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Design a wearable and change the world

27 May 2015  | Hailey Lynne McKeefry

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Product designers all over the world are challenged by UNICEF and technology giant ARM: to solve global problems using wearable technologies. The product designs should be able to help families get access to basic health, education and support services.

"We have to look at where the line is between standardisation 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."


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