News editor, SciDev.Net
When discussing inventions and innovations it’s easy to focus only on the actual end use of the product, but it is evident here at AidEx2012 that innovators have other things on their minds, too, when designing new humanitarian products.
Products such as portable solar lamps are likely to be stolen in a humanitarian disaster setting. Although innovators try to keep the costs down, the final product can still be sold at a profit, so some innovators have included features to avoid theft.
For example, the award-winning portable LED lantern, JS30 MOB, from India has a hatch specifically designed to allow users to lock it up: tampering with the hatch will destroy the whole lamp, rendering it useless. Similarly, Solar Muscle a small, sturdy solar-powered LED light, shortlisted for the best innovation challenge award at Aidex, has four small holes that allow it to be tethered to a wire or a wall preventing theft.
‘Shipability’ seems an even more important consideration for innovators: halving the weight of a shelter tent halves its transport costs – which may mean a difference in thousands if not millions of pounds which can then be spent on something else.
This is also a key advantage of Thirst Aid Bag, an innovation developed by UK-based Pure Hydration, and shortlisted at the Aid Innovation Challenge: it purifies water just as well as many similar products out there, but its flat surface (before filling) means agencies can pack a thousand packs in a single pallet, which can provide the equivalent of one million bottles of water, according to its representative who presented it here.
Similarly, Solar Muscle solar lights look like small tiles, 9 x 9 x 2.5 cm and weighing only 120 g, which means thousands can be packed in a single truck, cutting transport costs and carbon footprint; and LIFESAVER jerry cans that purify water have just been redesigned to look like cubes so they can be packed more compactly for transport.
So next time you see an aid invention, ask yourself how easy it would be to transport and keep safe in a field setting.
This blog post is part of our blog on AidEx2012, which takes place on 24-25 October 2012 in Brussels.