Investment round launched by Bristol firm developing ‘smart’ socks to help dementia patients

February 27, 2023

A Bristol care-tech firm aiming to transform the lives of people with dementia through the use of ‘smart’ socks is looking to raise £500,000 in its first investment round to further develop the pioneering product.

Milbotix was co-founded by former Bristol PhD student Dr Zeke Steer, who quit his job as a software engineer in the defence industry to study at Bristol Robotics Laboratory and find a way to help people like his great grandmother Kath, who had become anxious and aggressive because of her dementia. 

The smart socks he invented track heart rate, sweat levels and motion to give insights on the wearer’s wellbeing – most importantly how anxious the person is feeling.

They look and feel like normal socks, do not need charging, are machine washable and provide a steady stream of data to carers, who can easily see their patient’s metrics on an app.

The firm has already received the backing of some angel investors and is now looking for its first funding round to complete the development of its SmartSock.

Dr Steer, pictured with Milbotix co-founder Jacqui Arnold, who during his PhD research spent some time volunteering with Bristol charity St Monica Trust, said agitation and aggression in dementia were often caused by unmanaged pain and anxiety.

“I came to see that my great grandmother’s symptoms weren’t an isolated case, and that distressed behaviours are very common,” he said.

“Current alternatives to the SmartSocks are worn on the wrist, which presents problems with the devices being removed and causing distress.

“The SmartSocks are comfortable and familiar and exploit the high density of sweat glands on the soles of the feet to more accurately recognise when the wearer is stressed.”

One angel investor was inspired to invest in Milbotix after realising that the SmartSocks would have picked up when his late mother, who had dementia, was becoming increasingly agitated and upset and so would have enabled her family and care staff to respond more quickly and help relieve her anxiety.

Alzheimer’s Society, the UK’s leading dementia charity, estimates there will be 1.6m people with dementia in the UK by 2040, with one person developing dementia every three minutes. Dementia is thought to cost the UK £34.7bn a year.

Alzheimer’s Society senior innovator Natasha Howard-Murray said: “By taking the form of an everyday item, these smart socks are less stigmatising and invasive than current products and will be easier to use in care settings, helping carers to feel less overwhelmed with multiple tasks.”

Dr Steer co-founded Milbotix with Jacqui Arnold, who has been working with people living with dementia for 40 years.

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