous behavior that could lead to injury over time.
Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) currently cost $140 billion annually. MSDs involve injuries to muscles, bones, tendons and nerves that are exacerbated and increased by unsafe twisting, excessive lifting and other behaviors. The company has more than 200 customers, including Travis Perkins, Wincanton and Merck Animal Health in the U.K.; Giant Eagle Supermarkets, Coca-Cola and Gap in the U.S.; and Woolworths and Roy Hill in Australia. Some early Soter users saw a 55% reduction in manual handling industries across warehousing, manufacturing and construction sites.
Founder Matthew Hart conceived of the idea while working as a mechanical and reliability engineer at mining giant BHP Billiton. During his time there, he began to think about how they used technology to monitor the performance of machinery to minimize breakdowns. He realized the same could be done for humans by combining sensors and predictive analytics to monitor performance, increase efficiency and avoid injuries.
Building a digital twin for ergonomics
Soter has developed an innovative model that captures a digital twin of each worker’s ergonomic behavior to personalize feedback. Each worker gets a personalized learning program with specific tutorials, guides, recommendations and self-videoing opportunities to better understand tasks that involve more force, cause pain or increase fatigue. These tools help coach workers on proper form and can track 12 common unsafe behaviors in real time.
The company is also working on a hardware product called the Soter SmartFix. The device can be permanently clipped to any personal hardware, either a helmet, headset, or a shirt collar to assess spinal movements, and attached to an armband to capture shoulder activity.
The vision-processing technology, SoterTask, captures individual task risks and overlays these on areas of the body. A team of doctors, ergonomists, technical engineers, data scientists and movement specialists conducted a two-year study to customize the algorithms for measuring the intensity and strain of different movements. Over 10,000 high-intensity and low-intensity movements were recorded, and the device was taught to differentiate them.
Soter also collaborates with companies to mitigate privacy risks. For example, it allows workers to see their data, but only aggregated and anonymized data are passed on to management.
A growing market for industrial wearables
Allied Market research predicts the global industrial wearables market will grow from $3.79 billion in 2019 to $8.4 billion by 2027. Direct competitors include vendors such as Kinetic, Strongarm Technologies and ProGlove. Other vendors like Intenseye, Drishti, and Hitachi Lumada Video Insights are also developing video analytics to help measure and optimize various physical processes to improve worker safety and address ergonomic and safety issues at the process level.
The funding round was led by AV8 Ventures, supported by OTB Ventures, btov Industrial Technologies Fund, and Verve Ventures, and with the previous backing from Startup Wise Guys.
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