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10 Simple Techs to Tackle World Problems
By Glenn McDonald,
Discovery News, 20 November 2015.

Presented annually since 2001, the Tech Awards are a program of the Tech Museum of Innovation in California and, quite empirically, one of the coolest endeavours on the planet. Each year, the program recognizes innovators and scientific teams who are employing technology to solve the world's most pressing problems.

This year's winners - 10 teams from an even larger pool of intriguing finalists - were officially awarded the 2015 laureate prizes last week. Winners receive substantial cash rewards and funding from a who's-who of heavyweight tech industry sponsors. We take a look at this year's winners.

1. Clean Water Backpack


Category: Intel Environment Award

The Waterbag from DayOne Response can be used with water purifier packs to provide an all-in-one design for collection, treatment and storage of safe drinking water in disaster areas. The Waterbag has already been deployed in more than 20 countries worldwide.

2. Anti-Poaching App


Category: Intel Environment Award

Designed to help law enforcement and custom officials in China, the Wildlife Guardian app helps to identify products made from threatened species that are illegally smuggled into the country. The app recently contributed to the discovery and seizure of more than four tons of illegal ivory.

3. One Dollar Glasses 


Category: Sobrato Organization Economic Development Award

The World Health Organization estimates that up to 90 percent of those with significant visual impairment live in low-income communities with a shortage of affordable eyeglasses. OneDollarGlasses (ODG) provides just that - a simple manual machine for manufacturing steel eyeglass frames that can be easily fitted with standardized prescription lenses.

4. Three Word Address


Category: Sobrato Organization Economic Development Award

The concept of the street address is by no means universal. In fact, about 75 percent of the world's population can't effectively communicate where they live, precisely, which impacts deliveries, medical aid and crime reports. The what3words is a global addressing system that grids out complex latitude and longitude data into 57 trillion 3 meter x 3 meter squares - designated by unique three-word addresses.

5. Phone-Powered Vaccine Thermostat


Category: Sutter Health Award

Transporting vaccines at specified temperatures is a huge challenge, especially when delivering into remote areas. The ColdTrace system from Nexleaf Analytics leverages the power of low-cost smart phones to create networked mobile thermostats. The system currently monitors more than 4 million vaccine doses in clinics worldwide.

6. Innovative HIV Prevention


Category: Sutter Health Award

The World Health Organization estimates that voluntary male medical circumcision (VMMC) can reduce the risk of HIV infection by 60 percent in high-risk areas. The PrePex device is a non-surgical option for men: Worn for seven days, the device renders the foreskin necrotic, after which is can be removed painlessly and bloodlessly.

7. Better Reading Through Technology


Category: Microsoft Education Award

Developed for grade school students, the BeeLine onscreen reading system uses a system of colour gradients - instead of plain black text - to help kids with learning differences or impairments. The system is also useful for adult readers with dyslexia, ADD and other vision difficulties.

8. High Impact Distance Learning


Category: Microsoft Education Award

In an effort to improve the hospital apprenticeship model, OPENPediatrics deploys a global online learning system to provide free access to medical education and collaboration tools. Launched in 2014, the system is now being used in more than 800 hospitals in 124 countries.

9. Smart Fire Detection


Category: Katherine M. Swanson Young Innovator Award

Developed specifically to combat slum fires in South Africa, Lumkami is a networked fire detector that takes into account the innately smoky air in urban slum environments. Rather than detect smoke, the alarm system uses a rate-of-rise heat detector and inexpensive radio frequency technology.

10. Affordable Treatment for Clubfoot


Category: Katherine M. Swanson Young Innovator Award

Clubfoot impacts one in 750 children worldwide, with 80 percent living in developing countries. Students at Stanford University developed the miraclefeet brace, which can be produced for around US$20 per unit, promising a wide deployment into places that otherwise have little or no access to treatment. The braces are currently being pilot tested in India, Ecuador and the Philippines.

Top image: Off Grid Electric. Credits: Off Grid Electric/Twitter and The Tech Museum of Innovation.

[Source: Discovery News. Edited. Some links added.]