In The Beginning
The twisting path that lead to the development of a sophisticated range of support monitors supplied by Alert-iT began in 1992. At the time, company founder David Godfrey volunteered for REMAP, a fantastic charity network that creates custom-made equipment to help disabled people achieve more independence.
A local mum in Hinckley (Leicestershire) wanted a device that would alert her when her daughter, Jessica, was having a tonic/clonic seizure at night.
At that time, David knew very little about epilepsy. But fortunately, he did know a thing or two about electronics, having designed the control systems for the tilting Advanced Passenger trains and many pressure control and measuring products.
David adapted a sensor that he read about in Practical Wireless to detect bed movement. He also added a small microcomputer to determine if the pattern could be a seizure and attached the system to a cheap wireless doorbell, to create a basic nocturnal seizure detector.
Jessica used this basic system all the way up until 2010, when she was given an up to date version by David in a moment that was captured on Midlands Today TV. Jessica’s mum claims that the crude prototype version saved Jessica’s life on more than one occasion.
A Wider Need
While David cannot claim to be the inventor of the nocturnal bed movement detectors for use in supporting epilepsy (did you know that the Victorians used bed-mounted bells for this purpose), it was one of the first electronic versions.
It soon became apparent that there was a much wider need for this device, but David was not happy using a simple doorbell for such a health critical application. So, he set about designing a failsafe radio technology.
Existing technologies were inappropriate for this purpose, David thought, as they were short range and power hungry. So he developed his own protocol that could achieve a 450-600m range with a 0.011 second transmission time. Compared with other Telecare products, that had a typical range of100-200m and over 2 seconds transmission time, this was a big upgrade.
The first commercial products using this failsafe radio technology were released in 1996 and called Malf-iT, because tonic/clonic seizures were previously known as Grand Mal seizures. The product was sold by an agent called Aremco that specialised in supporting epilepsy. The company received many testimonies that confirmed it saved lives and brought peace of mind to the carers.
To This Day
The sensor derived from an article in Practical Wireless remains unbeatable in its ability to pick up seizure movements anywhere in a double bed, while rarely causing false alarms.
Our engineers, our agents and our clients can all vouch for the reliability of these products, which are perfect for minimising risk for anyone with epilepsy. Just like the first crude design, our products continue to provide peace of mind to those struggling with epilepsy and their carers.
Alert-iT and The Muir Maxwell Trust
Our continued effort to supply effective and affordable epilepsy alert monitors was amply rewarded in 2003 when one of our alarms reportedly saved the life of a young Scottish boy, Muir Maxwell.
In what is now a common tale, his seizures were thought to be under control with his drug regime. But contrary to medical opinion, his parents had the foresight to fit one of our monitors to his bed.
It is important to note that people, especially young children, change. Stress, hormones and lifestyle changes can all affect trigger sensitivities. Muir suffered what was considered a potentially health-damaging seizure, but thanks to the alarm and quick intervention, he was safe.
His parents later went on to establish a well-respected charity – The Muir Maxwell Trust, to aid in the research of and to support those who have epilepsy. Part of the support was to supply our monitors free of charge to those unable to afford them. This not only helped ensure peace of mind for many families coping with epilepsy, but it also provided the security that our fledging company needed to grow and develop new life-saving products.
Fuel for Creativity
Once you have a product, you soon hear of the things it cannot do or does not do well. This was the feedstock of the imagination for the engineers in our team and resellers were also inventive in embracing other technologies to add protection for the users. Therefore, we soon learned that while tonic/clonic was the most prevalent and serious presentation, it did not account for all dangers.
So, by 2000 our bed movement systems were supplemented with imported incontinence detectors to cover not only urine release but also excessive salivation and vomiting. They also had the ability to detect breathing based on a baby monitor being supplied to the NHS. At this point, we had also added a microphone to detect excessive sound.
Because the first user of this monitor was a little boy who made very small clicking sounds, the microphone had a special frequency response, making it sensitive to low volume clicks, even with normal room sounds, such as radio and TV.
Our reseller had previously invented a bed occupancy sensor based on a spring loaded wedge under a leg, which sounded an alarm when the user was out of bed and vulnerable to undetected seizures in the night.
We also started supplying care homes as well as concerned mums and dads. This meant there was a line of pagers on the carer’s desk, as each monitor had its own unique pager. We even coupled the pager to a burglar alarm telephone dialler to pass voice messages to a neighbourhood carer, for those living alone but at risk.
Incorporating a Wealth of Features
In 2006 it became clear that there was a need for a major redesign to incorporate all the new features. David left the safe harbour of employment and started working full time to satisfy the current demand and design our two mainstay monitors, the Companion and the Guardian.
The Companion was designed to incorporate the microphone and enuresis detection that had become so popular. We have also continued the association with the sensor supplier that modified their range of cotton based wetness detectors to suit our need. We were then able to offer sensitive bed and pillow sensors too.
The Guardian was a joint venture with the medical device company that supplied the breathing monitor. They incorporated all the seizure protection methods combined in the Companion along with their patented sensor for the shallow movements that, by their absence, indicate that a Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) may have occurred.
The final piece in our jigsaw was to develop a pager that was able to deal with up to 32 monitors in order to give care homes a suitable annunciator. This used exactly the same failsafe radio system but added a screen that could be programmed with the name of the user whose alarm has been activated.
You can find more information regarding these monitors in our latest brochure.
Turning Our Hands to Marketing
Once the new range of monitors was established it left time and energy to think about how to spread the word about what we could do, in other words, marketing.
Our name was spreading and we were invited to tender for the supply of epilepsy support monitors to a wonderful group called Independence Homes. Melanie McCloud and her husband had set up the company to give those with severe epilepsy a chance to live independently as best they could. A key element therefore was to have an alarm system that meant they did not need to have invasive surveillance.
The Guardian was chosen as it covered all aspects of seizure presentation with connections to a Nurse Call system, applied by Medicare. But they also needed a fall detector for daytime use. Therefore we designed a special small version of our fall detector linked by radio to the Guardian monitor so that both could trigger the same apartment based alarm point. The fall alarm is especially effective for epilepsy as, unlike those for the elderly, it copes with sliding falls, repeated movement, and it pre-warns the user of an alarm and is simply reset by standing up.
Our ongoing relationship with Independence Homes has been a source of inspiration for improving the monitors thanks to the application for such a diverse range of needs within one organisation.
In 2009 the company reached young adulthood, leaving home and renting a small factory. David, our founder, had the pleasure of seeing a small dedicated team beginning to form, with Joe adding to our engineering capability.
At the same time we embraced the name Alert-iT which represented the focus of the company better than our registered name of iTs Designs.
Today, Alert-iT is a mature SME with 13 employees under the leadership of CEO Janet Godfrey. In May 2019, we moved to larger premises in Coalville Business Park where we are proud to be a hub for our international distributors.
After David sadly passed away in 2017, the company continues to further his legacy.
‘The greatest pride I can have is in my team of dedicated and caring staff at Alert-iT who seek to build on that success and provide Plesiocare monitoring of the highest standard to support carers.’
If you would like more information regarding any of our assisted technology and Alert-iT’s distributor network, call on us on 01530 231215 or check out the links below:
- Picomed Norway https://picomed.no/?lang=en
- Picomed Sweden https://www.picomed.se/
- Leisner https://leisner.dk/
- METRA Bvba http://www.metra.be/
- Ugari http://www.ugari.es/
- Tunstall Emergency Response https://tunstallemergencyresponse.ie/
- AposBrno https://www.aposbrno.cz/
- Independent Living Supplies http://epilepsysolutions.co.uk/
- Epilepsy Edge AUZ https://www.facebook.com/EpilepsyEdgeAustralia/