Wireless Innovations Saving Lives

Innovative technology has the potential to save lives, and wireless technologies hold a special promise for vexing global problems.  In some resource-limited areas, access to reliable wireless service is among the only infrastructure platforms available.

That’s why the Vodafone Americas Foundation™ was delighted to give away more than $700,000 through our first Wireless Innovation Project™, a competition that identifies and funds unique innovations using wireless related technology offering the best potential to address critical social issues around the world.

Too often promising social innovations languish because they don’t have a platform for effective and efficient delivery.  We designed the competition to encourage cross-disciplinary cooperation within universities and encouraged non-governmental organizations and non-profits to apply. We also wanted to add the private sector rigor to the process of competing—a daunting online application forced teams to challenge academic and theoretical assumptions with real-world data.

Although fifty-one universities and 45 NGOs representing 25 states completed the online application, only nine finalists were selected to present before a world-class panel of judges. The panel represented the best minds in wireless technologies, global development and philanthropy.

The contestants heard feedback from venture capitalists who judge new technologies every day, to global mobile development experts who evaluate how technology can actually be deployed in the field, to engineers who evaluated whether the innovation was truly an innovation. For some contestants, it was the first time they had the chance to present their innovation outside their immediate field of research.

On April 23 the top three finalists shared the cash prize of $700,000 and were showcased at the Global Philanthropy Forum (www.philanthropyforum.org). The 2009 Wireless Innovation Project™ winners are:

  • Energy Harvesting Active Networked Tags (EnHANTs) for Disaster Recovery Applications ­– A system that uses wireless devices to track and locate survivors trapped by fires and structural collapse.
  • CelloPhone ­– A lensfree imaging platform on a cellphone for disease detection and diagnostics using digital holograms of the cells or bacteria, that is capable of monitoring HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and various other diseases.
  • CellScope: Mobile Microscopy for Disease Diagnosis –­ A conventional cell phone is transformed into a compact, high-resolution, handheld microscope with the capability of on-site disease diagnosis and wireless transmission of patient data to clinical centers for remote diagnosis & treatment.

We at the Vodafone Americas Foundation™ were humbled by the ingenuity and sheer talent of all the applicants who participated. Come see project summaries, photos and video of the Wireless Innovation Project™ winners at https://vodafone-us.com

We hope that each and every one of the Wireless Innovation Project™ finalists will succeed. Success for us will mean hundreds of thousands of lives saved when these incredible innovations are fully unleashed.