Meet the Unicef Wearables Finalists Series: WAAA!

11th November 2015 Posted by: Cat Cochrane

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 tenth and final article of our series, we interviewed the team behind WAAA!, Wearable, Anytime, Anywhere, Apgar is a mobile phone, text-based surveillance service that systematically transmits live APGAR data via soft patch sensors located on a newborn baby.

 

WAAA!


The rate of infant mortality around the world is quite staggering, even in developed nations. Were these figures, particularly in developing areas, the team’s motivational drive to create WAAA!?

Absolutely, coupled with the fact that each year there are more than 40 million unattended births. Other drivers included: the new Sustainable Development Goal 3.1 to end preventable newborn deaths and children under-5 by 2030; the five strategic objectives outlined in the World Health Organisation and Unicef’s Every New Born Vision (2015).

How might the data collected from WAAA! as individual wearables be utilised by health NGOs around the world? Will this data also be open source?

Parental engagement with WAAA! system technologies provides an opportunity for health agencies and ministries to push birth registration, monitor neonatal survival trends, assess impact of neonatal initiatives and target with greater accuracy limited human and physical resources.

What challenges are presented with designing a wearable such as WAAA!, particularly around the sensitive field of infant mortality?

A key objective for the WAAA! team was to deliver a total system solution. Our final proposal consisted APGAR education of parents, APGAR training of community health workers (CHWs) and volunteer health teams (VHTs) and as well as a frugal WAAA! wearable and gateway. In addition, to reduce project costs, to increase feasibility and future scalability we envisaged WAAA! integrating and extending existing UNICEF initiatives such as MobiStation and BackPack+.

Currently the system technology is capable of monitoring multiple newborns over distances of 300ft to 40 miles. Could this range be expanded with extended research to gain wider impact?

While an extended range sounds attractive during a refinement phase we identified that one of the downsides is an increased tech cost and a higher battery consumption. For a first generation concept demonstrator we proposed a more simple system managed by a community health worker or VHT.

What impact do you project the prototype having in five years time should it be the Unicef Wearables winner?


Quantifying its future impact is difficult but will ultimately be determined by the next steps: success of partnerships, project advocates and a shared focus will turn WAAA! into a reality in order to reduce first day neonatal deaths and the prevalence of unattended births worldwide through a wearable for good.

Quote

Parental engagement with WAAA! system technologies provides an opportunity for health agencies and ministries to push birth registration, monitor neonatal survival trends, assess impact of neonatal initiatives and target with greater accuracy limited human and physical resources.

Links

WAAA! Vimeo

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