A young sister and brother doing their homework.

How Data is Helping Kids Overcome Developmental Disorders

* Revised on June 7th, 2019

From the moment they are born, children soak up information from the world around them. Those who grow up with technology, such as tablets, smartphones, and more benefit from these smart devices, building their knowledge along with their innate curiosity.

For kids where learning is a more challenging process, new technology using artificial intelligence and deep learning might play an even greater role.

Take India, for example. CogniABle, a healthcare startup based in India, is using deep learning to help address this issue.

The company is automating the process of early screening, assistive diagnosis, and assistive treatment for children facing such challenges. And there are many benefits to be had.

  • Affordability: Automated early screening and treatment may help reduce the expenses of multiple doctor visits to screen and treat affected children.
  • Accessibility: Using cloud-based software, CogniABle is accessible at home, clinics, or hospitals for medical experts and non-experts alike.
  • Data-Driven: Using deep learning, CogniABle creates a customized treatment plan for each child – based on data linked to clinical landmarks. The goal is a higher quality of care.

To learn how medical data is helping create more personalized treatments, we sat down with Manu Kohli, who serves as the startup’s Chief Technology Officer. (Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.)

Interview with Manu Kohli, Chief Technology Officer of CogniABle

1. Can you give us a little background on CogniABle?

MANU: CogniAble is a digital service that uses video data for early screening and treatment of children with autism, ADHD and other developmental and neurological disorders. We develop our model using artificial intelligence and deep learning.

Recent medical studies have suggested that a significant amount of children in India face developmental and neurological disorders. Some estimates place this number at over 11 million1. With limited clinicians available in our country, many kids remain undiagnosed. And even if they are diagnosed, it is often when they are much older – with untapped cognitive potential.

Through our analysis, early intervention has been shown to support cognitive development. However, those services are not always accessible and affordable. With CogniABle, even a medical non-expert can use our screening service from any remote location by submitting a video using just the Internet. This video is automatically analyzed by our proprietary deep learning algorithms that help measure behavioral and clinical landmarks of children with high accuracy and delivers a screening outcome.

Another aspect of our model empowers parents, schools and other institutions with the availability of an integrated assessment and treatment services available remotely. The treatment plan is non-invasive in nature – no injections or medication. Our proprietary model customizes treatment in language, academics, and social skills.

2. How is your team putting your business plan into action?

MANU: At CogniABle, our services capture the complete value chain that includes screening and treatment services for developmental and neurological disorders. Here are the steps involved:

Innovate and Align

Development of a prototype to be presented to our primary customer segment group for feedback. We completed this step from January 2018 – December 2018 for both our screening and treatment services. Appropriate feedback was taken from customers during this test release stage to fine-tune our product’s features and user interface.

Beta Test

The prototype for our treatment service was converted to a product and launched to a selected segment of clinics in India and the United States. We received significant feedback that is currently incorporated in our updated service offering.

Controlled Release

In the US, CogniABle’s treatment service will be released to additional clinics. In India, the treatment service will be released to communities of parents after a validation study with a government hospital.

The screening services are undergoing development and it will take around 18 months for our product to be available in-market. This will include:

  1. Development of an AI-based model to perform action detection tasks. (1,000+ subject samples)
  2. Testing our AI model at a blind site.
  3. Fine tuning of the model.
  4. Release the personalized model to the general market.

TESTING: Both our screening and testing services will be tested with a wide range of children to ensure generalization and acceptance. We will validate the product treatment recommendations manually before releasing it to parents or clinicians to execute up to medical standards. With clinical assessment and our deep learning model in place, we plan to perform unit and integration tests on various sub-technology components. The test phase will be carried out for six months before the product can be independently released with minimum human supervision.

GO-LIVE: The product will be released for general use in a controlled environment. Manual checks will be randomly performed on product recommendations and matched with manual outcomes. Treatment recommendation coming from the product is mostly behavioral in nature and non-invasive. However, a robust testing methodology, both unit and integration tests, after the product is released will hopefully ensure adoption and reputation of the product at scale. Continuous feedback will be taken to improve and enhance our product’s features.

3. Are you working with the Government of India or any national organizations to realize your project?

The Vidhana Soudha located in Bengaluru, is the seat of the state legislature of Karnataka.

MANU: Recently, we received a large grant – from a council set up by the Department of Biotechnology in the Government of India – to commercially develop our screening service. We are working closely with a prestigious public engineering institution in Delhi and medical college for product development and clinical validations. With our partners, founders and mentors, we have made significant strides in solution development by complementing each other’s skills and expertise.

4. Your team was recently a participant in Western Digital’s Data Innovation Bootcamp, a three-day event for select startups in India to learn, network, and pitch to venture capitalists. What were your biggest takeaways?

MANU: We had four big takeaways from the Data Innovation Bazaar and Bootcamp, including:

  1. Service Design – Our group discussion led to the proposal of a service delivery design, which would include a tablet as a part of the treatment kit given to parents with children who have developmental and neurological disorders.
  2. Value-Based Pricing Discussion – Another discussion led to our team updating our pricing model to be based on value rather than cost.
  3. Equity Distribution – From our session on finance, we talked about preference and valuation.
  4. Meeting with Investors – These meetings were one of the most helpful points as we received direct feedback from investors.

MORE: We are highlighting every startup from our inaugural Data Innovation Bootcamp. Here are their stories.

  1. Solving the Straw Paddy Burning Problem with Farm Data
  2. How a Small Indian Startup is Rethinking Automotive Safety
  3. Are IoT-Enabled Locks the Future of Remote Security?

5. Why do you believe that supporting entrepreneurship and innovation in India is important?

MANU: Entrepreneurship is a system that is changing the way we live and work, be it socially or technologically. Since technology is growing and people are coming up with incredible innovation, it is important to provide them with the platform they are looking for. In countries such as India, technology is key when focusing on healthcare and education, where infrastructure and resources are limited.

The promotion of entrepreneurship and support given by Western Digital was enormous. Understanding the connections between different industries and verticals gives a deeper understanding of how business can be successfully executed. The products and services related to cloud and edge computing released by Western Digital will help transform the landscape of AI and Machine Learning.

We need to realize that in this age, in India, we have data available in abundance. It is very important to utilize that data using AI-enabled technology to develop scalable and affordable solutions for large groups of people, driven by a business case.

Entrepreneurship is helping us promote employment, equitable distribution of wealth and income, and smaller concentration of economic power. These new businesses have a hand in raising the living standards of people, which, in turn, plays an important role in our country.

“In the highly competitive world that we live in, transformative ideas are what will separate us from the rest,” states Kohli. “Innovation and entrepreneurship go hand in hand.”

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