Many women in developing countries, including Bangladesh, live in remote and rural areas where it is a real challenge for them to access healthcare facilities and midwives. Moreover, these women have no knowledge of the importance of seeking medical advice from skilled professionals. As a result, they often find it difficult to get medical support to improve their chances of a having a safe pregnancy and delivering a healthy baby.
How the idea was born
As women in developing countries perform all the household work, the well-being of her child is always at risk. However, most women are neither aware of these risks, nor have access to proper healthcare.
Keeping these in mind, Grameen Intel Social Business Ltd (GISB) has developed a state-of-the-art smart bangle, designed for pregnant women, that can play a significant role in improving maternal health. GISB focuses on developing products for the underprivileged sections of the country, and that is how they came up with the idea of designing a smart wearable bangle for pregnant women. GISB planned to design it in such a manner that it would give expecting women necessary information at regular intervals over a certain period.
The bangle has been named COEL, which stands for Carbon Monoxide Exposure Limiter. It is a wearable device that provides pre-recorded pregnancy related advice for pregnant women. It is a water resistant bangle, 0.8 inches wide and weighs only 38 grams, and made of high quality durable plastic. GISB designed it to be wearable in the form of a bangle specifically for women in Bangladesh.
Indoor air pollution detection
COEL can detect the level of carbon monoxide in the air. Pregnant women in Bangladesh are often exposed to this during daily activities like cooking, which often involves burning wood, charcoal or animal dung. In order to let the air in so that the device can analyse it for indoor air pollution but keep water, dirt, and dust out, a special type of sensor has been used inside the bangle. It can run for the entire pregnancy period, that is 10 months, without charging. Moreover, the device does not require internet connectivity to function.
Pregnancy wellness audio tips (MAMA messages)
Another unique feature of the device is that it can be programmed to “speak” about 80 pregnancy-related wellness messages. There is a dedicated microprocessor that can process pre-programmed instructions, and a speaker that can deliver programmed messages in about 80 different languages. An automated voice provides wellness messages telling the expecting mother when to visit the doctor and informing her about blood deficiency, convulsions, and cramps. It also keeps the mother informed about the size of her child.
COEL can be set up according to the pregnancy dates, and it will provide around two messages each week to ensure the wellness of the mother and the child. The messages, known as MAMA messages, have been jointly developed by Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA) through a partnership between USAID, Johnson & Johnson, UN Foundation, the Health Alliance and BabyCenter. GISB has translated MAMA messages on proper diet, vaccination, when to see a doctor, and preparations for delivery into Bangla for this smart bangle.
Local language audio and LED alerts
If the mother is in a harmful environment, the device beeps and asks her to move to a safer area. When the bangle's sensor detects carbon monoxide at a harmful level, a red LED light flashes as an alert for the wearer. It also produces a voice warning customised to the wearer’s language, telling her to open the windows and doors or get outside.
After initial trials in India, the Grameen Intel team in Dhaka has distributed nearly 5,000 of these bangles among women in rural Bangladesh, and gained a lot of positive feedback from them. Currently, they have only one size, which fits around 60% of all women. This however, is too big or too small for some women, so they need to work on that.
GISB hasn't launched the device commercially yet. It is in the final phase of research and development, and they plan to launch it commercially within this year. COEL will soon be available in the local market, costing around Tk1,000 to Tk1,200. Apart from a commercial launch in Bangladesh, Grameen Intel plans to launch it in other countries as well.