MP learns how smart technology is helping hospital patients

January 30, 2009 10:24 AM
Smart Holograms

David Howarth (centre) meets the experts behind Smart Holograms (from left): Taraq Bashir, head of operations, Ted Wlazlowski, managing director, Julian Attfield, chief financial officer and John Pritchard, chief technical officer.

A Cambridge company, working on the cutting edge of technology, is developing unique holograms to speed up the recovery of hospital patients.

Smart Holograms, based on the Science Park, showed Cambridge MP David Howarth how it is producing images which change colour and/or image when they react to certain substances such as glucose.

The holograms can be used in a hospital intensive care unit to ensure patients' glucose levels in their blood remain steady. This is known to speed up recovery time and allow patients to leave hospital sooner. The technique could also be used to help diabetics manage their condition.

Holograms can be designed to respond to water, salt content or acidity among other substances and can potentially be used as time-temperature indicators for the storage of vaccines.

The company is currently focusing on applying the holograms - made from materials manufactured exclusively for the company - to product authentication in a bid to beat counterfeiters which costs global businesses billions of pounds in lost trade every year. In addition, the company is also developing holograms for product verification applications including holograms to detect water contamination in petrochemical products.

Smart Holograms' chief technical officer, John Pritchard, said: "We have revisited the fundamentals of holography and reinvented certain aspects to provide our holograms with 'sensor' functionality.

"Anyone can use the technology; you don't need any special tools to make it work. We could even engineer sensor holograms to be used in a bottle of milk to indicate when it has gone off."

Speaking about the recession, the company's chief financial officer, Julian Attfield, said that "the markets for venture capital backed companies, looking for additional external funding is the worst I have ever experienced.

"The 'venture' part appears to have gone altogether, and we are having to rely on existing investors and be creative to get the capital we require to realise the tremendous opportunity we have," he said.

Mr Howarth said: "It is encouraging to see a local company using its expertise to support the work of medical professionals in this way. This technology clearly has great advantages in many different fields.

"But there is no denying that this is an extremely difficult time for businesses with very little chance of raising venture capital to allow them to push forward. They must look at imaginative ways to progress, such as merging with major customers.

"Small businesses are the lifeblood of the Cambridge economy. It is clear that the Government must take the lead and find innovative ways to support these companies and others across the country."

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