When we think of blankets, we often think of cozy nights and hot chocolate. But what if they had the power to change the course of healthcare technology, especially during the coronavirus pandemic? Executive MBA student, Olivia Lin, had this exact same thought. She wanted to combine her strong tech background and desire to create textiles with a purpose. Olivia and fellow EMBA student, Edward Shim, soon launched their start-up, Studio 1 Labs, specializing in cutting-edge textile technology.
Their first product? A “smart” bed sheet that can be used in hospitals to monitor patients’ vitals. This has been crucial during the COVID-19 crisis because it continuously monitors for respiratory distress. The bed sheet detects respiratory patterns and transmits the data to a computer terminal for healthcare workers. With advanced data accuracy and analytics, this technology can also predict the onset of health decline and emergencies like apnea, heart attack and stroke.
Olivia is originally from Taipei, Taiwan and grew up in Canada. She studied psychology at the University of Toronto, and earned a Master’s and later a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from the University of Waterloo. While studying psychology, Olivia was drawn to subject matter known as Human Factors, a field focused on the application of psychology in society.
When asked how and why she made the transition from psychology to starting a textile tech company, Olivia laughed — the transition even surprised her. She had a friend who worked in textile technology and saw how she combined fabric, art, and modern technology to create clothing with a purpose. This sparked Olivia’s interest and curiosity and she asked for her friend’s help in learning how to sew fabrics infused with tech.
While completing her Ph.D., Olivia met Edward, and her hobby soon turned into a business idea as the two began researching the commercialization of fabric sensor technology. They had identified a growing trend in healthcare of using everyday objects as tools for monitoring vitals and felt that textiles might just be the perfect canvas for such a device. This kind of application had particular relevance to Edward, who, when serving in the military, sustained an injury which left him experiencing respiratory issues. He was well aware of the processes in place for patients to have their breathing monitored and knew there had to be a better way. Both he and Olivia saw a need for improvement in this space and after enlisting the help of a few more colleagues, Studio 1 Labs was born.
“There was a lot of exploration and experimentation and finally we found an application that really works,” said Olivia.
Studio 1 Labs’ fabric sensor bed sheets are a glimpse at the future of health technology. These sensors monitor a patient’s respiration pattern, location, movement, and prolonged pressure. The patient does little more than lie in bed and his or her vitals are measured and reported. This is especially important for elderly patients, who are less able to adjust their lives for doctors to gather the data they need to make an informed diagnosis and treatment plan.
Beyond product development, Olivia had also recognized the need to increase her knowledge of business and strategy. This is when she decided to pursue an Executive MBA. With Studio 1 Labs having locations in both Canada and Taiwan, Olivia was constantly traveling and Quantic’s mobile-first design enabled her to learn no matter where she was.
“Being an entrepreneur, I felt like I had gaps in my knowledge and I couldn’t keep pace in conversations with executives and potential partners to the degree I needed to. I wanted more of the knowledge that would enable me to carry on and lead these conversations.” said Olivia.
Olivia’s impressive efforts in creating this business have not gone unrecognized. She was featured by Girls in Tech Taiwan 40 Under 40 and Studio 1 Labs won the Markham Board of Trade Aspire Startup Award in 2018. Outside of being the Executive Director of Studio 1 Labs, Olivia was a mentor for the City of Waterloo’s initiative, Girls in STEAM, a program that promoted tech and other STEAM careers to local girls to spark their interest at a young age. Olivia now lives in Taiwan, as she continues her rewarding (and challenging) entrepreneurial journey and helps to continue to #ChangeTheCourse of healthcare technology.