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Pedal Brain: the future of digital health care?

The company recently struck a deal with HED Cycling Products USA in Shoreview to sell software that records real time data like speed, power, and heart rate from bike-mounted sensors and view the information on an iPhone or website. Pedal Brain has already raised $250,000 from angel investors, about half of its Series A round.

Despite its name, Pedal Brain LLC’s ambitions far exceed mere bicycles. In fact, just replace “Pedal” with “Health” and you start to better understand what this angel-backed start-up wants to do.

The company recently struck a deal with HED Cycling Products USA in Shoreview to sell a software system that records real time data like speed, power, and heart rate from bike-mounted sensors and view the information on an iPhone or website. Pedal Brain has already raised $250,000 from angel investors, about half of its Series A round.

But the start-up eventually wants to expand into the home health care market where doctors can remotely collect and analyze patient data through a host of sensors. Medical technology companies like Medtronic Inc. have been developing devices that can monitor everything from breathing and electronic heart rhythms to oxygen and glucose levels in the blood.

In the future, “I don’t see hospital beds in hospitals but rather in people’s homes,” said Pedal Brain founder Matt Bauer.

Bauer, 31, studied biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin in Madison where he also worked at the Space Science Engineering Center. There, he viewed images from weather satellites over Antarctica and honed his skills in telemetry, the science and technology of measuring and transmitting data through remote sources like radio and wire.

Bauer, an avid cyclist, said he wanted to apply that knowledge to the sport, where cyclists use a host of wireless sensors to help them train- SRM PowerMeter to measure force in watts, Garmin to show GPS location, elevation, and pedal frequency, Cycling Ops PowerTap to monitor heart rates, Bontrager SpeedTrap to record speed.

“It can take a while to get ready for a ride,” Bauer said. “The secret is to do it all.”

He developed Pedal Brain, an integrated computer system that captures all of the sensor data at the same time and quickly uploads them to an iPhone or website that displays the information in easy-to-see-and-use way.

The all-in-one system and attractive user interface is what makes Pedal Brain a promising company, said Peter Birkeland, vice-president for technology at Rain Source Capital, a network of angel investor group based in St. Paul. He hopes to invest in Pedal Brain during its next round of financing.

Pedal Brain will not only help athletes trains for races but help teams guide riders during actual races, Bauer said. So just like meteorologists use radar and satellite to update weather forecasts, cycling team directors can use Pedal Brain to adjust strategies based on real time physical data from riders.

Imagine a Tour de France team notices a rival rider attempting to sprint away from the pack. The team director traveling in the car asks which rider has enough juice to catch him. Since every rider will probably volunteer, the director can view each rider’s data and objectively determine who’s in best shape to do so.

Pedal Brain recently showed its technology to Chris Carmichael, who coaches Lance Armstrong, at Armstrong’s Team Radio Shack training headquarters in Tuscon, Arizona.

But what makes Pedal Brain especially intriguing is application to the broader health care market, experts say. The technology will allow people from healthy athletes and gym enthusiasts to patients suffering from chronic diseases to take better control of their health, said Kim Garretson, a partner with Ovative/Group, a Minneapolis-based consulting group who works with early stage technology companies. He recently invited Bauer to speak at seminar about the future of health care.

“Baby boomers will have to rely on themselves to be their own patient advocates,” Bauer said. “You’ll have a better idea of your condition before you see your doctor.”

Birkeland of Rainsource believes that Pedal Brain will help users morph into the type of pro-active health consumers that insurance companies seeking to lower their risk pools will compete to sign up.

One problem with America’s health care system is that there’s too much information in play without a way to help doctors, patients, and hospitals use that data in a meaningful way, said Scott Danielson, a former UnitedHealth executive and co-founder of Healthy Heartland Inc. consulting firm in Minneapolis.

That’s where Pedal Brain can help by acting as a sort of health care dashboard/operating system.

“Imagine the power of today’s Web 2.0-based technology, e.g. devices, diagnostics, communications, data, and services,” Danielson wrote in his pamphlet “Health Care Transformation 2.o.” “Then imagine that power (after being aggregated, organized, and simplified) being put into the hands of you, the consumer.”

“Now you have the ability to connect to others with share interests, communicate with doctors, service, providers, and facilities, guarantee your privacy and security, link and consolidate your data from disparate sources, and make informed decisions about your health,” he said.