Sunday, 29 September 2013

We can see the world in a grain of sand

One day, a young reporter boldly asked Thomas Edison about his 9000+ failed attempts while inventing a light bulb and whether he thought he should just give up. Perplexed, Edison replied, "Young man, why would I feel like a failure? And why would I ever give up? I now know definitively over 9000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work. Success is almost in my grasp." And shortly after that, with over 10,000 attempts, Edison invented the light bulb.
With a similar mindset, Biosense Technology’s Myshkin Ingawale from Thane and his friends started working aggressively on a dream medical device. Their focus was on detecting the medical condition ‘anemia’ as more than 2 billion people worldwide suffer from it. According to World Bank estimates anemia causes up to USD 50 Billion in productivity losses worldwide. Moreover most of the 2 billion anemic are in the developing world and tightly linked to nutritional status.
Myshkin says “Children and pregnant women are the most at risk of mortality - more than 1 million women and children die annually from undiagnosed anemia although it is perfectly treatable and can be controlled by changes in diet, iron tablets and folic acid.”
Till date, quantitation of blood hemoglobin levels which is an indicator of anemic condition is done only by using invasive techniques as no non-invasive method is currently available. Briefly, a small volume of blood is collected by pricking the finger or by using needle-syringe which is subsequently processed in laboratory to quantify hemoglobin levels. Hence, for measuring hemoglobin you need a trained technician and a small laboratories setup.   
Myshkin and his team conceptualized a completely non-invasive methodology based on ‘optical principals’ to measure hemoglobin. They hypothesized that by using spectroscopic techniques one should able to quantify blood hemoglobin. Although the idea seemed simple, in practical terms it was highly improbable if not impossible.
Myshkin and his team made more than 32 failed  attempts before they could achieve a breakthrough in building world’s first non-invasive, low-cost, scalable, systemic health care solution ‘ToucHb’ for diagnosing anemia. ToucHb could be a boon for millions of poor as well as old people around the globe, who suffer from undiagnosed and therefore untreated anemia. It is simple, inexpensive and non-invasive detector for anemia, which requires no needles, no pricking, no high tech gadgets and no trained assistants. ToucHb is a real game changer. Apart from blood hemoglobin, Touchb can measure oxygen saturation, body temperature and pulse rate. 
Talking more about the device, Myshkin says “The ToucHb works by shining light of different wavelengths through the tissue of the subject’s finger. Hemoglobin has a characteristic absorbance. Understanding the spectrum, and understanding what signals to filter out, ToucHb is able to determine the concentration of hemoglobin present in tissue.” Discussing about the failures, complexities and challenges faced while working, Myshkin adds “We learnt that every small thing has its own complexities. We can see the world in a grain of sand. We had to learn as we went along –We learnt the hard way – by being wrong!” Myshkin adds “there are hundreds of such ‘fixable’ problems all around us! We’ve learnt quite a bit of what NOT to do in product development thanks to our ToucHb story”.
Now, ToucHb is deployed in few clinics in India for testing and currently the team is planning to scale the production from 30-40 a batch to more than 1000 a batch. Biosense Technologies is also exploring opportunities to partner with different international and national health agencies to create global impact with ToucHb.
Myshkin gets excited by the words ‘non-invasive’ and ‘point of care’ and truly believe that there is a revolution underway in medical technologies which India should lead. He also believes that mobile devices will soon play a major role in preventive healthcare. Hence after the ToucHb’s success, now he and his team are working on another breakthrough project, a smartphone app ‘uCheck’ that helps diagnose and monitor 25 medical conditions. The uCheck app greatly simplifies urine analysis and also dramatically reduces the cost. It uses smartphone camera, color dipstick and the uCheck’s peripheral kit, to measure up to 10 parameters of urine such as glucose, ketone, urobilinogen, pH, bilirubin, etc. The results can be saved, shared, exported and analyzed as a trend over time. Routine urine analysis can help diagnose more than 25 medical conditions including diabetes, problems of kidney, liver and bladder along with common infections like UTIs. 
uCheck is already launched for an Apple device and now Biosense Technologies is working on adapting it for cheaper android devices. The android version of uCheck which will be launch soon will certainly empower primary healthcare workers to perform urine analysis in the remotest part of our country which currently has no access to primary healthcare facilities. 
On a personal front, Myshkin is a big fan of bicycles and working on a project idea for a fabrication system that will enable anyone to design a bicycle for themselves, from frame to finish.
 

Sunday, 22 September 2013

‘My innovations are aimed at improving Rural Healthcare’

WHAT are the majority of Indians working abroad worried about the most? Obviously, their parent’s health back in India! Rajendra Sadhu, founder of Vyzin Electronics was also going through similar emotional dilemma. Whenever his parents had health issues, Rajendra had to rush back to India to look after them. He was worried that medical emergency can strike anytime, hence was desperate for having a monitoring service or device that would help avert any medical disaster with his parents.
 
‘Necessity is mother of all inventions’, although a cliché, again proved right. Rajendra thought of a very innovative solution, which he later named ‘VESAG’, to remotely monitor his parents health. What’s incredible is not that Rajendra thought of this device but what’s more amazing is that no one had thought of it before.
In March 2010, Rajendra conceptualized a remote monitoring device that could be ‘worn like a watch’ and would help track the vitals of the user. Moreover, in case of an emergency, the device would also trigger an emergency response mechanism to avail immediate medical help. The concept was novel, hence, Rajendra patented it and immediately started working on building a prototype.
Rajendra has masters in IT from Vijaywada and MBA from Rutgers University, USA and worked for more than 10 years with Verizon Wireless. He got so fascinated by his remote monitoring device idea, that he decided to quit secure job and invested all his life’s savings into this project. The prototype ‘watch’ was ready within 8 months and the concept was widely appreciated.
Vesag ‘watch’ is a wearable device and works as an information gateway. It interacts with all other Vesag devices such as Oximeter, ECG, heart-rate monitor, blood pressure unit, etc. and sends health parameters using mobile technology. All the information is then integrated and uploaded to the cloud for remote health monitoring. Information can be verified by the primary care doctor remotely and can provide appropriate feedback. It can be also used as a mobile-based personal emergency response system.
In March 2011, Connected World magazine ranked ‘VESAG’ as No 1 Connected Health Devices in the world. Rajendra is also the winner of DST-Lockheed Martin India Innovation Award.
Now, Vesag devices are sold in over 15 countries, Rajendra says "Our solution has received phenomenal response. Every day, we receive multiple emails, especially from caregivers saying Vesag has completely transformed their lives. Our device gives mental comfort especially, to non-working women who can now step out of their house with a belief that their elderly family members are secured and monitored." Rajendra further adds "various people have now found multiple innovative applications of VESAG systems e.g. Parents use these devices to monitor their children while some BPO employees are using Vesag as it offers them a sense of security and access to emergency services when coming home late at night."
Encouraged by the success of VESAG watch systems, Rajendra felt that he should develop a solution especially aimed at pregnant women from remote areas as many of them have hardly any access to primary healthcare and monitoring. Hence, Rajendra conceptualized and developed a very small, portal Fetal Doppler unit intended for detecting and recording the fetal heart rate (FHR). It is applicable for use in clinics and homes, and can be conveniently operated by patients themselves. Rajendra says ‘Often, when pregnant women feel that the baby is not kicking, they visit a nearby clinic or primary doctor, who could be miles away. With our Fetal Doppler, pregnant women can check FHR even at home without visiting the doctor. As the Fetal Doppler can also be integrated with Vesag watch systems, automatic alerts can be set depending on the FHR readings. ‘My innovations are aimed at improving Rural Healthcare’
Moreover, now Vesag has also developed a ‘Fetal Care Plan’. Based on primary information, Vesag portal will calculate the trimester and deliver SMS messages to pregnant women regarding the precautions they have to take during the period of pregnancy thereby decreasing the maternal deaths and perinatal mortality.
 
Although, VESAG solutions are inexpensive, they might still be a bit expensive for rural Indian population. Hence, Rajendra is currently piloting a project whereby individual devices are placed at a Panchayat office or with ASHA workers to check the health of all the villagers with special emphasis on pregnant women. Rajendra says "Innovations at Vesag are aimed at improving rural healthcare. Our watch can be shared by 99,999 patients. Villagers can be given a unique ID number; they can wear the watch after entering their unique ID number. This transmits their health information to doctors and can prove a fantastic diagnostic tool when there aren’t hospitals or doctors in close vicinity. Moreover, even rural hospitals can use one set of watch and Fetal Doppler on multiple patients." says Rajendra.
All innovation by Rajendra are now geared towards remote health monitoring, especially aimed at rural setting. His mission is to target this sector as hardly any innovations are currently happening and requires a totally different approach. Rajendra wishes to ensure that his technology benefits all sections of the society.
 

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Rancho and his School for Innovations

Everyone knows ‘Rancho’, the protagonist from the classic ‘3 Idiots’. Rancho epitomizes out-of-the-box thinking, creativity and positivity by challenging the routine discourse of life. In 3 Idiots, the world watched Rancho (Aamir Khan) and his lady love ride a unique scooter fitted with a flour mill. The movie is full of such small innovations by Rancho but very few know about the real brain behind these simple yet great machines ……. the ‘real life Rancho’. 

The real life Rancho is Sheikh Jahangir Sheikh from Jalgaon, now 52-year-old and a car painter by profession has shown immense ability to innovate since his childhood. As Jalgaon faced huge electricity crises, Jahangir first designed scooter powered spray-painting unit about 25 years back to sustain his business.  Initially, he developed a compressor on a Luna (a moped) but as it did not work properly due to Luna’s low engine power, he experimented with scooter to build mobile spray painting device to get work done faster and easier. Jahangir spent about Rs. 4,000-5,000 for buying second-hand scooter and modified it into spray painting devices. Till date Jahangir has sold about 6 such spray painting machines.
Although, a school dropout, Jahangir considers life as his biggest teacher and firmly believes that mother is the necessity of all inventions. While the reel life Rancho had everything at his disposal, Jahangir supports family of 9 members and lives in a rented 'one room' accommodation.

Despite his poverty and problems, Jahangir enjoys toying with new ideas and doesn’t stop experimenting. Initially, people around him use to call him a 'mad man' but today, much to their surprise his innovations have been appreciated by the high and mighty including President of India.
Jahangir is full of pride to see his scooter in 3 Idiots. Now, he has converted multiple second-hand scooters into super machines like portable front loading washing machines that even saves water, a generator which can power tube-light, TV and fan, automated sugarcane juice making unit, etc. His scooter-powered flour mill is a big hit and of immense help to poor who can only afford to buy grains in very small quantities. Jahangir has even modified bicycles to charge mobiles, run mixer, play FM radio, etc.

National Innovation Foundation (NIF) which works for promoting grass-root innovations has also appreciated work done by Jahangir and because of NIF’s efforts, Jahangir’s innovations were exhibited on multiple platforms including at Rashtrapati Bhavan.  Former president of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam and Smt. Pratibha Patil have personally appreciated Jahangir’s work.

Jahangir says "I wish to develop machines that will help people in solving their problems. Giving back to society is the most satisfying experience and I want to work to make the nation proud. Whatever I have learnt, I try giving back.”
In 2011, while Jahangir was going through a lean patch in his life due to health reasons, he thought on the concept of innovation school and started his ‘Masti Ki Pathshala’ under Jahangir Foundation initially on pavement due to lack of facility and infrastructure. This year, he renamed his school as ‘Rancho Innovation School’ and shifted to a free space allotted by Mr. Hemant Patil.

The primary objective of ‘RANCHO Innovation School’ is to promote creative and out-of the box thinking amongst young students. Jahangir is also keen on imparting practical skills to students that will make them employable. This school is almost free and the enrolled students are only expected to pay Rs. 10 for the entire year. Currently, the school has about 400 students. Jahangir says “Students come to my school to gain practical knowledge and majority of them are from very poor economic background. There is no qualification and economical background bar for taking admission. Even students from good schools or technical and engineering courses are enrolling to get practical knowledge.”
Jahangir is very keen on promoting practical education especially amongst kids from slums that will make them employable. He personally visits slums and rural areas to inspire students to join his school. He is looking to increase the number of students to 1000 soon.

Another key feature of his school is that Jahangir organizes ‘idea competition’ every alternate day. Jahangir adds “till date students have submitted more than 900 unique Ideas which highlight their zeal, creativity and ability to think out-of-the-box”. Now Jahangir dreams of taking this ‘idea competition’ to every nook and corner of Maharashtra to create an idea bank. 
Jahangir is very passionate about his mission to promote innovation but expects suggestions and support from the society to take this initiative forward. Anyone can reach him on 09422282938.

Jahangir says “we need to create many more Ranchos, as only Ranchos can change India”.

Important: National Innovation Foundation (NIF) and Prof. Anil Gupta is working aggressively with Sheikh Jahangir to take his innovations to masses.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Susant Pattnaik: Real Life 'Doremon' or an Innovation Champ?

Nowadays, TV addict Kids in India simply love Japanese cartoon character ‘Doremon’ who always come up with very cool gadgets to help his very average and foolish brother Nobita. Doremon’s gadgets are unreal but still fantastic and innovative and kids always dream of having them. But I wish to take this opportunity to talk about Susant Pattnaik, a real life Indian Doremon.
Susant, son of a veterinarian from Bhubaneswar, is a serial innovator and an entrepreneur, having invented several cool devices since his high school days.  From a wheelchair that operates through breathing to an anti-theft mechanism for cars, the list of his innovations is big and enviable. Moreover, more than ten of his innovations have already made the critical transition from idea to a working prototype. Recently, Susant was also among the top winners of the seventh National Grassroots Innovation Awards, given by the National Innovation Foundation.

One of the most interesting and award winning innovation of Susant is his wheelchair specially designed for paralyzed and which operate just through breathing. This wheelchair prototype uses an innovative battery operated breathing sensor invented by Susant, which is worn as a headphone by the users to navigate the chair by giving commands just with their breath. The sensor acts both on air and heat in the breath. This breathing sensor is attached to a transmitter while the receiver device receives wireless signals in the form of breath. As the user breathes, the transmitter transmits the signal and the receiver receives it for controlling the movement of the wheelchair and performing other tasks. Now, Susant has also designed a novel anti-accident circuit for the wheelchair to avoid any mishaps.   
 
This breathing sensor technology has been recognized and awarded by various organizations like National Innovation Foundation, MIT Technology Review, NASA, Intel, etc. He was also selected as youngest inventor by MIT Technology Review.
Another interesting innovation by Susant is the anti-theft mechanism for cars which is operated through a mobile phone. The anti-theft device uses a mobile SIM card which can be paired with your phone.  The moment anyone breaks into the car and tries to fiddle with ignition, you get a beep on your phone with a call back number. The moment you call back, the mechanism get activated to immediately shutdown the car. This device also enables you to even trace the car via GPS.
Susant claims to have successfully installed this mechanism in over 50 cars in Bhopal. Moreover, variation of the same technology can have wide applications especially in security systems for home, office and shops.
Another innovation by Susant which can have wide application is the Low Cost Voice Operated Electrical and Electronics Appliance system. It works on voice by saying the name of the electrical appliance, for example light bulb or fan by mentioning its proper time of activation or deactivation, through any cell phone.
Presently, Susant is working on a very interesting concept, ‘Super Sense Technology’, a circuit-based device that will remove the need for a keyboard or mouse for a computer.  One can attach it on the wrist and operate any computer by a slight hand movement.  He is also working on an advanced model that has a jacket with an in-built computer.  The jacket and the wrist band together works like a computer.  According to Susant, you can type, draw or even access the internet – without needing a separate computer.
Apart from being a serial innovator and entrepreneur, Susant is also a motivational speaker and regularly addresses large gathering of students, which includes students from premier institutions like IITs. He even has a NGO for supporting innovators like him. Needless to add, he lists Dhirubhai Ambani among his role models.
Important: National Innovation Foundation (NIF) and Prof. Anil Gupta is working aggressively with Susant to take his innovations to masses.