20081227-the-goals4Since our coverage of the Embrace incubator alternative in 2009, the Embrace Infant Warmer has seen a complete redesign, organized with a new business structure, made some new alliances, and won a few more awards. Here, we’ll focus on the redesign and the business alliance with GE Healthcare.

Adapting to user needs
The original Embrace bag was electricity-independent and used button closures to ensure easy repair for extended lifespan. Today, we see a three-part system with strap closures, new materials and construction, a clear window, an electric heating unit, and a higher-tech wax pouch.

Three iterations of the Embrace Infant Warmer design. Shortly after the originating Stanford class; during refinement; the market-ready final product.


In market, the infant warmer is branded the Embrace Thermpod. The sleeping bag-like portion, called BabyWrap, incorporates the most input from user interviews. The team selected adjustable straps for closure to enable caregivers to improve fit for a variety of infants and prevent the babies from slipping around. Since many of the intended babies wouldn’t be wearing diapers, the material for the wrap needed to be waterproof, bacteria-resistant, and easy to clean. The hood portion of the bag was revised for a better fit around the infant’s face to avoid the risk of suffocation. During the critical period of care for these infants, caregivers need a way to monitor the baby’s breath and skin color, so adding a window and openings for IV tubes increased the probability that the infant would be kept inside the warmer rather than removed and left out for constant observation.
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20081227-the-goals4MIT senior lecturer Amy Smith’s TED talk begins with the best thing a design presentation can share: failures along the path to successful solutions.

Smith wanted to design a locally producible fuel that would eliminate Haitian preference for wood-based fires. Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, is 97% deforested but families continue to rely on wood fires in the home for cooking. Smith saw that these families would eventually have to buy imported fuels, which would likely be unaffordable. In addition, wood-burning produces smoke inhalation in the home, which Smith discovered is the #1 cause of death among children under five years old in the developing world.

She reveals that the first version of locally producible charcoal briquettes did not actually burn, nor were they produced from locally available materials!

When you compare her 2006 TED talk to the 2004 DIY charcoal production manual, it’s clear that Smith has also learned to change how she presents the problem she solves. Rather than focus on the environmental issue (deforestation), which local families don’t have the luxury to consider, she opens her talk with the impact on childhood mortality – a much more compelling reason to switch to her fuel.

This is a great example of design-for-DIY: rather than create an invention that you intend to manufacture then sell to the developing world, create a way to teach the local communities to make and possibly sell the solution themselves. Design-for-DIY solves two needs: the original problem, and the economic challenge. Smith’s instruction manual is written such that anybody with access to agricultural waste and an empty oil drum can become an entrepreneur, producing and selling home-safe charcoal to the local community.

Imagine how powerful this could be if someone from the MIT Sloan School of Management teamed up with her?

20081227-the-goals4In third-world countries, rural mothers will try almost anything to keep their babies warm. This is because warmth, typically found in incubators, is critical for low-birth-weight (LBW) babies to reserve their limited energy for healthy organ development rather than just trying to maintain body temperature. Problem is, incubators cost $20,000, depend on electricity, and even broken hand-me-downs can only be found in metropolitan health centers. So mothers risk scalding their babies by wrapping them with hot water bottles, boxing them in with light bulbs, or placing them in ovens(!).

20090125-out-of-the-ovenA team of graduate students traveled to Nepal and India to conduct research, and came up with a modified sleeping bag instead of a cheaped out incubator box. Embrace Global‘s incubator alternative features:

  • 1% of the cost of a typical incubator
  • No electricity required (maintains constant comfortable temperature with a refresh-able phase-change material much like hand-warmer packets used by skiiers and campers
  • Washable nylon and vinyl materials for maintenance and ability to pass on to multiple babies
  • Easy repair of button closures rather than zippers or velcro
  • “Kangaroo care”-style portability with straps so mothers can be productive and mobile (often returning to field work soon after giving birth) while bonding with baby

The idea and business grew out of a Stanford class on Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability, a part of Stanford’s d.school design school. Since completing their class project, the team has won several design competitions, including being featured in the Top 25 of the American Express Members Project.

via STANFORD Magazine

20081227-the-goals6Every 30 seconds, a child dies of malaria – a totally preventable disease – and more than 80 percent of malaria infections occur in Africa. Each kid gets malaria 2-5 times a year!

We’ve had a hard time finding design objects for MDG #6, the fight against HIV/AIDS and malaria. As it turns out, the solution is extremely straightforward: every home in a developing country needs to have an insecticide-treated net (ITN) for mosquito-free sleep.

20090109-practice-safe-sleep1Bednets are the most effective way to prevent malaria, but millions of families in malaria-plagued countries do not have them. These nets, however, are not without room for improvement. Nets can be treated with insecticide, killing mosquitoes on contact and making it less likely that they can penetrate the nets. But the insecticide on traditional nets fades after 3-5 months, and most families won’t deal with the cost or hassle of getting their nets re-treated.

A to Z Textile Mills in Tanzania and Sumitomo Chemical in Japan teamed up to manufacture the Olyset Net, which retains its insecticide for 5 years, guaranteed – helping us make forward progress in slowing down malaria. They have also reduced the cost of a bednet from $7 to $5 and made them tear-proof by improving the weaving technique (pdf). Props especially for local production in Africa, thus reducing shipping costs to distribute the nets in the region that most needs them.

The Tanzania factory has created 3,200 jobs. Each net can safely sleep up to 3 people under it, and distribution is prioritized for children under 5 years old and pregnant women. Most of the nets are provided free of charge, as recommended by the World Health Organization, through aid programmes like Roll Back Malaria and UNICEF.


George W. Bush visited the A to Z Textile Mills factory last year as part of his $1.2 billion, five-year program to reduce malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa.

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20081227-the-goals3Access to clean water is the key to many of the MDG’s, but we believe the primary impact of the Hippo Water Roller is its liberation of women from the daily struggle of transporting water.

A few facts:

  • Currently, women in rural Africa transport water in 5-gallon buckets on their heads.
  • It is common to walk five to ten miles every day transporting water.
  • The buckets are often re-used gasoline and paint containers, risking toxic residue if not properly cleaned.
  • After years of carrying water on their heads, women’s spines become severely damaged.

20090107-roller-girlsFor comparison: I complain even when it’s my turn to take the garbage out to the dumpster. I have never been known to travel more than one mile by foot – and that was only when PE teachers could force me to. My last encounter with a 5-gallon bucket was when we went cherry picking this fall, and it was too heavy for me when it was only 1/4 full.

With the Hippo Roller, an individual can transport 24 gallons (200 pounds) as if pushing a 22-pound weight. This is enough to provide water for a family of five people for a day, with a single trip. If there are less than five people or if more than one person has a Hippo Roller, excess water can be used to irrigate a home’s vegetable garden.

It also appears that the male fascination with gadgets is universal. Some men have taken over water fetching duties from their wives because they are proud to be seen using the Hippo Roller.

One major design flaw is the price point: $75, which puts it out of reach of those who need it. Hippo Roller has engaged Catapult Design to redesign the water roller to bring down its price point and even add water filtration capabilities so that nearby pathogen-filled streams can be used as water sources as well.

So far, over 30,000 Hippo Rollers have been distributed free of charge to sub-Saharan Africa, made possible by donations from people like you and support from programs like Google’s Project 10^100.

via Springwise