For the visually impaired yet active consumers who need to independently navigate to destinations in unfamiliar environments, Serenity Systems has developed a belt, cane and an app which navigates the user and gives obstacle alerts via tactile feedback. Unlike current solutions, their system keeps the user’s auditory system free, which can be used to obtain environmental cues and maintain situational awareness, thus improving their safety and providing them peace of mind.
What was the inspiration for your company?
We were standing at the McMaster University campus, and saw a blind student being walked to their class. We wondered how we, as engineers, could help such people navigate independently to places while simultaneously avoiding obstacles. This started a year-long journey to design a system which would accomplish these goals – thereby resulting in Serenity.
What is the best part about what you do on a day-to-day basis?
Working on the technical design of our system and constantly updating it based on user feedback. This not only instils confidence in our consumers, but also gives us great satisfaction to see our system accomplish the initially set goals.
What is the most challenging part?
The most challenging part of our work is to try and think as a visually impaired person would. Every decision we make, be it a design decision or a business one, needs to be evaluated from a visually impaired person’s perspective. This often requires considerable insight into their challenges and direct feedback from the users.
How do you measure success?
Success is measured by the number of lives we’ve changed.
What is the best recognition you have received?
We have won the second place in the Biomedical Engineering category at the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) demo day at McMaster University in April. This was followed by an excellent article in The Hamilton Spectator and a radio interview on CHML AM900.
What are your plans for the next year and beyond?
We are in the process of running a pilot study to test the effectiveness of our system against currently existing solutions. We hope to demo our product along with preliminary results of the study at the conference held by CNIB this year. Furthermore, we expect to release a commercial product across North America within the next two years.
Do you have any advice for your professionals or students studying to pursue a career in your field?
In addition to learning the technical background, attend conferences and indulge in networking. It is a great asset when time comes to get word out on whatever you have accomplished.
What differentiates you from your competition?
Our unique design includes a smartphone hub, which integrates multiple portable devices. It utilizes tactile feedback to communicate to the user while leaving their auditory system free. This grants the user the opportunity to navigate independently without needing someone to show them the route to new locations. Hence our system not only improves their quality of life but also their safety, granting them and their loved ones peace of mind.
Why is Hamilton the home for your company?
McMaster University is where we developed this product and why we started testing our product in Hamilton. This city provides a good base of researchers and business mentors for us to learn both sides of running a company – technical and commercial.