MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This week, a Twin Cities couple won first place in the nation’s largest competition for entrepreneurs.
The Minnesota Cup’s grand prize of $50,000 went to HabitAware. The company makes a tracker that’s worn on the wrist. WCCO’s Angela Davis shows us how the device helps break habits.
It’s called Keen, a smart bracelet with a secret skill. It’s for people who need help managing impulse control issues like hair pulling, skin picking, nail biting and thumb sucking.
“I have hair pulling disorder which is basically a coping mechanism for stress or anxiety. That’s how it manifests itself for me. I just pull my hair out without realizing it,” Aneela Idnani Kumar said.
Kumar is the co-founder of HabitAware. She knows first-hand what it means to be ashamed of a condition you can’t control.
“I hid it for 20 years and then my husband, three years into our marriage, catches me with without eyebrows and asks me, ‘What is going on?’” Kumar said.
Aneela and her husband, Sameer, came up with the idea of creating something that could help.
“One day we are sitting on the couch, watching TV and I’m just pulling. He just gently grabs my hand away. And I looked at him and said, ‘I wish I had something that notified me that wasn’t you,’” Kumar said.
Keen looks like a fitness tracker. It vibrates when it senses the activity, you are trying to avoid.
“The way the bracelet works is that you put the bracelet on, you train it using a mobile app, for that specific behavior you have, that repetitive motion that you do, so if you are a nail biter, you’d train it for that movement,” Kumar said.
When Keen senses a match, it vibrates, making you aware of what you’re doing. Aneela says people who are using the tracker have learned to control their impulses.
Aneela and her husband also received a $300,000 grant from the National Institute of Health to continue their research and work.
The Keen tracker is sold in 25 countries and costs $149. The app is free.