Xandar Kardian has spent the past 10 years obsessed with one technology — impulse ultra-wideband radar — in order to provide the most accurate, consistent and reliable method for contact-free, continuous vital sign monitoring.
We sat down with Sam Yang, co-founder and CEO, to learn more about how the company uses radar to collect health information and catch early signs of health problems.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
What’s the story behind Xandar Kardian?
My co-founder, Dr. James Cho, is a renowned electrical engineering professor. He took 15 PhD candidates and worked on radar signal processing algorithms and really pushed the limit with what you can do with radar. They made a pioneering breakthrough with the technology, and we developed a sensor that goes on the ceiling. It constantly watches over you, monitoring your resting heart rate and breathing, all continuously and autonomously.
What made you decide to focus on using radar?
We’re not the first company to do radar-based vital sign monitoring, but there’s a difference between being able to do it and being able to do it accurately — and there’s an even larger difference in being able to do it consistently accurately, which translates into reliability. We had that breakthrough in 2015.
One of the decisions that we made was that our device should not be used as a gadget, like a kids’ monitoring device that you can buy at a big box store. We wanted it to be used as a medical device by nurses and doctors so that health outcomes would be positively impacted.
Becoming a medical-grade device is a long process.
It meant we had to go through the FDA, which is difficult. As that process unfolded, we asked ourselves, “What other companies can use our sensor?” We could detect human presence at 99.9% accuracy in real time, so places like airports, banks and prisons started using us as the gold standard for real-time presence detection. That helped keep the lights on and we were able to get some funding and revenue growth.
Then COVID hit, and a major healthcare provider rang the doorbell and said, “Guys, this COVID thing is here, there’s no vaccine, and our nurses are getting exposed to COVID-positive patients. We need a way to provide continuous, non-contact autonomous monitoring because we want to limit the amount of exposure our nurses have.”
That's when we had this eureka moment: “Aha! Now we have a use case!” Because before, not everyone understood why our technology could be useful.
We had to get FDA clearance, which took nine months because we wanted to get very broad clearance, and now we’re cleared for resting heart rate, resting respiratory rate, presence detection and body motion. The radar works up to 24 feet; it covers an entire room, so it can be used in hospitals, nursing homes and residential homes.
Then, about the time we got FDA clearance, the COVID vaccines came out, and that major healthcare provider came back to us and said, “We don’t need you guys anymore”! But when hospital staff began burning out and leaving the workforce, they saw the benefit of our device taking some of the workload and stress off them. We were also getting inquiries from long-term care industries, such as skilled nursing facilities and memory care, assisted living and independent living facilities, so we started to fine-tune our solution for that market.
How does radar collect all this information?
Our body is a treasure trove of information, but most of the focus has been on collecting electrical signals, temperature or some other factors. But our bodies are constantly telling us things through vibrational patterns, including your chest motion and heartbeat. There was no medical device that was constantly listening to those.
Xandar Kardian’s secret sauce is our ability to qualify these signals. When you move, your body motion is a different frequency. When you breathe, your chest going up and down is a different frequency. We can capture all that information.
Which helps alleviate the burden on hospital or caregiving staff.
Because of a lack of staff, it’s hard for facilities to get enough measurements. Even in hospitals, you might get four to eight measurements, but the value isn’t there. They’re taken at random times, and there’s the “white coat syndrome” where someone’s breathing might go up just because there’s a nurse in the room. Our device averages 6,000 measurements each of resting heart rate and resting respiration rate. And because it can see you from head to toe, it knows that you’re not physically moving, so it knows an elevated heart rate isn’t due to physical activity, but to something else in your body.
One thing we learned in our pilot is that having a more accurate baseline allowed us to detect a health problem two or three days prior to the onset of symptoms. We detected cases of COVID before the person had any kind of cough or fever, so staff was able to test and begin treatment early. We saw the same thing with urinary tract infections, pneumonia, sepsis and other conditions. That’s very powerful. We’re using data to empower AI-based predictive health monitoring to extend that time frame to three, four or even five days.
What’s next on the horizon for Xandar Kardian?
We have another model of our device, a home health unit, with the radar on top and an LTE modem on the bottom. It looks like a small lamp. I think AARP partner companies and even AARP members themselves will be interested in that model because it’s plug-and-play. You don’t have to fiddle with Wi-Fi, because many seniors don’t have Wi-Fi. You just plug it in, point it at your body and every day it collects measurements of your resting heart rate and breathing rate. You don’t have to remember to wear something on your body, and the user doesn’t pay anything because it’s 100% covered by Medicare and Medicaid.
Basically, all anyone has to do is tell our telehealth partner companies or their own doctor that they’re worried about their health, and they’ll start monitoring with the device. You don’t have to deal with the data; licensed clinicians and physicians will be looking at the data on the user’s behalf. This is going to make a huge difference and impact on our daily lives.