- Smart bangle made of plastic has a battery life that lasts 10 months
- It alerts against toxic fumes and provides audio tips to expecting mothers
- Device has been tested in Uttar Pradesh, will soon be sold in India
Mumbai: A high-tech bangle that alerts pregnant women to toxic fumes and issues audio tips promises to boost maternal health in India and other South Asian countries, as smart devices deliver ever more services to remote communities.
The colourful, lightweight bangle feeds information directly to expectant mothers – and is built to withstand the rigours of village life.
“In rural areas, mobile connectivity – and mobile access for women – is an issue, as phones are controlled by men,” said Pavel Hoq, chief operating officer at Grameen Intel Social Business in Bangladesh, which developed the new device.
“While we had also developed mobile apps for maternal health, we realised a wearable device solely for women, something she would likely wear all the time, would be better to connect with women in rural areas,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Made of durable plastic, the bangle is water-resistant and has a long-lasting battery that does not require charging throughout the duration of a pregnancy.
Nor does it not need an internet connection to work.
Every day, about 830 women worldwide die from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications, according to the World Health Organisation. Nearly a third of these deaths are in South Asia.
Maternal mortality is higher among women living in rural areas and poorer communities, where access to healthcare is often forbidden or curtailed due to a lack of female medics.
Coel, which is designed to withstand the rough and tumble of daily chores, delivers two wellness messages a week in the local language, including what to eat and when to see the doctor.
An alarm also sounds if high levels of carbon monoxide fumes are generated when cooking with firewood, charcoal or dung, warning the wearer to move away.
In India, Coel has been tested in Uttar Pradesh where maternal and neonatal deaths are nearly 10 times higher.
At the same time, wearable devices including smart watches, shoes and glasses, are increasingly used for remote healthcare, such as to monitor a patient’s cholesterol or insulin levels.
It is a growing market: about 2.5 million such wearable devices were sold in India last year, most priced under Rs 3000, according to research firm International Data Corporation.
Coel, which will be priced initially at about Rs 750 to Rs 1000, will be sold in India and Bangladesh first, then in Nepal, said Mr Hoq.
“Easy access to knowledge is crucial in these countries, particularly for first-time mothers,” he said.
“We want this device to be a tool of empowerment for women.”
Coel, or carbon monoxide exposure limiter, was created by Grameen Intel Social Business Ltd., a joint venture of Intel Corporation, and Bangladesh non-profit Grameen Trust.
The device can be recharged and reused many times, Mr Hoq said.
It will join a woman’s regular array of bracelets, with most married women in South Asia wearing bangles made of glass, plastic or gold. The decorative finish differentiates the bangle from many other wrist-worn fitness devices or smart watches.
(Reporting by Rina Chandran @rinachandran, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)
© Thomson Reuters 2017