Sergio Di Giovanni develops memory-aid app

Sergio Di Giovanni develops memory-aid app

Sergio Di Giovanni, brain injury survivor and founder of the app, Qcard, has developed an aid to better the quality of life for those suffering from cognitive and memory-related symptoms.

In 2005, at 29 years old, Di Giovanni was hit by a driver running a red light. He was knocked unconscious for almost a day and has a faint memory of flashing lights, if a memory at all. He has no recollection of going to the hospital or heading home, nor the days, weeks, or even months surrounding the event.

In this brief moment during what was supposed to be a regular drive home, Di Giovanni sustained a brain injury that impaired his ability to remember, organize, plan, and stay focused.

After his accident, he received rehabilitation services from psychologists, neurologists, and occupational therapists through Hamilton Health Sciences to help him get back on track. He was taught to use paper calendars, sticky notes, and white boards to remind him of tasks during his rehabilitation. But as a technical person by nature, it was a struggle to revert to pen and paper.

When the iPhone came out in 2007, he tried to use it as his memory aid. He downloaded apps similar to to-do lists, reminders and calendars but none of them seemed to work.

It was these frustrations that lead him to think of a better solution. He started to feel like an entrepreneur again and returned to his technical roots to develop a solution of his own. He thought about how his life could improve and how he could start helping people who went through this same sort of struggle.

At the age of ten, Di Giovanni was introduced to his first computer and quickly taught himself to write software. At 12 years old, he was writing computer games like Hangman and Connect Four.

After his computer science technology studies at Mohawk College, he started a web development consulting firm at a time when the modern Internet was just gaining popularity. His company grew fast and he gained clients across Canada, the U.S., Hong Kong, and Italy. By the age of 26, he was a very successful businessman, investing in over 20 units of real estate.

“Life was good and everything was going where I wanted it to. I worked really hard to get there,” he said. But following the accident, his struggles with ABI (Acquired Brain Injury) lead him to close his company and sell his real estate.

Everyday tasks prompted new difficulties.

“Qcard was born out of all of the pitfalls I encountered everyday and all of the solutions I needed to overcome them.”

Di Giovanni’s had the support of the Ontario Brain Injury Association and Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation. They validated the importance of Qcard and gave him the confidence to go forward with its development.

Later, he received funding from Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) to have Mohawk College’s iDeaWORKS, an in-house software development team, create Qcard.

The app was developed specifically for those with executive dysfunction like ABI, ADHD and dementia. It helps strengthens memory, enhances organizational skills, and improves time management by acting as a notepad, to-do-list, calendar, alarm clock, and organizer, all in one.

“Qcard gives the user an aid they can rely on; a safety net. It helps them achieve success in their day to day activities, by helping them plan, organize, and complete tasks,” he said.

The app consists of three different types of Qcards separated by colour: one-step tasks like taking medication, prolonged tasks like doing laundry, and appointments. The app reminds you of tasks at the right time, allowing you to re-remind yourself as often as you like, for as long as you like – until they are complete. It even guides you through prolonged tasks with step-by-step instructions. But most importantly, reminders are not overlooked by the sound of just one beep. Best of all, if a thought comes to mind, creating a new Qcard is as simple as shaking your phone.

Qcard helps families delegate and track tasks while survivors learn to regain their independence.

Di Giovanni has given many presentations about his product and his story. He has spoken at the Hamilton Health Sciences ABI Conference, Mohawk College’s Apps for Health Conference, McMaster Innovation Factory, and The District School Board of Niagara’s International Conference.

Qcard has been featured in publications like Brain Injury Canada (ImpactWeekly), Ontario Brain Injury Association (OBIAreview), Brain Injury Association of America (THE Challenge), American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine (ACRM), The Financial Post, The Health Professional Magazine, and many others.

“We’ve spent the past few years validating our product with both users and healthcare professionals. We’ve listened to their feedback and want to refine the product,” said Di Giovanni.

The next evolution of Qcard will incorporate an occupational therapist dashboard that connects with the user to administer and manage tasks and a more simplified user experience for those less technically-inclined.

The company is also looking for funding to take their application to the next level by pairing it with wearable technology.

Di Giovanni is planning to integrate with smartwatches to eliminate the need to pull out your phone to set and manage reminders, as well as near field communication (NFC) tags for smart-home integration.

“I’m very determined, eager, and passionate to bring the next evolution of Qcard to market,” he said.

The success of Qcard can be attributed to Di Giovanni’s first-hand experience as a brain injury survivor. His knowledge of the challenges ABI survivors struggle with has allowed him to create an exceptional memory tool, that he too, can rely on daily.

Catch Di Giovanni present at the Ontario Brain Injury Association’s (OBIA) annual Acquired Brain Injury Provincial Conference in Niagara Falls November 11-13.

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