Since 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.
In 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(!).
A 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