This summer Unicef set the challenge of designing wearable and sensor technology that serves people in resource constrained environments. In the run up to the announcement of the winners on 12th November, we're proud to cover the teams and their prototype wearables, each aiming to make great impact in the fields of health, child abuse prevention, clean water safety and much more.
In the fifth of our series we interviewed the team behind Droplet, a wearable water purification device in the form of a bracelet, made in the effort to make safe drinking water available for everyone.
Droplet has the potential to be a real tech for good game changer for safe water due to its size and transportability. What might be the challenges of the device reaching those who it can aid most?
Some of the challenges we might face align with a lot of the challenges most products have when distributing in developing countries. The distribution chain is far less developed, especially in the most remote areas where access to clean water is a huge problem. We are combating that by piggybacking off of Coca Cola’s distribution chain. Coca Cola is arguably the most available and in-demand product in even the most remote parts of the world. By directly associating the product design and distribution model with Coca Cola, we are able to reach those areas most in need.
Collecting the ‘right’ data appears to be key to Droplet’s impact. What are examples of data that could in turn help people and communities where Droplet is worn in developing nations?
Due to production cost constraints and the availability of a portable data collection device, we decided to shift the focus of Droplet’s main functionality to only serve as a water purification device. Eventually when data collection technology is more stable and affordable, we will be able to incorporate our original concept functionalities of data collection into the device. Some key examples of useful data from Droplet that could in turn help people and communities would be types of bacteria present in the water and as a result the impending diseases that could affect an area.
What materials would be used to design and create your device? Are these sustainable?
Droplet works by using a small UV-C germicidal bulb powered by two rechargeable batteries. It also includes an auto-timer, protective cover, durable lanyard, and a detachable solar charger that can provide a full charge in two hours for up to 100 uses per charge. At the push of a button, the bulb turns on for 60 seconds - enough time to purify up to 20 fluid ounces of water. The rechargeable batteries and solar energy charger are sustainable product components. In order to make this wearable a scaleable and sustainable product, we’re also going to spend some time and efforts on training someone in the community to maintain, repair, and replace models. In most cases, this would be the manager at Coca Cola micro-distribution centers.
What has been the reaction of water industry, particularly in the area of safe water?
The reaction of the water industry so far has been limited since this wearable has not been produced and distributed. We contacted local water sanitation companies who were enthused by the possibilities of UV-C technology in helping countries that truly need safe water. Those that are aware of the effectiveness of UV-C technology are excited about the applications it could have.
What impact do you project the prototype having for safe water issues in five years time should it be the Unicef Wearables winner?
In five years time, we are hoping to impact the lives of women and children by empowering them the ability to access clean, safe drinking water and improving their overall health. Water-borne illnesses are one of the biggest causes of death in the developing world. Droplet could be an efficient and effective way to minimize these diseases and deaths by working at the moment clean water is most essential: right before drinking. Also in five years time, we will want to incorporate a bacterial data collection sensor, so that predictions can be made about any impending diseases.
"Water-borne illnesses are one of the biggest causes of death in the developing world. Droplet could be an efficient and effective way to minimize these diseases and deaths by working at the moment clean water is most essential: right before drinking."