Unicef and ARM launch ‘Wearables for Good’ for developing nations

20 May 2015

Image of woman using VR headset via Unicef/Facebook

A new joint project developed by the United Nations’ Children Fund (Unicef) and tech hardware manufacturer ARM that aims to bring wearable internet of things (IoT) technology to the world’s poorest countries has been launched.

Called the Wearables for Good project, the two partners are now challenging a product development firm called Frog to create wearable devices that could significantly improve the well-being of many, particularly in the areas of maternal and child health needs.

According to ARM’s announcement, over the course of six months, the challenge invites developers, designers, community partners and problem-solvers to design a wearable device that offers a cost-effective, efficient and sustainable solution to pressing maternal, newborn or child-health problems.

On trial across Unicef network

As the developers of processors and other tech hardware, ARM will provide assistance in scaling up pilot projects that they feel could be scaled on an international level.

They will then work with Unicef over the course of the next year to begin looking at the best course of action for rolling out the developed devices through trials in the wider Unicef network.

With this in mind, the two partners will look to then conduct research into the feasibility of the devices on a national market level in developing countries and will then outline the business case for investing in solutions for mobile financial services, identity, transportation, learning and wearable/sensor technology.

At the end of the challenge, two winners will receive US$15,000 as well as incubation and mentorship support from ARM and Frog, finishing on 2 November.

Break economic and social barriers

“We need to innovate with social purpose in order 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, 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.”

“Today, wearable technologies are primarily focused on applications such as fitness and the quantified self,” added 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.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic