Connor Young and Andy Chan, founders of Vigilant Technologies.

Vigilant Technologies’ new product Arc began as an idea to help athletes learn how to lift properly, because one wrong move with heavy weights can result in a world of pain and injury.

Andy Chan and Connor Young began working on the problem as a part of the Project Olympus program at CMU and the hardware startup incubator AlphaLab Gear.

“During this time at AlphaLab Gear, we started talking to safety professionals and realized that soft tissue injuries are often the number one cause for workers’ compensation and days away from work,” says Chan, who is CEO of Vigilant Technologies.

After several years of research, the Oakland-based Vigilant Technologies created the Arc device.

It’s tiny, you clip it behind your collar, and it detects unsafe behaviors at work — then provides real-time haptic feedback to help correct them.

The Arc device. Photo courtesy of Vigilant Technologies.

Chan was in Portugal this month, as Vigilant is in the process of being acquired by SWORD Health — one of the world’s fastest-growing virtual musculoskeletal care providers — which is based there and in New York. Chan and Young will continue to run Vigilant based in Pittsburgh.

SWORD Health has worked with insurers, health systems, unions and employers across Europe, North America and Australia. Vigilant works with the U.S. Department of Defense, UPMC and Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift.

“Since using our platform, companies have seen a reduction of unsafe behaviors and reduced days away from work and injuries by over 33%,” says Chan.

Since musculoskeletal injuries are so common, the possibilities for growth seem limitless.

“Yet there hasn’t been a scalable solution to help people prevent injuries, reduce pain, and reduce the need for surgery and opioids,” says Chan.

Pittsburgh was a good place to start Vigilant, as it turns out.

“Pittsburgh presented itself with a lower cost of living compared to the Bay Area or New York City and offered us attractive developer talent from the local ecosystem,” Chan says. “In addition, a lot of our early adopters and pilots were locally based companies, which made sense to be close to them during our early days.”

It’s also a win for local manufacturing.

“We manufacture the Arc devices locally in Pittsburgh with EPD Electronics (in Natrona Heights),” says Chan.

The startup employs five people at the moment but expects to grow quickly.

With everyone in Pittsburgh’s tech community abuzz about the recent stampede of “unicorns” ($1 billion-plus startups) — such as Duolingo, Argo AI and Aurora — that indeed is the goal for Vigilant, small as it is at the moment.

“I think it would bring more attention and validation to the Pittsburgh ecosystem as we’ll be looking to substantially grow our engineering and product teams locally, which in turn will bring more business to local communities and investors,” Chan says.

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.