Charles and Cynthia Anderson are the co-founders of HiPass Design LLC, makers of SAMi: The Sleep Activity Monitor. SAMi is an infrared camera-based motion detection alert system used to detect and record unusual movements at night. Charles is personally connected to epilepsy. We spoke with Charles to learn a little bit more about his connection to epilepsy and what motivates him to do the work that he does.
What is your personal connection to epilepsy?
In 2006, my son had his first tonic-clonic seizure while we were out of the country. He went on medications right away and we thought he was well controlled. What we didn’t realize was that he was still having seizures in his sleep. We had no idea that someone could have seizures in their sleep and not be aware that they were happening. It was only when we were on another family trip sharing a hotel room that we witnessed his night-time seizures.
How often was he having night-time seizures?
When we got home, we rigged up a baby monitor in his room. It turns out that he was having them a couple of times a month. My wife was losing sleep listening to the baby monitor throughout the night in fear that he would have a seizure and that we wouldn’t know about it.
What did you decide to do?
I looked for night-time monitors but couldn’t find anything suitable. I am an engineer by training and put those skills to use. I bought a networked security camera and created software that would stream the video to a program I wrote that could analyze our son’s movement in the night. Anytime there was abnormal movement, the computer would turn on in our room with an alert and live video so that we could check to see if everything was ok. Over time, we began to refine the algorithm to try and reduce the false alarms. For example, if movement starts at the edge of the camera and goes to the center, this was one of us going in to check on our son and wouldn’t require an alarm alert.
How did this turn into SAMi (a commercially available seizure activity monitoring camera)?
In 2011, I read about the Epilepsy Therapy Project’s new Shark Tank competition. I presented the concept and my prototype and won the award. I used the award money to fund turning my prototype into the product we have been selling for the last seven years.
How does the system currently work?
SAMi uses a camera in the bedroom that works in complete darkness. The video data is sent to an iOS device (iPhone/iPad/iPod) that is running an app I wrote to look for unusual movement. The parent or other caregiver typically has this on a nightstand by their bed. While the app is running it displays a clock. When unusual movement is detected an alarm is sounded and the iPhone turns on the live video and audio feed from the room where the person with epilepsy is. Moreover, all of these events are recorded, time-stamped and archived for your review later as well. Since the award and the improvements in design, we have sold around 6,000 of these devices around the world.
How is your son doing now?
My son is seizure free! In his last year of high school, he decided the risk of surgery was outweighed by the benefit of having more seizure control and independence. At that point we had tried all the available medications. After doing the work-up at the epilepsy center and determining that he was a good candidate, he had a temporal lobe resection. He is still on medications, but he is living a seizure-free life.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
I wanted to thank the Epilepsy Foundation for the early support through the Epilepsy Therapy Project.
But more importantly, I wanted to stress the importance of monitoring for night-time seizures. Whether you use our system or another system, please consider using one!
More Info on Considering a Seizure Alert Device