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Case stories.

Case story:

Emme Smart Birth Control

15-51% of users forget to take their birth control pills on time. Some of the many reasons are that they find it challenging to establish a routine and stay motivated. Enter Emme, a healthcare technology company with a mission to put women's health in women's hands, starting with birth control. The Emme team came to us with a vision: to empower people to take and track birth control pills no matter where they are.

“We want to create a birth control pill case that can sense when a pill is taken, and to build an app that reminds people to take their pill. Can you help us?”

Our answer was yes. The first thing we did was get all the right people in the same room: product managers from Emme, mechanical engineers from Spanner Product Development, and firmware and electrical engineers from our team. We held a series of conversations on budget, responsibilities, timelines, and deliverables.

Emme’s biggest priority was to build a working prototype for field trial studies and to gain investor funding. To get there, we mapped out these project phases:

• Phase 1 / system requirements

• Phase 2 / mechanical constraints, component selection

• Phase 3 / hardware experiments

• Phase 4 / schematics, layout, and fabrication

• Phase 5 / firmware development to provide framework for application and testing hardware

• Phase 6 / board bring up (BBU)

• Phase 7 / firmware for application

• Phase 8 / quality assurance (QA)

“With product development, there’s always a surprise or two in store.”

Then, we got to work. The team at Emme was not yet experienced in product development - and that was okay! Our engineers worked with them to understand high-level requirements and constraints, from budget to mechanical. Together, we determined we needed to take a conservative approach to the design; functionality was priority one, bill of materials (BOM) a close second, then all the rest.

Next, we worked with the mechanical engineer to create a mechanical control outline (MCO) for board space and dove into integrated circuit (IC) component selection. With a vendor, we held a lot of conversations about a key piece of hardware to detect pill case removal, and performed many experiments to prove the approach. At the same time, we began designing the product itself.

Initially, Emme sought a breadboard solution. We tried this, but quickly realized it would cost Emme more to assemble each one and support assembled units than it would be to simply make a custom board, which was ultimately needed anyways. Once we shared our recommendation with the whole group, it was agreed that we’d move forward with a custom board. Firmware development began with phase four (schematics, layout, and fabrication). We wrote algorithms and the necessary digital signal processing (DSP) to make sure that the case would detect when the case was opened and pill pack was removed. And, we implemented basic Bluetooth technology (BLE) so that the device could talk to the smartphone app. Once all the coding was related to the framework, our board arrived and we began a step called board

bring up (BBU), a key milestone where our team really shines! After BBU, we built an app on top of the coded framework. Eventually, we had a fantastic working prototype that the Emme team was able to use to catapult to new heights. They won funding from Bolt, a pre-seed investment firm, which enabled them to soon after gain FCC certification, get more funding, put the product on the market, and get acquired by a major healthcare company (though perhaps not in that order). After Bolt and Emme made their partnership official, our team spent a considerable amount of time making sure our work was properly transitioned to Bolt, from handing off design assets and documentation to a presentation and demo. At Intercreate, we commit to making sure our clients are left in competent and capable hands.

“We ended this project satisfied that together we created something elegant that will help millions of people - and all on time and budget! We’re in talks with Emme to continue working with them, and we can’t wait for what’s next.”

Principal Engineer: Dave Desrochers
Services: Firmware engineering, Hardware engineering, Prototyping, Testing, Project management

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