Kalogon's Smart Wheelchair Cushion Reduces Strain and Brings in $3.3M

Anyone who has to use a wheelchair regularly is at risk of injury due to poor circulation. Kalogon believes it can alleviate this common but potentially life-threatening condition with a smart pillow that prevents any body part from being pressed down for too long — and it’s already caught the attention of the VA.

Pressure injuries are caused when a part of the body cannot get enough blood to it and the tissue begins to die. Most people have experienced the beginning of this, as something that tightens around the finger and cuts off blood flow, but it’s not always that outward, painful, or obvious.

“Especially if they have reduced sensation, almost anyone who sits for an extended period of time is at risk for pressure injuries,” said Kalogon founder and CEO Tim Baltz.

Surely the shift to remote work has everyone wondering if sitting for too long is damaging their bodies in one way or another. But it goes beyond back pain; people who can’t stand up and stretch, or feel pressure or pain that could signal a real problem, are at risk of serious disability. Pressure injuries affect millions and result in thousands of deaths each year.

The solution, in theory, is to reduce the pressure on the various parts of the body that are most affected – mainly the buttocks, thighs and tailbone area.

This can be done by the person if they can remember to “unload” by bending like this for a few minutes to relieve the pressure, then do it again on the other side, then forward, etc. . — and does it all the time. Not surprisingly, adherence to this type of self-care is not particularly high.

Getting a sculpted pillow is a step up—you buy an expensive foam one, then shave or compress it to conform to the contours of your body. But Baltz pointed out that this really only works for a little while—your body changes, but the pillow doesn’t, so after a month or two you have to re-customize it: expensive and time-consuming.

More recently, smart adjacent pillows have appeared, made of a pair of interlocking pillows that inflate and deflate sequentially, alternating so that the pressure is not always in one place. They may be better, but the problem with them is that they still allow pressure to build up at the pain points because the pressure relief area is small. And as Baltz pointed out, “the chance of an IT vs. hip injury is like an order of magnitude different, so it doesn’t make sense to treat them the same way.”

The application of Kalogon to adjust the pressure zones of the pillow.

Kalogon’s solution, a pillow called the Orbiter, has five separate areas corresponding to the coccyx and left and right thigh and buttock areas in general. By keeping four of the five inflated, the user is adequately supported and an entire area is relieved of pressure. Then, a few minutes later, it slowly shifts that pressure to the next region, and so on.

Here is a diagram of the pressure being redistributed from the coccyx area to elsewhere (darker and green means higher pressure:

“When you sit on it, we have a basic machine learning algorithm that at its default settings does its best to accommodate your body, but you can customize it to fit,” Baltz said using a companion app or using to a caregiver or clinician. After setting its normal sequence, the pillow also monitors the pressure on different regions so that it can shift differently if the user leans forward or sideways for longer than usual (e.g. typing or napping).

When the pillow inflates the back center area, the pressure is diverted to the front, allowing better blood flow to the sacral area.

“By having 5 cells that can be controlled independently, we can move one at a time and tune that movement – ​​we support the body but drop one of the cells. If you look at a pressure map, you will see that the pressure is falling below the generally accepted threshold,” he continued.

The whole thing is powered by a battery and pump that attaches to the wheelchair and has enough built-in power to last 14-16 hours at default settings (weight redistribution every 3 minutes). Users praised the Orbiter as a huge improvement over regular or semi-smart pillows. One said it allowed him to sit in his chair without discomfort for four hours, which he hadn’t done in years.

You can see how it’s set up and demonstrated in the video below:

Despite the glowing reviews, it’s hard to prove the efficacy of this type of setup, Baltz acknowledged, because there simply isn’t much clinical data on it yet. Although there are generally accepted good practices such as pressure relief, there is no international council of pillow testers that evaluates these things. Although the company has conducted numerous case studies with users, there is no large study that claims the pillow reduces risk by any percentage. However, they can say that it achieves a similar effect to offloading, which everyone agrees is good practice.

Still, the VA took a chance on Kalogon in a few cases where there was a serious risk or pre-existing injury, and Balz said they’ve been very happy with dozens of deployments. While the results aren’t official enough to release, the fact that the VA is ordering more and working with them on a study using the device shows confidence.

The pillow was released in February at $2,000 and is classified as a medical device that can be paid for in a variety of ways, though it won’t yet be covered by insurance or Medicare or the like. That’s in the plans, Baltz hopes, but for now they’re focusing on the “dozens” of VA centers that actively recommend Orbiters. Naturally, there are many veterans who could use the product, and a VA clinician endorsing it makes it more accessible.

Kalogon just raised $3.3 million in seed funding led by DeepWork Capital, SeenFundersOrlando and VenVelo, with additional investment from Sawmill Angels. It also collects federal grant money from the US Air Force (make of that what you will). The funding will go towards scaling the company and, of course, meeting demand.

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