Parkinson’s patients suffer from insecure walking – they show a short strided gait with a small foot
clearance. Due to their characteristic walking pattern, patients tend to stumble and fall, leading to
serious injuries (13 percent of all Parkinson’s patients require medical treatment due to falling each
year) and fear of further walking. Instead of keeping up physical activity to compensate for
Parkinsonian symptoms, the fear of falling keeps patients inside of their house and isolated from
social activities. Physical therapy helps Parkinson’s patients with this difficult task, but they struggle
with the implementation of the right walking techniques into everyday life.
The key to improving autonomy and quality of life in Parkinson’s patients is physical and medical
therapy. Novapace is an insole with embedded sensor and feedback unit, which serves as a 24/7
physical therapy unit. Thus, patients learn the right walking pattern on the go – it reminds them of the
correct techniques via a haptic feedback directly at the foot. Furthermore, they can see their training
progress on a mobile application.
Patient-related data collected by the device is optionally transferred to the physical therapist and
neurologist in order to validate the state of the disease and the therapy progress. It can serve as a
basis for the adaption of physical therapy techniques and medication, leading to individualized
therapy for each patient.
Novapace was initiated by Patrick Scholl during his Mechanical Engineering studies at Technische
Universität Darmstadt. Having a grandfather with Parkinson’s disease, he decided to support him
using his technological knowledge. Patrick won the third prize in the students’ category and a
special prize at the ideation competition at TU Darmstadt Startup and Innovation Day 2017. With the
support of Patricks co-founders Simon Staffa and Lukas Braisz, the project won the 2018 Global
Challenge Virtual Preliminary, which featured a trip to the Virginia Tech Global Entrepreneur
Challenge in the United States. Among 14 teams, the team won the Information Technology Award,
including prize money of 10000 Dollars.
The project was approved for the governmental funding scholarship “EXIST Business Start-up
Grant” (see www.exist.de/EN/ ) in September 2018. Until September of 2019, the team will optimize
and test the product and get into contact to possible investors.
Momentarily, a prototype (which is shown below) is evaluated within a scientific study at University
of Applied Sciences in Bremen. Physical therapy students test the applicability of novapace in
physical therapy within the scope of a group project. Therefore, gait analysis with and without
novapace is conducted. Outcomes of the study are implemented into the ongoing product
development. A following long-time evaluation with the next prototype generation is planned in the
scope of a Bachelor thesis.