by Charles W. Anderson
SAMi (Smart Activity Monitor for individuals) is an infrared camera based nighttime monitoring and recording system for home use. SAMi continuously looks for motion. When motion is detected the camera creates time stamped files that are automatically transferred to the SAMi app running on an iPhone or iPad. These files can be quickly reviewed, and recordings showing abnormal activity are clearly marked for later review with medical personnel. Optionally, SAMi can also be configured to sound an alarm and provide a live video or audio display to a nearby caregiver when such motion is detected.
Seizures can happen at any time. Those that happen during the day can be quite dangerous, but those that happen at night present unique challenges. Nighttime seizures are often never witnessed. In our case, we noticed that our son often had seizures at night when we went on family vacations. Our assumption was they were associated with the stress of travel. It turns out he was regularly having seizures at night even at home, we just never knew it. Tracking seizure frequency is critical for assessing the efficacy of medication and other treatments. With SAMi in place, we had recordings of the nighttime seizures and could provide our doctors with accurate information.
Once we knew he was having seizures at night, we needed to not just record them, but be alerted to when they happened. Our options were co-sleeping, a baby monitor, or a movement detector. No solutions are 100% reliable, and all involve compromises. Co-sleeping was a last resort, especially with a teenager. We tried a baby monitor but found we were waking multiple times a night on minor sounds. A movement detector can work well for seizures with rhythmic movement, but our son’s often looked a lot like sleepwalking.
We built SAMi in 2009 and ran it on a dedicated laptop computer. SAMi silently watches, running on the nightstand next to our bed looking like a digital clock. Minor movements such as turning over and even entering/leaving the room are ignored. If movement continues for a selectable period of time it sounds an alarm, followed by a live video. In our case, even minor motion continuing for more than 20 seconds usually indicated a seizure.
The impact of this on our ability to manage our son’s epilepsy and the entire family’s general quality of life cannot be overstated.
Winning the first Epilepsy Foundation Shark Tank Competition in 2011 allowed me to transform SAMi from an expensive custom solution for us into a refined, much less costly tool for others. I immediately put the funds to work. Specifically, I used the award to purchase the computer and software necessary to write the iOS app. I then purchased and distributed SAMi cameras to other families for testing. Finally, the funds were used to purchase inventory, build the www.samialert.com website, and pay attorney fees for incorporation of HiPass Design Ltd and a patent application.