Science and Technology

PLUX: the Técnico spin-off that stands out worldwide in biomedical devices

We can hardly imagine our life without those magical devices that help us monitor our physiological signals. Nowadays, and thanks to PLUX, we can learn more about our body and our health through a very affordable sensor, without leaving our home. Perhaps the name PLUX is unfamiliar to you, but one of its most successful products it is certainly not: BITalino. According to a report by Global Market Insight, PLUX is one of the 10 leading companies worldwide in the mobile health market (mHealth).

“PLUX combines wireless advanced hardware for monitoring biosignals such as Electromyography (EMG), Electrocardiography (ECG), Electrodermal Activity (EDA), and many other parameters, with customised software applications aimed at its clients, including four lines of products and services”, explains Hugo Silva, Técnico professor, IT researcher and co-founder of PLUX.

“The hardware to support biomedical engineering research at the time PLUX was established, in 2007, was essentially bulky equipment, with communications based on wired connections, limited performance, and high costs. In addition, the software was complex to use and not very flexible”, recalls the Técnico professor.

“At the time, wireless communication technologies such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth were growing fast and we started to develop some tools to support our own research, which were well received by our peers, thus demonstrating the need for this type of solutions”, recalls professor Hugo Silva.

BITalino, a differentiating solution designed in Portugal and built for the world

BITalino is perhaps the most well-known PLUX product. Currently it is marketed in more than 80 countries, and there are more than tens of thousands of BITalino biomedical toolkits spread all over the world. “This success is due to the fact that we have created a set of truly differentiating tools that responded to the pressing needs of students, researchers, and professionals”, stresses professor Hugo Silva.

BITalino is a low-cost device, created at IT with very limited resources, that “is redefining education, research and prototyping for biomedical applications worldwide, providing tools that otherwise would be inaccessible”, says the Técnico professor.

Less than a year after its launch in 2013, the project was already being used in some of the world’s most remote places, such as the Philippines, Mauritius, New Zealand, Mexico, Singapore, etc.

Through this low-cost, open-source platform, people started to use biomedical sensors at home. This was a great step towards the democratization of Science, influencing the advancement of this area by helping thousands of institutions, companies and individual users around the world to develop work in biomedical engineering and related areas.

“BITalino is scientifically validated, it is simple and quick to use, and is designed so that all accessories work harmoniously”, highlights professor Hugo Silva.

The reduced cost of BITalino is also one of the reasons for its success. “We deconstructed the concept hardware and software for biomedical research, by reducing the hardware to the essential, providing free and open-source software”, explains professor Hugo Silva. “This allowed to galvanize an international community that shares common interests such as biosignals, exchange of experiences, and cooperation”, adds the professor.

The IT researcher believes that the success of this project lies in the “commitment, professionalism, creativity, and passion with which the team embraced the project from day one”. From the engineering project, to the promotional video that involved employees, families and pets, “everyone did their best to create this solution designed in Portugal and built for the world”, highlights professor Hugo Silva.

Recently, the team created a smaller version of BITalino Core – the BITalino Mini.

A high-performance system to support research and much more

In addition to BITalino, PLUX offers other products such as biosignalsplux – a wireless enabled physiological sensors toolkit designed for researcher to collect reliable biosignals data in multiple application areas and use cases – and physioplux – a state of the art biofeedback system designed for physiotherapists to provide an interactive experience to assess and guide patient recovery.

The company’s engineering services support the implementation of customised solutions based on physiological sensors and wearable devices.

Although small in size, PLUX is present in more than 80 countries, with over 600 customers around the world – which include more than half of the world’s top 100 universities.

The climb to success and the desire to go further

Professor Hugo Silva recalls “as in most business projects, the first years were marked by great uncertainty. We really have followed a path that is growing with great consistency”.

In 2010, PLUX won the “Biggest Innovation” Award. In 2017, the Técnico spin off won the 1st place at the European Commission Innovation Radar Prize 2017, in the “Industrial & Enabling Tech” category, and in 2018 the European Commission awarded PLUX the Seal of Excellence.

More recently, in June this year, PLUX was listed in the report by Global Market Insights as one of the 10 reference companies worldwide in the mobile health market (mHealth), along with important names such as Philips, Bayer and Qualcomm. “This recognises the potential of our products, our capacity for continuous innovation, our users’ perception of quality, and the reputation we’ve managed to create over the years”, says professor Hugo Silva.

Less than a month later, PLUX was named one of the 31 Top Medical Device Startups and Companies in Portugal released by Best Startups EU.

“Our team, composed of 30 professionals committed to create innovative technologies to boost top work in biomedical engineering worldwide, is our great asset”, highlights professor Hugo Silva.

“Our ambition is to become one of the world’s biggest references in the area of biosignals”, stresses professor Hugo Silva. “We expect a consolidation of research and development, a growth of the mHealth area – namely clinical research – and an evolution in the development of OEM manufactured products”, shares the Técnico professor.