11 Dec 2015
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Wearables for Good challenge celebrates life-changing technology

By Catherine Knowles

A necklace that stores electronic health data to track child immunisation and a wearable soap that helps limit the spread of infectious viruses by encouraging hand washing, have won the Wearables for Good challenge run by UNICEF, ARM and frog.

The winning designs will each receive a prize of $15,000 and incubation and mentoring from the partners.

Khushi Baby is a data-storing necklace that provides a two-year personal immunisation record for children.

It uses Near Field Communication (NFC) technology to send and receive information through a smartphone. Data is synced to the cloud and displayed on a dashboard accessible to health officials.

SoaPen is a personal hygiene tool in the form of a soap-crayon that encourages the habit of handwashing among school children from the ages of 3-6 years.

Teachers and parents can draw or write on a child’s skin to make the act of hand-washing engaging while reducing the spread of disease.

The Wearables for Good competition was launched in May 2015 and has since become regarded as a very inclusive technology and design challenge, attracting 2,000 registrants from 65 countries that resulted in 250 design submissions.

It focused on moving the perception of wearables from nice-to-have devices to life-saving products that could work in any environment.

Ruchit Nagar, representing the Khushi Baby team, says, “Khushi Baby want to ensure that all infants have access to informed and timely health care by owning a copy of their medical history.

“The Khushi Baby system enables access to culturally appropriate wearable digital medical records, even in the most remote and isolated areas.

“We believe in tracking each child's immunisation to the last mile, and as a UNICEF Wearables for Good Challenge winner, we look to expand from monitoring the vaccination progress of 1,000 children in 100 villages to a larger beneficiary base in areas beyond India where our digital system can streamline access and delivery to health care.

“We also look forward to building our system to serve broader populations and medical applications, moving soon to a wider focus on a continuum of maternal and child health care."

“At its core, Khushi Baby functions as a key to connect those in need of services to a digitally integrated community,” he says.

Shubham Issar, from SoaPen, says, “We believe that a serious problem can be solved through a simple and fun solution.

“Our focus is to reduce infant mortality rates and the spread of disease by promoting the habit of hand washing with soap among children.

“SoaPen taps into the power of the two directional awareness flow between adults and children all over the world, with the aim to reach as many hands as fast as possible!”

Erica Kochi, UNICEF Innovation co-lead and co-founder, says UNICEF is focused on areas that are undergoing rapid change that will have a significant impact on children.

“By showing how wearables and sensors can be re-imagined for low-tech and unconnected environments, our winners were able to demonstrate the potential life-saving benefits these innovations can offer.

“These results are really promising - if I told you 10 years ago that I thought mobile phones could strengthen national health systems, you would have told me I’m crazy. I’m excited to see if wearable and sensor technologies could be the next mobile revolution,” he says.

This is a time when design has great power to help others, says Simon Segars, ARM CEO.

“By using readily available technologies, all of the finalists showed us how incredibly simple ideas can have the potential to be transformative.

“The winners in particular demonstrate how the work we’re doing with UNICEF can help push innovation that can radically improve the prospects for children in the emerging world,” Segars says.

Denise Gershbein, frog executive creative director, says, “We wanted to elevate wearable and sensor technology in a way that moves beyond fitness trackers on the wrist and towards improving the lives of mothers and children across the world.

“It was our goal to bring together a broad and diverse community of people whose ideas and efforts would be much more powerful when brought together in new ways."

“We are extremely pleased with the dialogue that has resulted from this effort, and truly humbled and impressed by the solutions generated by the winners. We look forward to seeing real impact in the world from these ideas,” Gershbein says.

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