Jerry Wilmink didn’t have to look too far for inspiration when he launched a company called WiseWear. He found it in his own family — his grandfather, who suffered from dementia, had fallen and broken his hip and was unable to call for help. He suffered injuries in 2010 that led to his unfortunate death.
Wilmink, who was raised in Brecksville by his grandparents, graduated from University School in Huntington Valley and obtained his doctorate in biomedical engineering at Vanderbilt University. With that training, he set out on a mission to warn a person of potential physical problems and call for help.
In 2013, he launched a company called WiseWear in San Antonio, Texas, and developed a system that could send Bluetooth signals through metal, used in connection with a smartphone. That led to the creation of fashion jewelry such as a bracelet capable of measuring fitness data — and one that is a lifeline in cases of emergency as well.
“This is a smart jewelry device for women or a female senior, and when they need help, they just tap three times on
Cleveland native develops technology to send for help by tapping bracelet
Smart jewelry to the rescuethe bottom of the bracelet,” Wilmink says. “It sends a text message of their GPS location to all their loved ones that she needs help at that exact location.”
The fusion of technology and fashion drew the attention of 94-year-old fashion legend Iris Apfel to the degree that she became the face of WiseWear. She agreed to design new pieces for WiseWear’s future collections.
A whisper in the ear
Meanwhile, Wilmink didn’t forget the mission that his grandfather’s accident inspired. He was also developing a hearing aid device with built-in biosensors.
“What the hearing aid does is it picks up when a senior is dehydrated, when their balance is off or when their gait is off,” he says. “Then it whispers in their ear, ‘You are at risk for falling. Sit down.’”
The device has received funding through the National Science Foundation and is now is the clinical testing stages.
“It’s probably going to take another six months or so before we start going through FDA approval process, but the bracelets are the main product right now,” Wilmink says.
Not to leave men out of the picture, Wilmink is also developing a ring that will have similar abilities.
“If you are on a construction site and you fall off a bridge and need help immediately, you just tap the ring and you can alert an SOS message to get help,” he says.
WiseWear has received major media exposure and is being carried by retailers such as Macy’s and the Home Shopping Network.
“We’re really having a good time and going really fast. There are 10 of us right now, and we plan to scale up and have at least 20 employees by the end of the year. In 2014 we started with two of us, so we’ve been doubling at least every year.”
How to reach: WiseWear, www.wisewear.com