HygenaMobile, a startup company in Detroit, has developed a device called the HM1 that sanitizes cell phones before sealing them in a temporary clear plastic film, or sheath. The patent pending device is projected to be launched later this year.
“I used to work in the restaurant industry, and there was a real problem of chefs and cooks handling their cell phones and then setting them down and reaching with the same hand to pick up a filet or a piece of fish,” says Eric Thomas, founder and CEO of HygenaMobile. “Soon after, I watched a medical professional at a general hospital wash his hands and then pick up his phone, and that’s when I had this a-ha moment.”
Thomas says the average cell phone is 18 times dirtier than any surface in a public restroom, and 23 percent of mobile phones have fecal matter on them. In addition to targeting restaurant and medical environments, Thomas says he will market the device to hospitality providers, including cruise ships and hotels.
The device can clean and seal cell phones in around 10 seconds using UV-C light treatments. The product is named after Hygena, the Greek Goddess of health, cleanliness, and sanitation.
The company has a board of advisors, and is in the process of filling out its management team. The advisory board includes Thomas’ brother, Chris Thomas, co-founder and partner of Fontinalis Partners in Detroit; Phil Cowdell, CEO of Mediacom North America; Syed Mohiuddin, an associate at McKinsey and Cos.’ Medical Group who holds a PhD from the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine; and Chris Shepard, a senior account executive at LinkedIn.
“We’re actively being engaged by investors,” Thomas says. “We’re working with as many local companies as we can through the development process.”
HygenaMobile is working with Versicor, an electronics, software, and controls development firm in Royal Oak, to finalize the prototype before ramping up sales. Thomas says he built the first prototype using materials he bought from a Home Depot store.