Making It Work: The Irish firm that gauged the mood in US election with wearable sensors

Shimmer Sensing is moving from the medical arena to politics and market research with its emotional response tracking tool

7th December, 2020
Making It Work: The Irish firm that gauged the mood in US election with wearable sensors
Paddy White, founder and ceo of Shimmer, says the firm’s technology was also used to measures responses to adverts aired during the Super Bowl. Picture: Fergal Phillips

Shimmer Sensing, the wearable sensor company, is moving beyond the clinical realm with new tracking technology used recently in the US to gauge voter responses to the final presidential debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

Shimmer’s NeurolynQ technology was used in a neuropolitical study carried out by Schlesinger Group, a Philadelphia-based research centre, to track the unconscious reactions of a group of US voters to the debate in late October.

NeurolynQ uses wearable sensors to track people’s physical responses to stimuli. These responses can include heart rate, respiratory pace and galvanic skin response.

“This kind of information can be really useful in market research, because it is about how people are physically or unconsciously reacting to something in real-time, rather than having them fill out a survey or answer questions after the event,” Paddy White, the chief executive and founder of Shimmer Sensing, said.

Shimmer plans to sell NeurolynQ to marketers, advertisers, event organisers, and film and entertainment studios.

“The technology was used last year in an Ipsos study in the US to measure people’s responses to the ads aired during the Super Bowl,” White said.

“We’ve had a lot of interest from the US, particularly now that we’ve developed a distributed link that allows people to take part in these studies from their homes. It came about because of Covid. People can’t really come together physically to take part in many of these group studies at the moment.

“Allowing them to do so from their homes has its own benefit in that they tend to be more comfortable and at ease in their own environment. You get more authentic responses.”

White established Shimmer Sensing in 2008 as a division of Realtime Technologies, the contract electronic manufacturing company he had set up in 1996.

The 65-year-old, who is from Dundalk in Co Louth, set up Realtime after working as a quality manager at Intel in Leixlip for six years. He set up Shimmer Sensing after agreeing a deal to license wearable sensor technology developed in-house by Intel.

Shimmer was spun out two years ago and employs 20 people at its Dublin headquarters in Clonshaugh in Dublin and overseas offices in Spain, the US, Canada and Malaysia.

“Our wearable wireless sensors are used by thousands of researchers at more than 900 companies, universities and research institutes in about 80 countries,” White said.

In Ireland, these clients include the Insight Centre for Data Analytics at Dublin City University, Biomedical Diagnostics Institute at UCD, Kinesis, Output Sports and Intel.

“We have standard sensors, we provide customised sensor development services, we do volume manufacturing and we make complete wearable sensor solutions,” White said.

“We’ve been exporting since 2009. Our main market is North America, followed closely by Europe and Asia.”

Shimmer Sensing is a client company of Enterprise Ireland, the state agency. “They recently gave us very valuable grant funding to help develop another platform called Verisense,” White said.

“We’ve just secured CE certification for Verisense, which can be used in clinical trials to monitor how participants are responding to new medications.”

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