Today on the News Portal we are re-introducing you to a familiar face: Steffen Preuß, CEO of icho systems GmbH. We first met Steffen when he represented Germany during Ideas from Europe in 2017 , and again when he was the German representative in the Secrets of Success brochure 2018-2019 edition .
We are catching up with Steffen to see how icho systems GmbH has developed and how he and his company have been navigating the challenges and uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your company?
I am the co-founder and CEO of icho systems GmbH. Our young company develops smart therapy devices for the healthcare market, especially for people with dementia. The ichó therapy ball is our first product, the therapy ball combines different therapy methods with the advantages of digital products in one device. Equipped with state-of-the-art sensor technology, ichó detects all interactions, no matter whether it is caught, thrown, touched, shaken or just held. ichó reacts to these interactions with a colourful light, vibration, sound and music. On this basis, the ichó apps enable various individual training activities, according to the needs of the user.
What is particularly exciting here is the possibility of data logging. Since ichó can measure continuously during the application, the data obtained can provide useful insight into disease progression and developmental progress. We have already received several awards for this innovation and have been able to succeed in a wide range of competitions. ichó has therefore already been exhibited in the USA and has also been able to gain recognition in Europe through “Ideas from Europe “.
It inspires us as much as ever to see how dementia patients start singing, laughing and dancing again with ichó. It is amazing what abilities can be brought back through the right encouragement and how vitalising this is for all involved. Not only do the residents benefit from this, but also the nursing staff. Relaxed residents and a less stressful environment simplify the work in many ways and enable a fulfilling and collaborative atmosphere with each other.
What was the first impact of COVID-19 on you and your business?
The ichó therapy ball was launched at the beginning of April 2020, but we experienced the first effects of Covid much earlier. We were just in the final stages of serial production at the end of 2019 when the first suppliers began to experience difficulties with delivery, which is why we transferred all ichó production to our offices at relatively short notice. This turned out to be the right decision, as we went into the first lockdown only two weeks later.
By transferring our production, we were at least able to maintain our serial production, even if only to a limited extent, and to produce the first ichós. This helped us to successively supply all pre-order ichós over the course of the next few months, even if only in stages.
The thing we immediately experienced was, obviously, the access to the market and to the customer. All the fairs and conferences we had planned for 2020 were cancelled, but what was particularly difficult was the closed care facilities and having no access, due to people in need of care naturally being part of a particularly high risk group for infection.
This put us in a difficult and complex situation, as our product and what it offers applies not only to the end recipients but also to all volunteer caregivers or relatives. With the lockdowns the need for social care increased enormously, especially for people suffering from dementia.
These were and are still very difficult times for all those in need of care.
To find out what came next for Steffen and the ichó systems team, and to learn more about the experience make sure to come back to the News Portal for the next part of our interview with Steffen.
Have you read our other COVID Stories featuring Catherine Lorent , a Belgian seamstress who helped out by making masks and hospital gowns, or the e-heath solutions  developed in the Netherlands or COVID specific hackathons  in Greece and Turkey? Read more right here on the Portal .