Global ‘Wearables for Good’ design challenge

15 September 2015

Launched in May 2015 by partners UNICEF, ARM and frog, the objective was to create a globally inclusive design competition.

Less than three months later, teams and individuals from 46 countries covering six continents had entered with 250 design ideas submitted to the judges.

New wearable technologies including a malaria alert bracelet for infants, a water purification band and an ear-worn pneumonia monitor are among the 10 ideas selected for the final stage of the Wearables for Good design challenge. 

The 10 shortlisted teams consist of innovative designers, engineers and technologists who have all created remarkable new wearable and sensor-based devices capable of helping the world’s most vulnerable people. This is a departure from the current mainstream wearables market which is mainly focused on lifestyle devices for the developed world. The Wearables for Good design challenge expands that focus, showing how wearables can save lives by tackling maternal and child health issues in the most difficult physical and energy-constrained environments. 

The finalists’ design ideas address issues including health, the availability of potable water, sanitation and hygiene, and child protection. The teams will now move into the next phase of the competition where they will attempt to turn their concepts into working prototypes.

The completed projects will be submitted in October, with the two winners announced in November at a tech event in Helsinki, Finland and ARM TechCon (Santa Clara, US). The winners will each receive a prize of $15,000, along with incubation and mentoring from UNICEF, ARM and frog.

The finalists are:

• CommunicAID, U.S: a bracelet that tracks medication treatment
• Droplet, U.S: a wrist-worn wearable water purification device
• Guard Band, Vietnam: a wristband that helps protect children from abuse
• Khushi Baby, India and U.S: a necklace-type wearable to track child immunisation in the first two years of life
• Raksh, India: a device worn in the ear to track a child’s respiration rate, heart rate, body temperature and relative breath humidity designed by a team of university students
• Soapen, India and U.S.: an interactive crayon-like device that encourages hand washing among young children 
• Telescrypts, East Africa and U.S: a wearable device to take patients’ vitals and send the data to health care workers
• TermoTell, Nigeria and U.S: a bracelet used to monitor and analyse a child’s temperature in real-time in order to save the lives of children at risk of malaria 
• Totem Open Health Patch, Netherlands: a small sensor-based device that is part of a wider Totem Open Health system for wearable health technology
• WAAA!, U.K.: A sensor-based neonatal health surveillance tool.

Erica Kochi, co-lead and co-founder of UNICEF Innovation said: "The ideas from the 10 finalists demonstrate how wearable technology can be applied in resource-constrained environments, creating viable business opportunities for the technology sector in developing markets. We’re excited to review the finalists’ refined ideas over the coming months to pick two that have the potential to improve the lives of women and children at a national or global scale."

Simon Segars, CEO, ARM said: “We launched a technology competition and we have ended up with 10 ideas that could all save the lives of millions of vulnerable children. It shows there is a wealth of untapped expertise and ideas out there for new wearable devices that can fulfil a wholly different purpose than is associated with them now.” 

Denise Gershbein, Executive Creative Director, frog said: “As we kick off this next phase of the challenge, our goal is to not only help develop impactful design solutions, but to catalyse a conversation around the actual definition of wearables and the idea of social impact. Wearables are no longer just devices we wear on our bodies to measure our heart rate or count our steps. What really makes them ‘tick’ is when they are embedded within the context of entire networks, generating significant sustainable social impact. We are excited to help the 10 finalists navigate this challenge and in turn, rally the global community to explore greater use case potential for wearables and sensor technology.”

During this next stage of the challenge the finalists will receive coaching from a number of experts within the field to help them turn their design ideas into working prototypes.

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