During my recent tour of the United States of America, I had the chance to visit the famous Niagara Falls. It was a beautiful sight! However, what I found more interesting was the movie that was shown just before the visitors enter the Cave of the Winds — a passage that takes you close to the “bridal veil” (waterfall).
In the movie, I was dumbstruck to see that the site of the Niagara Falls was once a private industrial land where several factories used to push their waste into a bunch of natural waterfalls in the area, choking the water bodies and killing the area’s entire flora and fauna in the process.
Today, the Niagara Falls that we see are a super cool example of what human beings can do, if they unite towards common good. Seeing the plight of natural beauty and resource, a few thought leaders came together and started a movement to remove the factories. Soon people came together to dwell on how the site could be revived, and then what we see today is an artist’s impression that was turned into reality after much on-site engineering and restructuring.
And now the same site is home to one of the world’s most spectacular waterfalls! It shows the power of the human will, belief, and determination. Loved it!
About 9.86 crore people (8%) in India suffer from sinusitis, according to the Government of India’s Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Of these, for the chronic cases who do not benefit from medication, a team of researchers at InnAccel, Bangalore, has developed a device called SinuCare to provide long-term relief within a day.
Sinusitis is a condition in which the openings of the sinuses (the cavities in the bones in our forehead, cheeks, and the nose which form the respiratory tract from the nose into the throat) swell and clog the airflow inside them. The inflammation (swelling and redness) is caused due to infection, allergies, air pollution, or structural issues in the nose. Some of the common symptoms of sinusitis are thick nasal mucus, a plugged nose, pain in the face, fever, headaches, poor sense of smell, sore throat, and/or cough.
Why it matters
In most cases, sinusitis can be treated by medication. However, it is considered as a chronic case if the condition continues beyond three months. To chronic sinusitis patients who fail to benefit from medicines, doctors usually suggest functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS) to widen the sinus openings, clear any collected secretions, and to ventilate the sinuses and the nasal cavity. However, FESS is not only an expensive procedure, but is also quite invasive, as it requires surgical removal of many bony structures within the nasal cavity. It, therefore, carries a higher risk of complications and over-ventilation of the sinuses which can hamper its normal functioning.
As per a survey conducted by the InnAccel team, of the total number of sinusitis patients who visit an ENT doctor, on an average nearly 45 percent are counseled for FESS. However, most patients choose to try alternative forms of healing and avoid surgery till the extent it becomes essential. Two major reasons for this that emerged from the survey are: the cost (in India FESS cost ranges from Rs. 60,000 to Rs. 130,000) and the fear of complications or physical damage due to the operation under general anesthesia.
SinuCare is a minimally-invasive balloon sinuplastydevice meant primarily to provide chronic sinusitis cases a cost-effective and safer alternative to FESS.
“With SinuCare we have tried to alleviate the concerns of chronic sinusitis patients. SinuCare is a simple metal device that uses a disposable double-balloon dilator, which is inserted into the blocked sinus openings through the nose. When the double-balloon dilator is inflated with saline in the blocked cavity, it expands and remodels the sinus openings, clearing the respiratory cavities by causing tiny bone fractures. Unlike FESS, balloon sinuplasty using SinuCare does not require any tissue removal, thus decreasing the risk of complications that arise from excessive removal of bony tissue and reducing the time for recovery. Moreover, an ENT doctor can operate SinuCare in his or her clinic, thereby reducing the cost of hospitalization for the patient,” explains Dr. Jagdish Chaturvedi, 33, who is a co-inventor of SinuCare.
Dr. Chaturvedi is an ENT specialist in Bangalore. In 2016, he won the MIT Technology Review’s TR35 Award for Young Innovators under 35 for one of his medical device innovations. At InnAccel, he develops new medical devices with cross-disciplinary teams and mentors young researchers and professionals in their entrepreneurial endeavors.
He is now conducting awareness sessions for ENT doctors on the use and benefits of SinuCare. “We have trained over a 100 ENT surgeons across the country and some of these doctors have started counseling and treating patients with SinuCare and the feedback from them and the patients has been very satisfying. I am also travelling to various cities to perform surgeries and train doctors on how to use SinuCare,” he adds.
The InnAccel team has filed a patent in India for SinuCare. They have also applied for the CE (European Union) quality certification for the device.
How it works
SinuCare comprises a navigation system through which the doctor manually inserts a soft polymer double-balloon dilator into the nose, to unclog the openings of blocked sinuses.
When the double-balloon dilator reaches the target, the doctor infuses the balloons with saline at 12 atmospheric pressure with the help of a pressure pump. As the balloons expand to their maximum diameter of six millimeters, they remodel the sinus opening and allow the mucus to drain out from the cavity, giving way to better ventilation. Finally, the dilator is removed and the device is pulled out of the patient’s nasal cavity.
The procedure is repeated for each blocked sinus. Following the complete procedure, the doctor keeps the patient under observation for an hour as a precautionary step to watch for any bleeding or dizziness. It takes about four to five hours for the entire procedure to complete, from the time the patient is given anesthesia to the clearing of the sinuses to when the patient is advised to go.
Unlike existing balloon sinuplasty devices which use a guidewire for inserting the balloon dilator into the nose till it reaches a clogged cavity, SinuCare has provisioned for ENT doctors to mount their endoscopic camera for a clear view of the sinuses and blockages. A guidewire is a polymer wire that is put alongside/inside the dilator to allow the doctor to feel the sinus blockage. However, it increases the cost of the device, the number of components it comprises, and the skill requirement to carry out the procedure.
The other key different feature of SinuCare is that its guiding system is a reusable product. The double-balloon dilator is the only disposable material in SinuCare whereas other sinuplasty devices are completely disposable. Without the dilator, SinuCare can be completely sterilized for reuse, enabling reduction of the total cost of the device for the doctors as well as that of the overall treatment.
Currently, SinuCare is being recommended and used by co-inventor Dr. Sunil Narayan Dutt, world renowned Otolaryngologist and Head of ENT at Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore and by Dr. P.S. Pradeep Kumar, Founder and Medical Director, Meenakshi ENT Specialty Hospital, Bangalore. They have been contributing feedback in the making of SinuCare.
The product is being packaged as a kit that comprises the main device, three dilators, and a pressure pump. SinuCare kit is priced at approximately Rs. 30,000 for the ENT doctors, and the treatment cost ranges between Rs. 40,000 and Rs. 60,000.
While the guiding system of SinuCare has been designed and manufactured in India, the disposable double-balloon dilator for it, also designed in India, is being contract manufactured by Surmodics in Ireland. “We want Indian manufacturers to come forward and create good quality products for us. Under the government’s Make in India initiative, we are trying to manufacture devices in India – one for giving business within the country and second to minimize the cost. The manufacturing scope is big in the field of medical devices. However, we are yet to see innovative manufacturers who are willing to work with a development team, experiment with business models and to give the same quality as foreign suppliers,” says Pooja Kadambi, the team’s lead engineer and co-inventor who has significantly contributed in designing and manufacturing of SinuCare.
ENT doctors, patients with chronic sinusitis, and manufacturers can write to Dr. Jagdish Chaturvedi at email@example.com or call 080-40923864.
Bangalore-based Dhananjai Bajpai, 24, is using the gesture-recognition technology to develop Kommunic8, a wireless wearable device that converts hand motions into speech. The device holds promise of improving communication for over 19 lakh speech-disabled people in India alone. A pilot project is currently being done with EnAble India, Bangalore, to test the functioning and accuracy of the device in the hands of actual users.
Dhananjai, who belongs to Kanpur city of Uttar Pradesh (UP), India, has completed his Bachelor’s in Electronics and Communication Technology degree from Shri Ramswaroop Memorial College of Engineering and Management, Lucknow, UP. He works at KFX Circuits and Systems in Bangalore and is also associated with Excubator, a startup incubator and corporate venturing advisory organization, where he works on Kommunic8 in his spare time. His aim is to use gesture-recognition technology for social benefit.
According to the 2011 Census of India, of the 268+ lakh total disabled population about 19+ lakh people suffer from speech disability. This population struggles not only in communicating with their surrounding environment, but also faces low job prospects that lead to another fight for quality sustenance. Kommunic8 aims to enable this populace to “talk” with anyone without any hesitation.
One of the challenges in bridging the divide between the speech-impaired and the common folks is that the sign language is difficult for a common man to understand and is restricted to the speech and hearing disabled community. Also, there is no standard international sign language that is followed consistently across the globe – each region and culture has its local sign language. These reasons prevent the differently-abled to communicate with others and live their social and professional life normally.
Kommunic8 equips the speech-impaired with a lightweight, wireless wearable ring-shaped device that can convert their sign language gestures into reasonable sentences in real-time and provide output in the form of an audible speech as well as a readable text on the K8 smartphone app.
With 97 percent accuracy and self-learning capability, the current prototype of Kommunic8 can be customized and programmed for any local language.
How it works
Kommunic8 is still in the development phase. Dhananjai began working on the technology in 2013, as a final year project, by creating a wearable glove which could detect the degree of bending of fingers and show respective alphabets on a mobile phone screen as per the American Sign Language. That was just the beginning which got its fair share of media attention. However, the wearable glove had its shortcomings in terms of size, speed, cost, and usability.
The current prototype of Kommunic8 uses a small circuitry packed neatly inside a ring like structure. The circuit uses gesture algorithm and a motion sensor that recognizes the sign and orientation of the user’s hand on which the device is worn. When the user moves or bends his/her hand to make a gesture, the sensor collects information and the software processes it to convert data into a sentence. The sentence is then spoken by a mechanized voice that is made audible through an inbuilt speaker. The same output can be presented in the form of a text on the K8 smartphone app.
The device operates on inbuilt battery that lasts for 10 hours – Dhananjai is working on increasing the battery power to last up to 24 hours. The device can be charged by any micro-USB charger.
The initial device will come with 50 actions predefined for ready use. The software, however, uses machine learning and will keep updating the database of gestures and sentences as the user starts using Kommunic8 regularly. Speaking of the storage capacity, Dhananjai says, “For now, Kommunic8 will come with a memory of 2 GB which can store up to 3,000 actions. This is sufficient, as on average a user may use maximum 100-300 actions in general. However, there is a provision for users to update the dictionary by connecting the device to a computer and make changes through the K8 desktop app.”
The device is supported by the K8 app available for Android and Windows phones that can be used to display the text, configure the device, recreate database and produce the speech output for interactions. Here is a demo video.
There is still a lot to accomplish before a market-ready version of Kommunic8 is complete.
Dhananjai has filed a provisional patent for the technology innovation.
Now he is primarily focused on drastically improving the aesthetics of the device and using a more human voice output instead of the mechanized one. He is also working on including a small screen in the device with four push-buttons that can be used to reconfigure, expand and delete the database on-the-go, thereby removing the need for a secondary device for any kind of updates or assistance.
Meanwhile, Dhananjai is reaching out to non-government organizations that might be willing to support pilot projects and provide sponsorship for further improvement of the device.
EnAble India is using Kommunic8 to:
Help teachers learn and improve their sign language and make classroom learning more attractive
Empower EnAble associated speech-impaired employees to use Kommunic8 for their daily communication at work.
“Results from the pilot will help me improve the device for the users. I am hopeful that Kommunic8 will allow them to get front-end jobs,” says Dhananjai.
Dhananjai can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and +91-8765379454.
For the 220 million smartphone users in India, a Bangalore-based startup Street Smart Mobile Technologies has launched an app, SMS Sunami, to organize the deluge of transactional and promotional text messages we receive on our phones daily. The app, which is built using Android Studio, is based on an artificial intelligent platform that uses natural language processing to understand the context of messages and automatically classify them into predefined categories such as bills, entertainment, food, health and fitness, lifestyle, telecom operator, tickets, travel, and more.
According to a recent study, there are over two billion mobile phone subscribers worldwide who use the short message service (SMS) to exchange more than 350 billion text messages every month. Of these over 15% are promotional messages. The SMS Sunami app is aimed organizing and categorizing text messages of the Android smartphone users, making the messages in the default inbox easier to sift.
Incubated at Tata Elxsi’s Incub@ate, StreetSmart Mobile Technologies was founded in May 2014 by 27-year-old Prabhu SNM of Chennai, Tamil Nadu, with software engineers Prakhar Dighe (25) of Indore, Madhya Pradesh, and Sudeep (24) of Narsapuram, Andhra Pradesh. The trio developed the SMS Sunami app as an offshoot of another app that was aimed at offering hyper-local offers to consumers on their smartphones.
The hyper-local offers app could not succeed but the research for it led the team to realize that consumers are receiving host of text messages directly from service providers and merchants. And besides these messages, people also receive transactional messages processed by banks and of course, personal messages as well. No wonder our message box keeps filling up. And as the name suggests (and refers to tsunami), to help the users clear their inbox without having to delete their messages, SMS Sunami automatically categorizes the overwhelming number of messages a user receives.
“Our algorithm categorizes all text messages except those received from 10-digit numbers, which are personal numbers. This feature ensures privacy,” explains Prabhu.
Besides organizing the incoming messages into defined groups, the key feature of SMS Sunami is that it is capable of reading promotional text messages to serve contextual offers based on the content. For example, if you have a confirmation message from an airline on your travel tickets, SMS Sunami will serve you a cab-rental offer on the date of your travel. The concept applied to smartphone is much similar to what Google does by reading your mailbox.
Addressing the privacy concern on messages being read by the app, Prabhu says, “The SMS Sunami app does not store any messages to read and understand them. The program is built to ensure that the app works offline, without the need for the Internet, and does not store any data on the server. Our program simply functions within the app, reads the message, and pulls contextual offer from the associated merchants. The only time when the app uses the Internet is to identify the message sender with the brand logo to serve the message to the user in a more aesthetic manner.”
Besides this feature, the app allows easy search through the message box that allows you to search through your messages, by vendor name or by keywords. It also allows you to delete messages in bulk. SMS Sunami also automatically identifies key information in messages, such as contact numbers, web links, PNR, tickets, and provides them as ‘call for action’ links, making it easier for the user to use the information instantly.
Asked about the release of the iOS version of the app, Prabhu says, “The message APIs [application program interfaces] in the iOS are restricted for developers. This means we cannot develop any iOS app that requires reading the user’s messages. In this matter, I have written to Tim Cook requesting the need for leniency. I am awaiting his reply.”
The team is working on scaling up the app into free and premium versions. The beta version is in the pre-revenue stage with 1,000+ customers. The trio’s short-term target is to increase the user base to 10,000 customers by the year end.
Sharing his plans for the future, Prabhu adds, “In future we plan to introduce ‘personal’ as a category so that our algorithm can detect personal messages without intruding privacy and categorize them appropriately. We also plan to enable the app to both receive and send messages. The idea is to eventually replace the default messaging application on smartphones with the SMS Sunami app.”
Improved user interface and enabling the user to customize the categories are also part of the plan. The team is also mulling over the idea of patenting the app’s software in the U.S.
The SMS Sunami team can be contacted at email@example.com and +91-9790949400.
Bangalore-based Aditya Agarwal (23) has created a coin-sized micro-USB powered 1.2 watt white LED bulb, called Bulbh, that emits twice the light than a one watt compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulb.
Created and designed at Aditya’s startup My Dream Bird, the Bulbh is a small, slim, micro-USB powered light that has a light emitting capacity of 120-130 lumens as compared to 60 lumens per watt of a CFL and 12-17 lumens per watt of an incandescent lamp. It can be used as an emergency light, a cycle light, night light, in wardrobes, for photography, or as a helmet light.
This September Aditya plans to launch Bulbh in a ‘buy one, donate one’ model where every Bulbh that is sold online, one unit will get donated in India to the communities that are still using incandescent bulbs to reduce their cost of living.
Why it matters
The traditional incandescent yellow light bulbs are much less efficient than other types of electric lighting; they use less than five percent of energy into visible light, converting the rest into heat. Though the manufacturing cost of incandescent bulbs is less, its low light emitting capacity and high power consumption factors have led the European Union, China, Canada and United States to consider phasing it out. India too is slowly moving towards banishing the incandescent bulbs.
As incandescent lamps phase out, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that are being assembled into a light bulb. Like incandescent lamps, and unlike CFL lamps, LEDs come to full brightness without the need for a warm-up time. They have a lifespan and electrical efficiency that is significantly better than the rest.
The LED lamp market is projected to grow multi-fold over the next decade, to $25 billion by 2023 (see source). Aditya’s Bulbh taps into this emerging market.
Speaking of the micro-USB powered light, he says, “The Bulbh can be powered by any micro-USB chord that can be connected to a power source such as a mobile device adapter, a power bank, a personal computer or a laptop. It has been ergonomically designed for use in various conditions and emits bright light. It is specifically targeted for mobile phone users of the world who already have micro-USB adapters.” This is a large user base. According to a report, the number of mobile phone users in the world is likely to reach almost 5.3 billion by 2017.
To make Bulbh emit light uniformly in all directions, the product has been given a custom casing of silicon and thermoplastic alloy. The casing also prevents Bulbh from heating up, even after 24 hours of continuous use. A tiny circuit of LEDs lies inside the enclosure.
To achieve the color rendering index (CRI) of 80, which is equivalent to any CFL, and twice the lumens per watt than a CFL, Aditya has created Bulbh by using six 0.2 watt Everlight LEDs, each with a capacity of emitting 24 lumens of light. All LEDs have been placed in a series on an aluminum-core printed circuit board that maintains the circuit temperature uniformly.
The circuit comprises a dedicated high-frequency DC-DC converter that operates as a constant-current source. There is provision for high switching frequency that regulates the amount of inrush current and prepares the circuit for a soft start. This also prevents the circuit from over-voltage, short-circuit and over-temperature incidents.
On the outside, each Bulbh is fitted with a neodymium magnetic base so that the users can stick it on any metal surface. Initially, My Dream Bird plans to provide two extra magnetic stickers with the product so users can stick it to metal, stone wall, wood, ceramic or glass.
With its coin-sized smooth form factor, Bulbh looks sleek. The tiny lamp, with a rounded shape similar to that of an Indian sweet called ‘batasha’, is just 0.6 inches in height and 1.3 inches in width, and weighs between 30-35 grams.
Buy One, Donate One
As Bulbh finds its users in the market, Aditya plans to execute his ‘buy one, donate one’ campaign simultaneously. “The idea of donating Bulbh occurred to me when I saw hawkers in Kolkata selling their goods under candle light. I found out that they do not buy incandescent bulbs or CFLs as they get heated up and they cannot afford LED lights. Hence, for each Bulbh that is sold online, I plan to donate one to such communities and users in India,” explains Aditya. Initially, he plans to sell Bulbh through popular e-commerce channels in the U.S. and the European Union countries.
My Dream Bird has collaborated with non-governmental organizations such as Goonj, Smile Foundation, Round Table India, and HelpAge India to ensure donated Bulbh lamps reach hawkers, students, underprivileged children and the elderly communities in India.
Bulbh will be launched in the U.S. and European markets by September 2015. Once he is able to raise $400,000 funding, Aditya plans to open-source the project.
For more details, contact Aditya at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Bulbhwebsite.