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PolyU startups drive development of gerontechnology


To address the challenges of our aging population, two PolyU startups, named Libpet Tech Limited (Libpet), and PREN Limited (PREN), have made significant breakthroughs in gerontech product development. These products not only help improve the quality of life for elderly and disabled individuals but also effectively alleviate the pressure on and workload of healthcare workers.

Promoting freedom of travel with smart wheelchairs
Co-founders of Libpet,  Mr Jojo XU (Graduate of MSc in Electronic and Information Engineering Programme in 2021) and Mr Alex LAM (Graduate of BEng (Hons) in Product Analysis and Engineering Design Programme graduate in 2021) have successfully developed a smart all-terrain wheelchair, named TENK, that enables smooth movement on rough terrains like grassland, beaches and stairs through adopting an exclusive patented wheel belt system. The smart wheelchair overcomes the limitations of a conventional wheelchair for its high price and limited mobility on uneven surfaces, allowing physically challenged people to travel easily and independently. TENK has a 50% longer battery life and 60% lower retail price compared to similar products globally for its competitive edge sourcing components in Mainland China.

Mr Jojo XU, co-founder of Libpet and PolyU Graduate of MSc in Electronic and Information Engineering Programme in 2021.

The multiple sensors deployed, including cameras, and ultrasound and IR sensors, detect and analyse obstacles around the wheelchair in real-time, ensuring its stability and user safety. Powered by Internet of Things (IoT) sensing technology, TENK allows users to monitor real-time information relating to speed, distance and battery level through a mobile app. In case of emergency, the smart system can immediately send alerts to caregivers and medical institutions for assistance.

Currently the CEO and Chief Engineer, Mr Jojo Xu expressed his gratitude to PolyU for the unwavering support. He said, “I worked at the University’s Research Institute for Artificial Intelligence of Things (RIAIoT) under the guidance of the RIAIoT Director Prof. CAO Jiannong, where I conducted research on intelligent IoT and robotics applications. I have gained valuable knowledge and experience that has greatly contributed to the success of my entrepreneurial venture,” His sincere thanks also go to the PolyU Knowledge Transfer and Entrepreneurship Office (KTEO) for the mentorship and guidance along the journey.

Mr Alex LAM, another co-founder of Libpet and PolyU Graduate of BEng (Hons) in Product Analysis and Engineering Design Programme graduate in 2021), and the smart all-terrain wheelchair TENK.

The wheelchair seized the National Runner-up prize in this year’s James Dyson Awards in September 2023 and Libpet has secured support from the PolyU Angel Fund with funding from the Innovation and Technology Commission under the Technology Start-up Support Scheme for Universities that helps accelerate the translation of research outcomes and speed up its products’ time to market. The startup plans to launch the wheelchair in Hong Kong before end of this year and expand its target markets in 2024 to the Greater Bay Area, Asia and overseas.

Mr Phil WOO Pak-fai, co-founder of PREN Limited and PolyU Graduate in BA (Hons) in English for Business and Professional Communication graduate 2008, and Master of Design (Design Strategies) 2013.

Relieving healthcare workers’ workload with anti-infection mobile toilet

Co-founded by PolyU alumnus Mr Phil WOO Pak-fai (BA (Hons) in English for Business and Professional Communication graduate 2008, and Master of Design (Design Strategies) 2013), PREN Limited has successfully developed the allcareAI™ anti-infection mobile toilet with the other founder Mr Kong LEE. This innovation is a commode chair with built-in sensors in a patented integrated design. It is specifically tailored to cater to the needs of the elderly and patients with limited mobility or infectious diseases and can reduce the average time required for healthcare workers to clean the toilet seat and handle excretion disposal by 74%, while reducing the risk of bacterial transmission caused by direct contact.

The allcareAI™ anti-infection mobile toilet.

Before using the toilet, the toilet seat and bowl are wrapped in a specially designed seat cover and excretion collecting bag to enhance hygiene and prevent excretion spills. After the use, controlled by a touchless sensor, the bag with excretion is immediately sealed and dropped into the temporary storage compartment below the mobile toilet, and automatically replaced with a new seat cover and excretion collecting bag. This process is both convenient and hygienic, and helps to prevent odour and excretion spills. When the temporary storage compartment is full or the seat cover and excretion collecting bag is about to run out, the system will alert the healthcare worker for replacement. In collaboration with the PolyU Jockey Club Rehabilitation Engineering Clinic, the anti-infection mobile toilet is under trials and testing in various residential care homes. PREN has also been included on the Hospital Authority supplier list, indicating that the allcareAI™ anti-infection mobile toilet is poised to be widely used in hospitals and clinics across Hong Kong.

Co-founders Mr. Phil WOO and Mr Kong LEE, with the allcareAI™ anti-infection mobile toilet.

As a top 100 startup entrant in the Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund JUMPSTARTER 2023 Global Pitch Competition, PREN has received support such as the PolyU Maker Fund funded by the Home Affairs Bureau of the HKSAR Government through the Youth Development Fund, that accelerated the startup’s market expansion in the Greater Bay Area. Being a successful serial entrepreneur himself, Mr Woo has been named as one of the University’s Outstanding Young Alumni for 2023 by the Department of English and Communication. He expresses heartfelt gratitude for the nurturing and support he received from his alma mater, stating, “My time at PolyU was transformative. I delved into English Communication, which connected me to global trends, and learned how to lead diverse teams, while the design lessons directly shaped our product’s user approach. But the real game-changer has been the PolyU KTEO. Their support feels like when cloud computing backs up client-side tasks – it has been our strong backbone!”

The gerontech innovations by these three alumni exemplifies PolyU’s achievements in promoting knowledge transfer and entrepreneurship. As an innovative world-class university driven by its motto, “To learn and to apply, for the benefit of mankind”, PolyU is committed to creating societal impact by providing staunch support to students, alumni and faculty members, enabling them to pursue interdisciplinary research in addressing the world’s most pressing challenges as well as translate PolyU’s research excellence into impactful innovation. To date, PolyU has nurtured more than 480 startups, including over 60 academic-led initiatives, four unicorns and a number of ponies. We will continue to nurture entrepreneurial talent with a creative mindset, a global perspective and sense of social responsibility for the future of Hong Kong and beyond. 

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