Six months ago, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) put forth a challenge to develop innovative, affordable solutions to make wearables and sensor technology a life-changer for women and children. They called it Wearables For Good.

Regarded as one of the world’s most inclusive technology and design challenges, anyone with an idea – students, entrepreneurs, inventors, engineers, designers and technologists responded. With a total of 250 submissions from 65 countries across six continents, two winners have just been announced.

The first is a necklace capable of recording health data, and the second is wearable soap that limits the spread of infectious germs by encouraging handwashing.

The winning teams include students from India and the United States. Both will receive a $15,000 prize and assistance in developing the products from frog design inc. and ARM Holdings, a technology development company.

The wearable necklace, called “Khushi Baby,” works as a data-storing device that provides a two-year personal immunization record for the wearer. The device works with Near Field Communication (NFC) technology which allows the device to send and receive information through a smartphone. Data is then synced to the cloud and displayed on a dashboard accessible to health officials.

Representing the Khushi Baby team, Ruchit Nagar wants “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 immunization to the last mile…At its core, Khushi Baby functions as a key to connect those in need of services to a digitally integrated community.”

SoaPen, the second winning design, is a personal hygiene tool in the form of a soap-crayon. It aims to encourage the habit of handwashing among young school children. With the SoaPen, teachers and parents are able to draw or write on a child’s skin to make the act of hand-washing engaging while reducing the spread of disease.

Shubham Issar, representing SoaPen, said, “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, co-lead and co-founder of UNICEF Innovation, said that “UNICEF scans the near-future horizon focusing on areas undergoing rapid changes that could 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 ten 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.”

Kara Buckley

Sources: Reuters, NPR, UNICEF, Wearables For Good
Photo: Flickr