Founder Friday: Making firefighters safer with FireBeats

Team: Prabodh Panindre, (NYU Faculty), Anurag Mandal, (Tandon ‘23), Praneeth Kumar Thummalapalli (Tandon ‘25), Tanmay Mandal (Tandon ‘25)

About the Venture: FireBeats is an AI-based remote health monitoring app for firefighters. It monitors their physiological data such as heart rate, sleep pattern, activity levels, etc. using health trackers like Fitbits and Apple Watches. It also evaluates cardiovascular risk factors, and alerts firefighters about impending risks for sudden cardiac events.

Q: What problem does FireBeats aim to solve?

A: Despite the risks of burns/smoke inhalation and other myriad physical dangers inherent in firefighting, Sudden Cardiac Events (SCEs) are the leading cause (50-60%) of firefighter morbidity and on-duty deaths. Early identification of cardiovascular health risks (e.g., hypertension, arrhythmia, sleep apnea, etc.) that increase the possibility of sudden cardiac events, continuous monitoring of disease progression, and addressing risks in a timely manner can increase the chances of preventing or surviving an SCE. Thus, real-time monitoring of firefighters' physiological data is highly recommended. 

FireBeats is an AI-based remote health monitoring app for firefighters that monitors the physiological data of firefighters using personal wireless wearable health trackers, evaluates cardiovascular risk factors, and alerts firefighters about impending risks for sudden cardiac events. Our Deep Learning models are trained and developed using firefighters’ health data, and provide personalized experience to firefighters with accuracy greater than conventional methods.

Q: How did the team come together?

A: We are members of the Fire Research Group at NYU, and we found that Sudden Cardiac Events (SCEs) are a leading cause (50-60%) of firefighter morbidity & on-duty deaths. Therefore, we developed FireBeats to mitigate the firefighters’ risks for SCE. The present application has been developed using our decades-long working experience with the US fire service, and our understanding of their needs.

Q: What sets your venture apart from what’s on the market right now?

A: As per National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 1582, it is recommended that firefighters receive comprehensive medical evaluations each year to avoid health risks. However, this may not be possible due to prohibitive costs and work duties, especially for low-budget volunteer fire departments. Additionally, the cardiovascular risk factors (such as Atrial Fibrillation) can be paroxysmal and the firefighters may experience sudden episodes during fire events that are difficult to detect with annual medical evaluations that occur once a year. For firefighters, the ability to do frequent medical evaluations and follow-ups is limited due to the nature of the job, limited fire department budgets, increased healthcare costs, and insurance premiums. Thus, the risk of providing false negative results is greater.

Whereas, FireBeats provides continuous remote monitoring that can also detect paroxysmal health conditions with greater accuracy and low cost.

Q: What motivated you to apply to the NYU Entrepreneurs Challenge?

A: The success of participants in previous NYU Entrepreneurs challenges is very impressive and we hope to achieve the same or even better level of success. We hope to learn about best practices to establish successful startups and establish connections with investors, mentors, and other stakeholders who can help us in our startup.

Q: What has been the biggest turning point for you in your startup journey?

A: Our team was selected for the National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corp Program and received a $50,000 award. During this program, we interviewed 100 potential customers to understand their needs, behavior, etc. Lessons learned enabled us to revise our value proposition, business model canvas, revenue model, strategy and execution plan, etc. It gave us a lot of confidence in our idea.

Q: What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far in building your startup, and how have you overcome them?

A: Just like any other startup, I think we have a challenge to raise funds, especially in the early stage with giving a significant portion of equity. So, we are applying for funds through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program at the National Science Foundation. We don’t even have to give up any equity in this program.

Q: What are some recent milestones you have achieved or are working towards? How has it been reaching them?

A: We just created the alpha version of the app and we are ready to test it with the FDNY firefighters. This will enable us to collect feedback from our end users before we create our ready-to-launch final version. FDNY is the biggest fire department in the nation and our potential customer. So, we are really excited about it!

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs, especially those just starting out?

A: Don’t give up! Establishing a successful startup is really challenging but also very exciting. There is always a lot to learn! Participate in competitions or entrepreneur challenges like this one! It will help to raise funds, get exposure, and connect with mentors, investors, influencers, and other entrepreneurs. It is really fun!

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