TECH

Unicef's 'Wearables For Good' Project Brings Small Scale Tech To A Big Scale Problem

22/05/2015 16:59 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 19:59 BST

It would seem that we live in a world where we've come to rely on wearable technology for almost everything.

There's an ever growing list of fitness bands and smartwatches that will tell you who to call, what to say, what to eat and when to stand.

The worrying aspect of this burgeoning market however, is that it's unlikely to make any lifesaving changes to those in the developing world.

Unicef have partnered with design firm ARM and Frog and launched 'Wearables for Good', an initiative aimed at fixing this.

It's essentially a competition seeking to encourage innovators who'll develop 'game-changing' technology that serves a greater common good for women and children. Something that'll go beyond the realms of tracking personal health.

The market has already been flooded with a myriad of products that claim to save lives.

Embrace is a watch for epilepsy sufferers that monitors physical activity and alerts family members if and when the wearer is having a seizure. The price however, is $199 (£130).

A U.S. startup, Undercover Colours, has also developed a safety focused wearable -- nail varnish that reportedly tells women when their drink has been spiked but, it's a concept that hasn't quite taken off around the world, despite its best intentions.

According to YouGov, 6.1 million people are expected to own a wearable device by September, hardly a surprising number given that the market is expected to be worth £50 billion pounds by 2020.

If the current offering of wearable tech is anything to go by, this money making industry is unlikely to have any real life-saving use in the countries that most probably need it the most.

In order for a wearable device to actually do social good, Unicef Innovation says it will need to be cost effective, durable, low-power and scalable.

The "low-tech" band Unicef use to measure malnutrition makes the point quite well but, as you can see it's hardly comparable to the Apple watches and Microsoft fitness bands that currently define the wearable tech market.

unicefband

The Embrace bag is another "wearable for good." It's essentially a sleeping bag lined with a wax-like substance that helps prematurely born babies regulate their temperature.

embrace bag

Unicef's hope is that wearable technology will not only communicate personal health information but also capture data about public water well safety and transportation logistics or at the very least, do some communal good.

The only prerequisite of this challenge is that the applications are made in English.

For now, the ball is very much in the court of tech innovators around the world.