A Biosensing Wearable Device Company Partners with TechBlocks to Deliver on the Promise of Digital Health
Crash Rate Dropped
Through our engagement, we were able to lessen the number of active bugs on the platform and reduce daily crashes by 100%.
Release Cycle Reduced
We were able to reduce their deployment lifecycle from over 30 days per release to 5 days.
Major Bugs Squashed
We eliminated over 30 major bugs that were causing crashes.
Stress is nothing new in our busy lifestyles. Whether its stress related to personal relationships or our workplace, it’s a normal part of our life.
Chronic stress, anxiety, and other mood disorders are becoming a grave problem across a large population segment.
Doctors, clinicians, and patients can monitor for signs of stress and anxiety using Heart Rate Variability (HRV). HRV is the physiological phenomenon of variation in the time interval between heartbeats. It is measured by the variation in the beat-to-beat interval.
Chronic Disease Progression
Generally speaking, individuals with a higher HRV tend to be more adaptable to stress, are often at peace, and may also be healthier. Individuals with low heart rate variability are often in fight-or-flight mode.
Studies state that anxiety and other anxiety-related disorders are among the most common mental illnesses in the United States. According to a survey by The National Institute of Mental Health published in 2017, 19.1% of adults (around 40 million adults) in the US have had an anxiety disorder.
Barriers to treatment for physiological disorders can be summed up into three categories: accessibility, acceptability, and availability. Acceptability is often inhibited by stigma related to mental illnesses, lack of efficacy, and receptiveness with healthcare professionals. A study indicated that over 111 million Americans live in “mental health professional shortage” areas, and mental health professionals underserve 77% of countries in the US.
These mental health disorders are often comorbid with other chronic disorders. Our client, a biosensing wearable device manufacturer, has emerged as the gold standard biomarker for mental health, with its clinical-grade ECG that trains individuals to improve their HRV.
About the Client
Between 2012 and 2017, the wearable device market saw an increase of 552%, making up more than 80% of the overall mobile sensing health and fitness device market. The wearable devices market is promising, with wearable health and fitness device shipments reaching over 533 million in 2021, supported by the growth of 5G technology.
Lief Therapeutics, a San Francisco-based wearable devices company, began the development of their clinically validated wearable in 2014. They provide a super-thin wearable patch that tracks users’ heart rate and breath statistics. The Lief is one of the smartest and most clinically accurate heart rate variability (HRV) wearable devices for mental health. It is possibly the only device that can intervene in real-time to help users control their body’s natural stress response through a series of safe, calming breathing exercises.
The device is designed in such a way that a user can wear it right over the heart and is accompanied by a mobile application that includes a virtual coach to help your body de-stress.
Put simply, Lief Therapeutics
“Behavioral coaches and wearable smart patch empowers patients to improve their mental health”
without having to visit a physical clinic. As more and more operations shifted to virtual settings because of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lief helped individuals get access to the mental health services they needed, fully virtual, and covered by most U.S. insurance plans.
The wearable device works on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), which can be linked to a paired smartphone for data synchronization via mobile apps. The application acts as an interface for individuals to interact with the device in order to get results and visual feedback.
This suggests that the device has immense potential to help its users better understand their stress levels and overall emotions, thereby positively impacting their mental health. The Lief Therapeutics team claims they are working with world-class clinicians and physicians at The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and Stanford University to help its users record thoughts, sentiments, and overall behaviors to understand better how specific negative thinking patterns affect them.
As of now, Lief Rx has been used by thousands of users across the US to reduce symptoms of chronic mental health disorders surrounding stress and anxiety.
Like most companies in the wearable health space, our client uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology to link their device with a mobile phone. Additionally, they faced challenges maintaining a stable connection, providing firmware updates to their device, and interpreting raw sensor data.
One of the major challenges faced by Lief Therapeutics was that the wearable device needed persistent connectivity with the host device, such as a smartphone, which often resulted in high packet drops over BLE. This resulted in an unbalanced and poor UX for the companion mobile app.
The inconsistency between phone manufacturers’ implementation of Bluetooth protocols and sleep and inactivity modes made it extremely difficult to maintain a connection to the wearable device.
The wearable requires a companion app to interpret the sensor data and trigger a therapy routine for the user. If the companion app is placed into sleep mode or the host device blocks the BLE connection, the user would not receive notifications that their stress levels are elevated and would not receive the product’s therapeutic benefits.
As our client’s product evolved, they needed a way to consistently update the wearable device’s firmware without the risk of bricking the device. When the client came to us, they had quality issues with firmware updates that would:
Disable the device, requiring the device to be returned under warranty
Prevent rollbacks to previous firmware versions, or updates to future versions
Fail to update the firmware entirely
At the start of our engagement, the clients’ companion app had a crash rate of over 80%, which caused third-party monitoring tools like Firebase Crashalytics to trigger Velocity Alerts to developers.
Over 10,000 users of their product experienced at least one or more application crashes per day, leading to lost data, device pairing issues, and overall poor user experience.
The sensors in the wearable provide complex and real-time monitoring of the user’s HRV, pulse, orientation, and other data.
The client needed a way to interpret the biosensors and other data from their wearable to monitor the users’ stress levels & device status and provide visual, easy-to-follow insights to their users. The patterns in the data were unexpected and did not conform to the initial models the client’s team initially developed.
Lief Therapeutics needed a digital health engineering partner that understood the complexities of developing wearable wireless devices, a strong foundation in user experience design, and industry knowledge of health care.
Through a consultative, phased approach, our business analysts & engineers were able to develop solutions to solve each of the four problems.
Our team met with the Leif team to collect initial feedback, requirements, and desired project outcomes. Our business analysts, solution experts, and engineers spent time with the client’s product in our device lab and conducted thorough hands-on testing.
Through our own testing, our team uncovered additional bugs and deficiencies that were flagged to the client. Enhancement requests, bugs, and deliverables were grouped, prioritized, and scoped out to maximize the client’s investment and user experience.
Our developers got to work through a CI/CD delivery model, baking in automated and manual quality assurance at every step. Through this process, additional areas of opportunity were identified to the client for prioritization of newly discovered bugs, code enhancement, or new feature opportunities.
We helped the client with our expertise in providing managed application support services and quality assurance processes – particularly surrounding wearable technologies and BLE. Moreover, our team helped them modernize their frameworks to leverage the latest technologies that could eventually help Lief with their challenges.
Our engineering team helped set up quality assurance processes, proposed sustainable high-performing strategies, and formulated test cases for complete coverage of the companion app. Besides, we tested the companion app with a higher number of mobile devices on both Android and iOS platforms.
As features & bug fixes were developed, they would be released through our CI/CD delivery pipeline, ensuring timely fixes to device firmware, companion app, and server-side integration. Our team continuously monitored app store crash reports, user feedback, and other signals to identify new potential issues.
Lief Therapeutics quickly realized it had chosen a partner that stood by its word, because its results were nothing short of astonishing.
App Stability & User Satisfaction
Through our engagement, we were able to lessen the number of active bugs on the platform and reduce daily crashes by 100%. At the end of our first engagement with the client, we eliminated over 30 major bugs causing crashes.
The clients’ app is stable, and their users are happy. Our team developed new ways to interpret sensor data and give users a gamified way to manage stress through meaningful visualizations and interactive activities.
Accurate Sensor Data & Wearable Updates
Sensor data coming from the wearable was inconsistent and difficult to interpret. Our team identified trends in the data stream and developed a new algorithm for breathing sensor interpretation and data visualization.
Through our engagement, we developed a proper OTA update deployment system that allows the client to upgrade and downgrade firmware without the risk of bricking the device or causing issues for the users.
Connectivity & Interactivity
Through our expertise in developing and maintaining Bluetooth device connections, we provided the client with a stable ecosystem from their wearable device to the companion app and server-side platforms, allowing for real-time updates and notifications from the wearable to the user.
Our synchronization protocols helped prevent client-side data loss, increasing user satisfaction with the platform.
Increased Speed To Market
\Users do not want to wait months for application or firmware updates. Through Our CI/CD development process and use of custom quality engineering automation frameworks, we reduced their deployment lifecycle from over 30 days per release to under 1 week.
Pairing industry knowledge with digital product engineering has been a huge factor in TechBlocks’ ability to significantly reduce the time needed to develop and provide a stable application.
“We had a strategic partner who came to our rescue, challenged our existing processes, and showed the value of the new strategy to quality assurance. You know you are succeeding when patients reach out for assistance in determining eligibility for Lief Rx. That’s the momentum we have built.”Lief Therapeutics Team
“TechBlocks excelled with in-depth industry knowledge, and we were certain they could gauge our requirements as both subject matter experts and application support providers.”Lief Therapeutics Team