Technology Innovations


BloodBag_470At the 2015 MIT Design Innovation workshop, a MIT Media Lab India initiative, a group of students and professionals has created a mobile application called Blood Collective that allows those in need of blood to search for voluntary blood donors available in the vicinity.  

The team developed the application prototype at the 2015 MIT Design Innovation Workshop in Gandhinagar as part of the Civic Innovation track which focused on building “the tools that help change the world together”and “a better technological infrastructure to support the engaged citizens who are already acting to make their communities better, and inspire others to join them”.

The home screen of Blood Collective app

The home screen of Blood Collective app

Combining different skills, each team member contributed differently to create the alpha version of the app and test it during the workshop. While IT industry professional Pragnendra Rahevar (32) floated the idea and shared the concept, National Institute of Design graduate Akshah Ish (27) designed the complete user interface of the application. The core development of the app has been done by Ayush Sharma (20) of Arya College of Engineering and IT, Jaipur, with necessary research and support provided by Abhimanyu Kumar (20) of Haldia Institute of Technology, West Bengal. 

Bridging the Gap

Voluntary blood donation is considered the highest form of humanitarian service as it is done without the expectation of knowing who it will eventually help. Each unit of blood donation helps many patients as blood is usually segregated into RBCs, Platelets, WBCs and Plasma and given away as per requirement. But then there are yet not enough people who opt to donate blood. 

In India there is constant shortage of blood. According to a 2012 World Health Organization (WHO), every country needs at least a one percent blood reserve. India, with its 1.2 billion population, needs 12 million units of blood annually but collects only nine million of which 70 percent is from voluntary blood donors while the remaining 30 percent is from family/replacement donors.  

Even though most blood collection is done from voluntary donors, the voluntary blood donors network remains fragmented and inaccessible to a large community at the time of need. The Blood Collective smartphone application aims to tap into this existing network of blood donors and bring them at your fingertips. 

“In India it is just a chance that you will get blood when you need it. Some people do not want to donate blood, while some who are willing to do it find it frustrating to go to the blood banks criteria, fill forms and donate. Tapping into the community of voluntary blood donors therefore remains a challenge. The current gap between the demand for blood and its supply also leaves scope for touts, agents and illegal, unsafe blood donation. Paid blood donation is illegal in India.  Our application targets the problem in a simple manner – if you need blood, connect directly with multiple blood donors close by and see if any of them is willing to offer help,” explains Ayush.

How it works

During the workshop the alpha version of the Indian-centric app was hosted on local servers and directly uploaded to a few mobile phones. However, based on the feedback from mentors and users, with the help of a few volunteers the team is now developing the beta version of the app. 

The app is expected to function like this: The first time the user accesses the application, she will be requested to select from the two categories “I want blood” or “I want to volunteer”. Once a voluntary blood donor selects the latter option, her name and number gets registered in the database. However, for safety reasons, the name and number of the donor is not shared with the requester. Rather, when the requester searches for a donor in the vicinity, she can view profile icons of the available donors and can send a request to them through the app. The requester’s number is sent to the donor and the decision to respond entirely rests with the donor.

The map feature shows the requester available blood donors in the vicinity

The map feature shows the requester available blood donors in the vicinity

The volunteer category also enables the voluntary blood donors to see all requests, allowing the user to contact the requester directly and offer blood donation. 

“The most important aspect of the app is to generate awareness about safety of blood donation and encourage volunteering. Currently, whenever people need blood, they either opt to call, send SMS or post on social networking websites. The wait for a response is stressful. At blood banks, if you have donated blood in past six months, you may be charged around Rs. 1,400 per unit. If you haven’t, the chances of getting blood are dismal. The solution to all this is volunteered blood donation. Bringing volunteer blood donors closer to the needy therefore could be very helpful and that is the focus of the Blood Collective app. Using the app, both a volunteer and a requester can save lives,” explains Pragnendra who has been volunteering with a non-profit organization for over three years, organizing blood donation camps across the country. 

Next Steps

The team is developing the beta version of the app and improving its user interface, adding more features to it, and carrying out basic user testing. It is expected to be available on the Web and on Google Play store by May 2015. The group is looking for more volunteers with specialized skills to develop the application for the iOS and Windows platforms. 

The Blood Collective mobile app has a huge social potential to connect and build a large network of voluntary blood donors with the requesters, allowing the common man to save lives and be human. However, it needs to build on its unique aspects that will differentiate it from the existing apps. 

To know more about Blood Collective, contact pragnendra@gmail.com.

(This article is part of a series on innovations presented at the 2015 MIT Media Lab India Design Innovation Workshop.)


Series: MIT Design Innovation Workshop 2015

A team of three students, Shreyas Kapur (16) of Modern School, New Delhi, Kaustubh Shivdikar (20) of Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute, Mumbai, and International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore alumnus Nitesh Kadyan (25), recently created a three-dimensional (3-D) printer that can print using fabric.

As part of the Smart Textiles track at the recent 2015 MIT Design Innovation Workshop, the team has developed a prototype of the 3-D fabric printer using the RepRap open-source hardware and software.

Prototype of 3-D Fabric Printer by Team Squeeshy

Prototype of 3-D Fabric Printer by         Team Squeeshy

3-D Printing

3-D printing is primarily a process that is used to make a three-dimensional object. The printer uses additive manufacturing over the traditional subtractive manufacturing.

In subtractive manufacturing, the excess material is milled or subtracted using a milling machine to get the desired shape. In additive manufacturing, however, the 3-D printer produces successive layers of the desired material under computer control until the entire object is created, preventing wastage of material. The objects printed by a 3-D printer, therefore, can be of almost any shape or geometry.

The Prototype

The focus of the Smart Textiles track at the MIT Workshop was to reimagine “the seamless integration of textiles with electronic elements like micro-controllers, sensors, and actuators”. Even though the use of 3-D printers is now being explored in several areas such as healthcare, automobiles, manufacturing, food, and consumer goods, using the technique to print fabric samples is a less explored area as of today.

With the prototype, the trio explore a mix of 3-D printing and conductive thread that can allow users to print circuits inside wearable fabric. On a simpler and lighter note, the 3-D fabric printer could allow users to print soft toys at home!

How It Works

The process of 3-D printing comprises three stages:

  1. Creating the 3-D printable design model of the desired object with a computer aided design (CAD) software.
  2. The file of the model is converted into a .STL or .OBJ format that is readable to the printing software.
  3. The converted file is processed by a software called Slicer which converts the 3-D model into multiple thin 2-D layers and produces a G-code that contains instructions tailored to a 3-D printer.

Once the G-code is generated, the 3-D printer lays down successive 2-D layers of the input material (plastic, resin and even food pastes like chocolate) to create the 3-D model from a series of cross sections. This laying down happens in different ways for different materials. For example, plastic requires a heating extruder to melt it and extrude, while resin requires a laser beam to cure it. The layers, which correspond to the virtual cross sections from the CAD model, are joined or automatically fused to create the final shape.

 

Nitesh Kadyan at the 2015 MIT Design Innovation Workshop

Nitesh Kadyan at the 2015 MIT Design  Innovation Workshop

To create the 3-D fabric printer prototype, the team has followed a similar process but instead of using the hot extruder that is used in plastic printing, it used a felting needle which moved up and down through a thick foam base. Here is how the prototype works: the felting needle is connected to wool and the up-down movement pushes the wool inside the foam base. The movement of the base in the 2-D space provides shape to a layer and the process continues til the final object is created. To do this, the team used an old 3-D printer and custom-made a felting needle which used wool as the primary input.

There are multiple use cases for the prototype. “Just imagine if you can print soft toys for your kids at your home. Imagine if you have a washable sensor-based circuit inside your t-shirt which is connected to LEDs to tell you if it’s going to rain or not in your area. Another example could be a health monitoring shirt which can read our pulse rate. All this could be possible if we have a 3-D printer that prints with soft materials like wool or with conductive thread. Possibilities are endless,” says Nitesh.

Next Steps
A similar experiment has been done by students at Carnegie Mellon University and by the Walt Disney Company. However, both were proprietary experiments. Team Squeeshy aims to contact the RepRap team and work with them to build the prototype further, improve its felting mechanism, performance and design, and make the project open source.

To contact the innovators, write to niteshkadyan@gmail.com.

This article is part of a series on innovations presented at the 2015 MIT Design Innovation Workshop.


A team of three students, Bisman Deu, Rayvin Thingnam, and Ekambir Singh, has invented “Green Wood” made out of recycled rice husks and straw that could be used an as alternative building material. 

Majority of the world’s population eat rice as a staple food, and the crop dominates cereal production in many developing countries. The threshing of rice produces unwanted husks and straw, and the options for disposal are limited: burning, composting or feeding to animals on the farm. The residues have no commercial value and therefore the farmers end up burning the rice waste – causing air pollution, killing crop-friendly insects and making the topmost layer of soil partially infertile due to loss of nutrients.

As a cost-effective solution to this, the three-member team used rice husks and straw as the raw material, mixed the waste with a resin, and pressed the mixture into particle boards. The new particle boards are fungi- and mould-proof, waterproof, and affordable.

The innovation addresses many challenges such as reducing deforestation and pollution, providing extra source of income for farmers, and providing an environment-friendly, low-cost alternative material for building houses and furniture. Read more

Source: Guardian and Unicef 


Bangalore-based RightCloudz Technologies has developed a new evaluation methodology that offers comparison and evaluation of cloud vendors based on the enterprise customer’s specific business needs.

With the increasing number of cloud services and vendors, enterprises find it challenging to not only purchase the right type of cloud for their specific requirements, but also to identify a suitable vendor that can offer better returns on investment. Scientific and rational comparison of vendors and their services can therefore become a daunting task for cloud consumers.

RightCloudz Technologies, a cloud intelligence startup by four cloud professionals of the city’s IT industry, has developed a proprietary software based on its evaluation methodology called RankCloudz. The application offers comparison and evaluation of cloud vendors based on the customer’s specific business needs. RankCloudz incorporates static and dynamic information about the world’s major cloud vendors and their services. Using this information, the software application enables comparison and evaluation of cloud vendors based on the enterprise’s business and technical priorities.

Vikas Mathur, Sreehari Narasipur and Subhranshu Banerjee co-founded RightCloudz Technologies in early 2013 with Archana Nukal joining the team in mid-2014. In November 2014, the company launched the first online beta version of RankCloudz for enterprises. In the beta phase, the startup has released Web-based, customized cloud recommendations reports comprising detailed analysis of cloud vendors along with qualitative information on each listed vendor. The reports capture the results of online interactive visualizations which help enterprises in evaluating major cloud vendors for a wide range of business scenarios. Read full report on page 2

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A spoonful of yogurt could soon offer a cheap and simple way to screen for colorectal cancer. MIT Professor Sangeeta Bhatia is working to replace costly and uncomfortable colonoscopies and MRIs with a helping of yogurt followed by a urine test—a cheap method that could improve the early diagnosis of colorectal cancer.

Bhatia is developing synthetic molecules that can be introduced into the body via yogurt, and will interact with cancer in a way that produces telltale biomarkers. These molecules can then be detected easily when passed in urine.

Bhatia previously developed nanoparticles that find their way to tumors, and are then broken into smaller pieces by enzymes produced by the cancer. The broken up particles are small enough to be collected and concentrated by the kidneys, after which they are excreted. The first iteration of the technique involved the use of lab instruments to analyze urine and find the telltale markers. Now Bhatia has developed a paper-based urine test—like the one you’d use for pregnancy. So far this test has been demonstrated in mice for colorectal cancer and liver fibrosis. Read more


Material scientist Viney Dixit and his team at the Hydrogen Energy Center of Banaras Hindu University in India have discovered that carbonized coconut flesh contains secret ingredients that dramatically enhance its ability to store hydrogen.

Hydrogen is a potential renewable fuel because it can easily be generated from water using electrolysis. It also burns cleanly to produce water vapor. The hope is that it could also be distributed using the same global network of liquid fuel transport that moves petrol around the planet. However, one of the main challenges in its wide adoption as a renewable fuel is that hydrogen is difficult to store efficiently as it has a poor energy density by volume compared to petrol. That is why much of the material science research in this area has focused on finding materials that adsorb hydrogen efficiently and then release it again when it is required.

In their research, Viney and his team have shown that coconut outperforms a number of other hydrogen storage materials, particularly in its ability to work over many charging cycles. The team spent some time studying the microstructure of the carbonized coconut flesh to work out why it performs so well. And they have pinpointed two mechanisms. The first is that the carbonized coconut flesh contains a significant amount of potassium chloride, which polarizes the carbon matrix in which it is embedded. This enhances the hydrogen adsorption capacity. The second is that the carbon matrix also contains significant amounts of magnesium, which is known to enhance the dissociation of hydrogen molecules, making them easier to adsorb. That is an interesting result that suggests some promising avenues for future research. Read more


Scientists at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, have developed a handheld device that can diagnose malaria within 30 minutes, from just a little drop of blood.

The team has developed a lab prototype of the low-cost diagnostic instrument that takes a small sample of blood, analyzes individual cells, and detects cells that are infected by malaria.  

A team of researchers led by Dr Sai Siva Gorthi, assistant professor at the Department of Instrumentation and Applied Physics, IISc, developed and incubated the device at the Robert Bosch Centre for Cyber Physical Systems (RBCCPS) at IISc.

The device, which is small enough to fit into a hand, has a common optical reader into which the user slides the blood sample in a replaceable microfluidic cartridge, each time a new test is to be performed. Cartridges are preloaded for automated processing of the blood samples. The affected blood cells display morphological features that are different from normal cells; just by looking at the cell images on the LCD display, it’s clear if the cell is infected or not. The device uses algorithms that run on a smartphone-like platform for automatic evaluation and therefore does not require a skilled technician for handling the instrument. Qualitative test results can be known instantaneously while quantitative parasitemia levels are assessed and displayed in about 30 minutes. 

Malaria, a mosquito-borne disease, is rampant in developing countries. In India, over 13 lakh malaria cases were reported in 2011 of which 754 people died. In rural India, due to lack of primary healthcare, villagers have to travel to the nearest town or city for diagnosis. The diagnostic process — from taking blood samples, to manually analyzing them under a microscope, to preparing a report — usually takes more than a day and makes it challenging for healthcare workers to get back with recommendations for treatment. The new approach, however, combines technologies like image processing, microfluidics and microscopy.

Compared to traditional diagnosis methods, the new device collects significantly lower quantities of blood. It analyzes each and every cell present in this tiny drop of blood and gives a visual representation as well as quantitative count of the malaria affected cells. The portable handheld device can easily be modified and extended for diagnosing other diseases as well. Read more

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