ARM and Unicef launch wearables challenge to tackle child health needs
June 2, 2015
Unicef and ARM have announced a multi-year partnership to accelerate the development of technologies to overcome the barriers that prevent millions of families from accessing basic health, education and support services. The partnership’s first action is to collaborate with global product strategy and design firm Frog on a Wearables for Good challenge to generate ideas for devices that tackle maternal and child health needs in emerging economies.
The partnership will focus on enabling Unicef to provide faster and more comprehensive help to children coping with the effects of mass urbanisation and increased social and economic divides. Together, Unicef and ARM will use their influence to encourage the technology sector to innovate for impact.
The challenge asks whether wearable and sensor technology could be the next mobile revolution. Running over six months, the challenge invites developers, designers, community partners and problem-solvers to design a wearable device that provides a cost-effective, efficient, and sustainable solution to pressing maternal, newborn or child health problems.
Cambridge-based ARM will work alongside Unicef’s network of innovation laboratories and country offices to identify and scale up pilot projects that demonstrate the potential to be used at a national level. Over the next year, Unicef and ARM will uncover the most impactful methods being used or in trials across the Unicef network and invest to deliver them wherever they are needed.
“We need to innovate with social purpose to overcome the barriers of time, distance and lack of information that prevent millions of children from surviving and realising their potential,” said Erica Kochi, co-lead at Unicef Innovation. “By working together with ARM we improve our ability to develop new technologies that impact children and help them grow up healthy, educated and able to positively contribute to their families, communities and wider economies.”
Longer term, the partnership will conduct research to evaluate and promote market opportunities in developing countries. With the findings, Unicef and ARM will outline the business case for investing in mobile financial services, identity, transportation, learning and wearable and sensor technology. The joint goal is to build momentum for globally co-created and scalable technologies that attract commercial investment.
“Technology should be used to create opportunity for all; improving child health, education and prospects, and access to it should not be governed by economic status or geography,” said Simon Segars, CEO of ARM. “We have spent 25 years enabling life-changing technologies and together with Unicef’s innovation experts we believe this partnership can deliver a positive social impact for children all-around the world.”
The announcement has evolved from a growing understanding between Unicef and ARM that technology can have a defining impact on children’s lives. With that shared view, the two bodies aim to drive sector-wide change, creating an ecosystem of technology companies that explore the potential social impact of the technologies they develop.
A competition panel will assess the challenge entries on several levels including product and service design that disrupts or improves the status quo, sustainability of technology, and potential impact at scale. A handbook outlines the challenges that need to be addressed, as well as considerations, context and principles for good design.
Two winners will be selected at the end of the design challenge. Each winner will receive $15,000 funding alongside incubation and mentorship support from ARM and Frog.
“Today, wearable technologies are primarily focused on applications such as fitness and the quantified self,” said Denise Gershbein, executive creative director at Frog. “However, there are countless opportunities for wearable and sensor technology to make more of an impact in emerging markets, particularly in the next wave of social impact development. With the Wearables for Good challenge we hope to foster dialogue among new partners and increase cross-discipline innovation.”