TakeTen app to restore calm in a stressful world

20 Oct 2016

Fintan Connolly, founder of TakeTen. Image: taketenteam.co.uk

TakeTen is targeting the iPad generation of today, with an app enabling kids to monitor their stress levels and learn to calm themselves down. Emily McDaid finds out more.

When some people get nervous, they feel a tightening in their chest, and their breathing gets shallow. As adults, we understand what’s happening to our bodies, but for young children, these signs of anxiety can be highly unsettling.

TakeTen is a biofeedback app that helps young people manage their physiology and emotions. It shows them a visual depiction of their stress levels – via an iPad or iPhone – and teaches them how to bring themselves back to calm.

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Be it the pressure of school, exams, or social media, there is no denying that children have big stressors in their lives. This trend only seems to be worsening.

At the same time, we’ve gone biofeedback mad, culturally. FitBit sold 300,000 devices in 2011 and 10.5m devices in 2015, and it is still growing around 45% annually. People want to know how mobile they are, how many calories they eat, what their heart rate is – anything that can give a picture of what’s going on inside their bodies.

TakeTen to capitalise on trend

TakeTen comprises a visual app and a sensor pulse oximeter, which clips onto your earlobe, converting signals to heart rate variability.

That fluttery feeling you get in your chest when you’re anxious? That’s what TakeTen is capturing. It means your heart is beating irregularly. Getting your nervous system out of the ‘fight or flight’ response mode is key to releasing anxiety. These processes can be measured through relatively low-cost sensor technology.

TakeTen has brought it all together in one ingenious, yet user-friendly solution.

Founder and owner Fintan Connolly said, “Kids watch themselves go from stressed to calm on our app. If they’re in the ‘red’ they need to calm down to get into the ‘green’ zone.

“The process distracts the mind away from the original anxious thoughts. Once they are calm, the app offers games to play, but the games don’t start until they regulate themselves. It’s important that they make the correlation between being calm and being able to learn efficiently.”

TakeTen app

TakeTen app. Image: TakeTen/TechWatch

Connolly draws on his experience as a father to tap into the mind of a child. “I know, from parenting two small children, that getting kids to recognise emotions (anger versus sadness, for instance) is critical to self-regulation,” he said.

“Right now, 88pc of 12-18 year olds report feeling stressed out. Educators are very worried about this trend. This is why our app has been in demand by schools, and we are getting lots of requests for in-home use.”

From a schoolteacher’s perspective, having this technology at the ready can help them manage busy classrooms. But selling to schools isn’t easy.

Connolly explains that they have a “slow sales cycle”, meaning that it’s crucial to set up distribution agreements with companies that bring tech into schools.

TakeTen has partnered with InnovateMySchool to expand their current reach. At present, 200 schools across Great Britain and Northern Ireland use TakeTen. The app also comes with a “Steady Eddie” eight-minute meditation exercise that teachers play over their interactive whiteboards.

Headquartered at Belfast Metropolitan College’s E3 campus, TakeTen has been turning over impressive revenues already, despite only having two partners involved. The company is currently seeking a seed investment of £500,000.

Connolly said, “We have been in discussions with California’s Department of Education. They’ve indicated that there would be great receptivity for TakeTen in their schools because it addresses an issue they’re struggling with.”

A deal of that size would obviously require some necessary scaling up. But having achieved so much already, the CEO is up for the challenge.

The future is bright for TakeTen

Connolly has developed a new app specifically for paediatric oncology patients, to help children recently diagnosed with cancer to manage their stress and anxiety. It will be launched next month and represents the company’s first foray into healthcare.

Corporate wellness is another promising growth area they can explore.

“Our other plans are to become a software-only business, and give up the hardware sensors. All the monitoring is possible through the latest smartphone camera technology,” said Connolly.

At present, the revenue model involves a set-up cost for the school, which typically comes from their discretionary budget. In addition, schools pay an annual licensing charge per pupil.

TakeTen recently won the award in the Life and Health category at the Invent 2016 awards in Belfast.

With potential sales in lucrative American markets, the future may truly be bright for this start-up.

By Emily McDaid, editor, TechWatch

A version of this article originally appeared on TechWatch

TechWatch by Catalyst covered tech developments in Northern Ireland