The winners of this year's James Dyson Award have been announced, and Australia's deserving student design project victor is Sarah Heimeier, an industrial design student at RMIT — whose Jana is a wearable ultrasonic sensor that can monitor an expectant mother and baby's heartbeat, blood pressure and glucose levels. Aimed at pregnant women in rural parts of Australia without easy and constant access to medical care, Jana works with a smartphone to transmit vital information to doctors, giving early warning of any potential complications like preeclampsia.
Jana doesn't have any existing analogues; other ultrasound monitors exist, but the integration of easy information sharing with doctors — doctors that may be hundreds of kilometres away in some cases — was a crucial inclusion. "Understanding and developing empathy towards pregnant mothers who live in rural and remote areas was something that helped me to develop the concept. Asking in-depth questions around the type of care they have received and the problems they faced in day-to-day life helped to form the idea too. There aren’t any similar devices, there are wearable glucose monitors for people with diabetes, although a lot of them are very invasive. Other devices, or applications, around pregnancy don’t focus on providing mothers with information that they can easily share with their doctor."
Heimeier told Gizmodo that the design of Jana was informed by its function as an ultrasound monitor, but that developing a friendly device was equally important: "Both were equally important. Design decisions regarding form and function came together to work in harmony. Creating 1:1 models and drawing technical elevations helped to detail the design and ensure both aspects were carefully considered. Working towards the three core aims I developed helped too — these aims were for it to be high quality, friendly and simple."
While Jana is most appropriate for rural pregnancies, it could still be useful for women in metro areas, especially those with existing health problems. "Jana would be able to completely change the way that maternity care is provided for both remote and metropolitan mothers. Although women in metropolitan areas have more access to healthcare, they still have unexpected health outcomes. This places strain on them both emotionally and physically — this is something that occurs in both instances. Any mother that is at greater risk of developing complications — whether rural or metropolitan — has a need for the device."
For winning the Australian Award, Heimeier receives $3600 to put towards development of the design idea. The overall international winner of the James Dyson Award has also been also announced; the team behind the Voltera V-One rapid circuit board prototyper will receive a total of $48,000 split between the student designers and their university to ramp up production of the device. [James Dyson Award]