When Mark Parker and his team created the TREWGrip
Mobile Dock, a mobile keyboard featuring a "rear typing" design, his goal was come to the aid of the large number of professionals, specifically those in the healthcare field, who spend the workday on their feet. He was unaware that many of those same healthcare professionals would recommend his product to their patients.
"Most of (TREWGrip's) early traction has come from the assistive technology industry and occupational health and safety professionals," Parker says. "Quite honestly, we didn’t think about the health benefits when designing TREWGrip, but there’s something called the 'functional position,' which is the ideal position of the hands/wrists. TREWGrip’s design allows for this ideal hand/wrist position when typing."
TREWGrip LLC is a spin-off of Parker's umbrella company, Outlier Technologies
, headquartered in the Blue Ash area. The Mobile Dock's rear typing-enabled design requires the user to hold the device much like an accordion, allowing someone to type with both hands without using a surface (or your other hand) for support.
The product's multi-faceted health benefits brought TREWGrip to the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS
) conference last month in Chicago. Parker's experience at the conference proved that the healthcare market is ripe for change.
"A lot of the interfaces being used right now are pretty outdated," he says. "Companies have certain systems in place because there aren't other hardware platforms out there — they have very little incentive to upgrade."
According to Parker, doctors and hospitals have yet to embrace new technologies like the tablet over the laptop due to the fact that they don't truly transform their working experience. TREWGrip, on the other hand, does what tablets and laptops can't — it eliminates the need for a stationary workplace.
"Approximately 1.3 billion people around the world are considered 'mobile workers' and often find themselves sitting on the floor to get their work done," Parker says. "So if you want to understand what inspired TREWGrip, stand up in your office and try typing this story while holding your laptop or your desktop keyboard."
The unique tool still has its limitations. Users need at least half an hour to get used to the new keyboard and at least 8-10 hours of total use to reach their normal level of typing proficiency. The learning curve doesn't worry Parker.
"We are targeting the next generation of healthcare workers, emergency medical professionals and medical scribes," he says.
In the long term, Parker hopes to see his product evolve from a grippable keyboard to a grippable computer, complete with a screen and microprocessor.
"We can't get there in one big step, so we're taking a few smaller steps," he says. "Our first hurdle is getting users to appreciate the benefits of rear typing."
Unlike many growing businesses in Cincinnati, TREWGrip's focus on healthcare doesn't place it in the center of the city's startup ecosystem. On the contrary, most of their success has come from outside of Cincinnati.
"We are involved and have taken advantage of a lot of the opportunities offered by the 'innovation ecosystem,'" Parker says. "At this point, I think we know most of the players and most of the players know us, but I think TREWGrip is just too far outside their comfort zones to get directly involved."
That said, many of TREWGrip's investors are located in Cincinnati. Parker has also established his personal life in the city and doesn't intend to take his technology elsewhere any time soon.
"I live in Cincinnati because it’s a great place to raise a family, and that’s more important to me than anything else," he says.