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Tuesday February 9th, 2021

Interview with Head of Algorithms Jonathan Francey

Introducing our next interviewee in our ongoing look at the people behind the B-Secur brand – Head of Algorithm Development Jonathan Francey. Jonathan, who joined the team back in May 2019, shares about the journey to achieving FDA clearance for HeartKey® as well as his perspective on the growth of telemedicine and flexible deployment of HeartKey®.


Tell us a little more about yourself, Jonathan

Hi, my name is Jonathan, I am originally from outside Gilford in Co. Down and moved to Belfast at 18 to go to university. I enjoy city life too much, and I now live here with my wife Samantha and our dog Hubble (a Pomeranian/Yorkshire Terrier cross). Outside of work I like to get away from the computer screen and enjoy walking, or running or cycling when I get the opportunity.

Growing up I always enjoyed science, mathematics and technology, so I naturally transitioned to studying engineering at university. I graduated from Queen’s University Belfast in 2007 with a Masters’ in Electrical and Electronic Engineering.


Can you tell us more about your professional background and your duties and responsibilities at B-Secur?
After graduating I had a brief spell in telecoms software development before I got the opportunity to combine software engineering and medical applications. I spent 11 years working on ECG algorithms and device software for home and hospital based medical devices before moving to B-Secur in 2019. At B-Secur I get to lead an excellent team responsible for our ECG algorithm research and development. We are primarily focused on the development of new algorithms to complement and enhance the existing health and wellness features in HeartKey, with the aim of looking at how we can greatly enhance the current offering to customers.

I am very fortunate as my role allows me to work not only with my own team, but with the CTO and other teams. My responsibilities involve keeping up to date with technology and the development of new algorithms within my team, while also helping to plan the delivery of new features and how they will function within and alongside the existing product.


HeartKey® offers enhanced access to more immediate ECG data for users. Can you explain how the algorithms provide better understanding of the human condition and the importance of this data for health and wellness monitoring
The recent trend in providing ECG technology in wrist worn devices demonstrates how users are becoming more and more aware of the importance of their health and wellness. The ability to detect changes in the heart accurately and earlier are now available but for many these data points are just that; the translation of this to usable information via algorithms is critical for all of us to understand the consequences and make the relevant changes to improve our health and wellness.


B-Secur is partnered with some of the world’s leading semiconductor companies. What is the greatest impact FDA will have on these partnerships?
The algorithms in the HeartKey® suite can handle the data acquired by the analogue front-end ICs provided by many of the leading semiconductor companies and is capable of running on many of the microcontrollers.


“The algorithms in the HeartKey® suite can handle the data acquired by the analogue front-end ICs provided by many of the leading semiconductor companies and is capable of running on many of the microcontrollers.”


HeartKey® helps to bring these chips to life and FDA clearance will give customers of these semiconductor companies confidence in the algorithms offered by B-Secur, allowing them to rapidly build products around the semiconductor’s hardware and B-Secur software.


B-Secur recently announced HeartKey® had achieved FDA clearance, what does this mean for B-Secur and it’s customers?
FDA clearance was an important milestone for HeartKey®. The clearance gives support to the claims B-Secur have made about HeartKey® features and capabilities. For customers who wish to integrate the suite into their own product, it provides them with a jump start and with a product they can trust.

Algorithm development is a very timely and expensive process, the ability to fast-forward through this development stage will accelerate customers’ time to market and more importantly the time to get products in the hands of the consumer.


One of the benefits to HeartKey® is the flexibility in deployment, can you tell us more about the FDA cleared algorithms and how these are accessible to its users
HeartKey® has been cleared for the provision of reporting of Heart Rate and Arrhythmia Analysis for the detection of Atrial Fibrillation, Bradycardia, Tachycardia and Normal Sinus Rhythm. The algorithms have been designed with the ability to run on low power devices in mind, however, they also have the capability of running on more powerful smartphones, computers or in the cloud depending on what suits the end application and use case.

This flexibility in the deployment in the suite opens a wide range of devices and programs that can be built around HeartKey®. The algorithms are made available through the HeartKey® suite and the relevant API calls, which will output the result via the device to the end user.


The recent coronavirus pandemic has taken the world’s healthcare systems by surprise, what role do you see telehealth playing in the long term? How does having FDA change B-Secur’s role in the telehealth market?
We have seen many changes to healthcare and healthcare systems in the last 12 months and this pandemic has allowed healthcare providers to accelerate the use of technology to provide care remotely.


“Telehealth or consumer devices capable of managing health data remotely not only allow care to be provided safely but allow patients to receive care quicker and more efficiently than before.”


I am positive many of these changes will continue to evolve over time fuelled by the merging of consumer and health devices which had already begun prior to the pandemic. FDA clearance helps B-Secur take a huge step towards working with telehealth companies and their provision of remote health monitoring solutions. By making this move we can work with manufacturers to accelerate product development and cutting-edge ideas in this space.


As you look ahead in the next several years, what do you see as B-Secur’s priorities?
The addition of ECG in wearable devices is really starting to take off and with it the lines between consumer and medical devices blur. With this shift users will naturally become more and more aware of the importance of their heart health and B-Secur must be there with a huge range of features and opportunities to allow device manufacturers and users explore their own data.

To do this it will be essential that B-Secur continues to develop relationships across the technology spectrum, from the manufacturers of low power silicon microcontrollers to those powering the cloud computing servers, as well as expanding our clinical research network to help further validate algorithms and the technology.