Personal electric vehicle company WHILL is introducing much-needed innovation to the mobility sector and boosting IoT in healthcare with the new Model Ci.
For those with limited mobility, a lack of independence when it comes to getting around can seriously dent confidence and well-being. But as my significant other, a trainee occupational therapist, tells me, there are plenty of older patients who don’t like using mobility aids because they find them ugly, undesirable and stigmatising.
This has led to initiatives such as Pimp my Zimmer, which has seen care home residents in Wales decorate their walking frames with the help of local schoolchildren. There’s a growing recognition that, in order to be more attractive to users, mobility aids need modernising – and that’s particularly true of personal mobility vehicles, many of which are dated, have a limited range and struggle on more challenging terrain.
How IoT in healthcare is shaking up mobility
It’s encouraging to see the IoT spread its influence to this sector, combined with the range and manoeuvrability enhancements of modern engineering. Enter the WHILL Model Ci, just named a CES 2018 ‘Best of Innovation’ Awards winner.
“With its modern design, the Model Ci challenges today’s conventions with a product that, due to its futuristic appeal, eliminates the stigma and adverse psychological impact that affects people who use mobility devices,” says Satoshi Sugie, CEO of WHILL. “The result is not just freedom of mobility, but freedom from the self-consciousness often associated with a wheelchair or scooter.”
Since it was founded in 2013, the company has sought to transform today’s antiquated power wheelchairs and scooters into something more empowering, intelligent and aesthetically pleasing.
Going further with the WHILL Model Ci
The first thing that stands out about the Model Ci is its sleek, eye-pleasing design – something not commonly associated with such devices. Its innovations are more than skin-deep though; for example, it has patented ‘omni wheels’, the perpendicular discs of which allow greater manoeuvrability.
Its 10-mile range, all-wheel-drive, easy transportability and intuitive controls mean that the user can feel confident in the vehicle’s capabilities and the extra freedom they bring. WHILL’s booth at CES this year includes an obstacle course where attendees can test out its off-road capabilities, so there’s no need for a user to store and transport multiple chairs on a trip, in order to cater for the various situations in which they might find themselves.
Whill’s latest electric vehicle (EV) can also employ the user’s smartphone, thanks to Bluetooth connectivity, to offer further functionality and monitoring aids. The iPhone app can remotely drive the EV, bringing it to the user. It can also lock and unlock the Model Ci and help them choose a drive mode that’s right for their current environment, including eco, normal and sport modes.
The app also relays vital maintenance information and battery health data, which can help appease the ‘range anxiety’ that is common when using conventional electric scooters and wheelchairs. A built-in USB port even allows the user to charge their mobile devices.
Interestingly, the WHILL Model Ci is not considered a medical device and has not been submitted for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. Nonetheless, the EV will undoubtedly prove as popular and transformative to users as its past products.