How innovations make society a better place for all

How innovations make society a better place for all

My name is Libin Varghese. I am 27 years old, and I come from India. During college, I met Mr. Shinto Joseph, a differently abled professor, which means he had to depend on others for most of his activities, mainly for mobility. My grandmother also suffered from the same condition, paraplegia, in her later years. She also always depended on my mother for her day-to-day activities. I have had long conversations with Mr. Shinto about the issue that became dear to my heart over the years. One day, the professor, who guided me through my projects, shared a thought he’s always had: He wanted to help differently abled people by designing a cost-effective mobility device, which could be fully operated by the user, so they could perform all their activities independently. This idea made me think about a new kind of wheelchair where mobility-impaired people can stand, lay, and sit, and to which a toilet aid is also attached. That way, they can be fully self-reliant and they can perform all day-to-day activities without needing others for help. We eventually designed an electric wheelchair that costs only $440 (or about 30,000 rupees).

 Photo credit: Libin Varghese

Photo credit: Libin Varghese

Our innovation was selected as one of the top 50 in the medical field by the Indian Council of Medical Research. As of right now, two people are testing this device. In the meantime, the marketing procedure is in progress and we expect the product to hit the Indian market soon.

The vehicle is designed in such a way that it will save 50 percent of electrical energy, compared to existing electrical wheelchairs, thanks to our newly designed digital controller for it.

All of this has led to another initiative meant to save energy launched by my friends and me. In order to save electrical energy in our country, we designed a product called “I socket” that saves up to 30 percent of electricity usage. This project was named “Best Project” by the Confederation of Indian Industries in 2015 and won a funding of $3,000 (200,000 rupees). The product was successfully implemented in many places, thanks to the startup companies that marketed it. It currently stands as a leading energy saver in our community.

In India, households are responsible for most of the national electric consumption. However, during the process from generation to reception, 50 percent of generated electricity is lost, which means that for generating one unit, we have to produce two units of energy. This problem is what compelled us to think about a more efficient device that is cost-effective but also automatic and practical.

Some of the few devices being currently used for this purpose are power savers and sensor-based power controllers. They all have an average cost of $45 (3,000 rupees) for a single unit, and they are all connected to an electric plug outlet that allows the control of only one device at a time. Also, the sensor-based controllers for electric fans and lights are large, have reduced functionality and are not fully automated. As a result, an average of three units of power is wasted daily in every household.

The working of my device is different. It’s like that of a switchboard, but it has many advanced features, and it is, above all, intelligent. The device has two main characteristics: a self-learning routine method and a phantom power detection. Our system automatically studies the user’s behavior in using the household electrical equipments for a period of one week and then automatically turns them off when the user forgets to do so. The system automatically monitors electric power usage in each room and displays the value on an LCD screen, always keeping the user informed about power waste in the house. Also, our system automatically detects whether the active equipments are in standby mode, and when they are for a long time, it switches them off automatically. Our system saves up to 30 percent of electricity consumption and therefore cuts the electricity bill by that same percentage. Our system is also designed in a way that enables even paralyzed people to operate it easily.

Ultimately, saving one unit of power reduces the amount of coal used by 413 grams, which will then reduce the emission of carbon dioxide by 1.09 kilograms and sulphur dioxide by 16 grams, all considerable amounts, thus enabling the reduction of our carbon footprint to a large extent.

Cover cartoon credit: Sergio Algeri/GYV

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