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 sixth of our series, we interviewed the team behind Raksh, taken from the Sanskrit word “safeguard.” Raksh is a low cost bluetooth-based, ear-worn multi-parameter monitoring platform.
What is the biggest challenge to the ambition of prototyping a specifically medical device in India? Is there the support where it’s required?
Much of our challenge lies in regulation with regards to medical devices. Medical device development is usually done by giant corporations and starting a healthcare device hardware start-up is unheard of in India. New programs are coming up with hospitals working with innovators for device trials. Getting proper certification is however the largest obstacle for us as a startup.
Can you tell us a bit more about your “critical metamorphosis period” of converting the prototype into a practical product?
We were quite good engineers when started to build prototypes of Raksh, however we ran into major design hurdles in making the device comfortable and easy to use. That's when we did a complete 180 degree turn in redesigning the position of our sensors to make it comfortable and accurate at the same time. Our business plan was also a bit naive and thanks to some amazing feedback from the Wearables for Good challenge mentors and coaches, we were able to figure out a viable business and marketing plan.
What has been the reaction from the medical industry to your prototype? Has the traction encouraged your work or challenged it?
Challenging the status quo in the medical industry here is actually new and many people we spoke to in the industry were baffled by the fact that it was a work of a couple of college students. Some have been skeptical about the performance of our device but we believe we can convince them after we have our test results.
What impact do you project the prototype having in five years time should it be the Unicef Wearables winner?
While Raksh started out as a small project to test out my hypothesis, It soon grew exponentially larger when we realised the real world implication that such a device would have. To that end we decided to work on Raksh regardless if we win or lose, due to the sheer number of infant lives such a device might save. While winning the UNICEF challenge would provide us with funds and resources to bootstrap our journey, we plan to make a viable product with Raksh.
"While Raksh started out as a small project to test out my hypothesis, It soon grew exponentially larger when we realised the real world implication that such a device would have. To that end we decided to work on Raksh regardless if we win or lose, due to the sheer number of infant lives such a device might save."