With a clear strategic approach to innovation and intellectual property, GBE had the confidence to look at other markets. Another one of the company’s major product, BloodTrack®, also uses data tracking principles but, instead of sending despatch messages to taxis, it forms part of a system that is improving efficiency and healthcare standards in hospitals.
The system ensures that blood supplies are kept in secure refrigerated cabinets, accessible only by authorised medical staff. Each blood bag is identified with a unique barcode. Hospital patients are given wristbands with a barcode containing important medical information, including blood type. Doctors use portable hand-held devices and barcode scanners to record patient data and to order blood supplies. These can then be delivered to the right place and administered to the correct patient. A highly secure data network, with checks at every stage, dramatically reduces the risk of patients accidentally being given the wrong blood type.
Another major impact is that the system significantly reduces waste through its improved control and allocation of blood products and efficient stock control. A study at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford – one of the pilot sites – showed that the cost of buying and installing the system was recouped in less than three years, through savings made in reducing blood product wastage.
Patent attorneys Harrison Goddard Foote helped Mark Bullen to achieve greater protection for the latest BloodTrack Kiosk by protecting its distinctive appearance by registering it as a design. The Kiosk has also successfully passed all relevant electrical safety standards for medical equipment, allowing it to be sold in major markets worldwide.
The BloodTrack Courier system is now in use in over 190 hospitals, of which 140 are in the UK and 30 in the USA. GBE is part way through rolling out the product for the Irish Health Service Executive, which will lead to all the hospitals in the Republic having the BloodTrack system installed.
According to Mark Bullen, GBE is now in a much better position to achieve profitable growth. “Having our own proprietary technology has put us on a much stronger footing with our customers,” he says. “They know we have patents and registered designs and that gives us greater credibility. They now discuss their product design and development needs with us. We have moved on from being seen as a local manufacturing subcontractor. Our patented technology acts as a good platform for us to rapidly develop new technologies in response to market needs.”
The company is busy developing new products and designs, most of which it intends to continue to manufacture locally, using UK-sourced components. However, the company has started to outsource some specialist manufacturing to China. GBE’s product offering now includes a specially designed smart phone, branded as the ‘Auriga Drive 360° Eclipse’. The sleek-looking handset’s touch screen enables one-touch toggling between a satellite navigation system and the fleet’s despatch system. Although the handset itself is partly manufactured in China, GBE has developed the firmware needed to make it function and that is added at the company’s premises in Goring-by-Sea.