Call for Change: Wearables for Good Design Challenge Looks for Innovation

Well-known charitable organization UNICEF and technology giant ARM are giving product designers around the world a huge challenge: to find new ways for wearable technologies to solve pressing global problems that globally prevent families from accessing basic health, education, and support services.

“We have to look at where the line is between standardization and innovation,” said Ian Ferguson, vice president of marketing, at ARM. “The good thing with our technology is you can do anything with it and the challenging thing is also that you can do anything with it. It's good to have frog and UNICEF, which understand what the environments are like and how to do robust product designs.”

Using the battle cry “innovate for impact,” the two companies are collaborating with product strategy and design firm frog to start the multi-year initiative that will start with the Wearables for Good design challenge. ” We want to encourage the idea that all of us — makers, engineers, do-gooders, executives, computer scientists, inventors, innovators — are making things that are not just nice to have, but that people need,” the Wearables for Good site explains.

During the six-month contest, developers, designers, community partners, and problem-solvers are being challenged to design a wearable device that offers a cost-effective, efficient, and sustainable solution to a pressing maternal, newborn, or child health problem. “We want everyone from students to professionals, including individuals or groups, to participate,” said Denise Gershbein, executive creative director, at frog design. “We want involvement from all disciplines too.” 

The winners will be given a $15,000 cash prize, but more importantly the winners will get incubation and mentorship support from ARM and frog to help get the two chosen projects to the pilot stage and demonstrate the potential of the idea. 

See more about the challenge in the video here:

Today, much of wearable innovation is focused on addressing the wants of the developed world, but this challenge asks innovators to think about wearable and sensor technology in wholly new ways. “This is not the same as designing wearables in the U.S. market,” said Gerhbein. “Designers have to think about the available infrastructure and how to make the device cost effective, low power, rugged, durable, and scalable. Once the design is creative, these devices could be imagined for other use case and scenarios as well.”

Designers are encourage to consider a variety of factors including:

  • Geographic distance to facilities and services
  • Very low quality or non-existent public services
  • Inadequately skilled personnel
  • Lack of financial resources
  • Time constraints
  • Competing economic motivations
  • Social marginalization

Further, designers are encouraged to work to understand the needs of the communities being served. “You have to understand the ecosystem,” said Erica Kochi, senior advisor to UNICEF, executive director on Innovation and co-founder, UNICEF Innovation. “You can't just drop in a product without context.” One small example: a country with no roads has little use for a conventional ambulance.

Do you have a great idea about how wearables can change the world? Sign up for the Wearables for Good challenge. In the meantime, let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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1 comment on “Call for Change: Wearables for Good Design Challenge Looks for Innovation

  1. puga2006
    May 22, 2015

    Wearables can add a lot of value to developing countries, here are some very highlevel initial thoughts on how they can add value focussing on some very important fundamental amenities that are lacking, however the challenge will be to make them in an affordable cost for these economies. It would probably look something like an RFID chip without any screen that be integrated/read through the cell phone screen or something like that in order to keep the cost very minimal. 

    Govt of India recently did a major project to provide unique identity to the people based on  biometric technology, that could be incorporated in wearable technology and can be integrated with systems that validate and provide services to people based on their identity. 

    Education – Kids that are supposed to be in school can be tracked using wearables, if they are somewhere else and still receiving govt benefits then stipulations can be enforced. 

    Healthcare – Health monitoring for old people and kids that are supposed to be receiving govt benefits but not getting any because the middle men are scamming the funds  

    Safety of Women is still lacking even in big cities, if the near and dears can know the location of the ladies in their family, especially the ones that are working through their mobile device that will make life easy 




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