Hearing loss technology wins global mHealth competition

By Erin McCann
09:52 AM
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Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in partnership with Brazil’s Federal University of Rio Grande Do Norte, won the Mobile Health University Challenge with software that screens for hearing impairment.

With an estimated 588 million people worldwide and 5.7 million Brazilians afflicted by some level of hearing loss, the technology – dubbed the Sana AudioPulse – aims to make testing easier for hearing-impaired populations in rural and poverty-stricken areas that may not have access to medical care. Laws in Brazil mandate that newborns be screened for hearing loss; however, the implementation process has been stymied by funding limitations and shortages of staff and proper equipment. This AudioPulse technology could help overcome these obstacles. 

[See also: mHealth apps forecast to increase threefold by 2012.]

As the winning team, MIT and the Federal University of Rio Grande Do Norte will be offered mentoring towards the future development of their innovation and the opportunity to exhibit at key industry events such as the GSMA's Connected Living Latin America Summit, which is being held in Brazil in June 2012.

The competition, held at the GSMA-mHealth Alliance Mobile Health Summit in Cape Town, asked university students worldwide to develop a mobile health concept that would address a specific healthcare need. From the initial group of entrants, the top 13 teams were invited to attend this week's finals at the GSMA-mHealth Alliance Mobile Health Summit to present their ideas to a judging panel comprised of venture capitalists and major players in the mobile and health industries. From these 13 teams, four were chosen to present to the judging panel in a final round, and from the final four, one overall winner was selected.

Besides MIT and Federal University of Rio Grande Do Norte, the finalists were:

  • Jordan University of Science and Technology (Jordan) - Snore Detector, a smartphone application used for detecting and monitoring Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS). 
  • UC Berkeley (US) – LifeCheck, a digital checklist technology for hospitals aimed at reducing redundancy and hospital errors.  
  • University of Oxford (UK) – BabeeMon, a baby monitoring technology, specifically for preterm infants, that detects respiration, blood oxygen saturation and heart rhythm.

[See also: MIT ventures explore cell phone use in developing countries.]

"The teams were challenged and encouraged to use their originality and creativity to create a compelling and viable mHealth solution, and we commend the enthusiasm and commitment shown by all those who took part in our inaugural competition," said Jeanine Vos, Executive Director, mHealth at the GSMA. "Our congratulations to the winning team, MIT and the Federal University of Rio Grande Do Norte and our thanks to all those who participated."