A United Effort
The academia-NGO-industry partnership was central to developing this solution. IIT Delhi provided research and strategy leadership. Saksham Trust provided the interface with users and Phoenix Medical Systems contributed their expertise in design, manufacturing, testing and quality assurance. An interdisciplinary team spanning engineers, designer, manufacturing personnel, special educators, social workers, accessibility experts, testing experts etc. provided complementary and holistic inputs to address various design and implementation challenges.
Assistive Technologies Group (Assistech), Indian Institute of Technology Delhi
Inventor Academic InstitutionSituated in the academic milieu and platform of IIT Delhi, ASSISTECH is an inter-disciplinary research group with the mission to develop affordable assistive technology solutions for the visually impaired. Formed in the year 2005 with the objective of making difference in the lives of a million plus visually impaired people, their focus is technology innovation addressing challenges in mobility and education faced by the visually-impaired, enabling them to live independently with dignity. One of the key projects undertaken by Assistech is the development of the SmartCane, an affordable aid for the visually impaired that provides safe and independent mobility by detecting hazardous raised obstacles that can cause upper body injuries, a day-to-day problem for the blind.
Their research competencies include embedded system design, mechanical and industrial design with lab support for prototyping and system development. The group interfaces with several organisations serving the visually impaired across the country to identify critical unmet needs, evolve solutions in a participative mode and validate through intensive trials with users. Further, the group undertakes joint projects with industry partners to translate developed technologies and prototype devices to usable products in the hands of the users. Some of the group’s other innovations for the visually challenged include bus access device, low-cost Braille cells and display, CAD automation of tactile graphics production, Braille tutoring system etc. Apart from working on specific solutions based on needs identified by the users themselves, they also work on sensitizing and inspiring a number of young minds towards real day-to-day challenges of the differently abled. Assistech’s research and community initiatives are funded by the government and philanthropic organisations.
Saksham Charitable Trust
Non-profit Partner: User Engagement and DisseminationThe Saksham Trust was established in 2003 under the leadership of Mr. Dipendra Manocha, himself a visually impaired person, with the sole purpose of empowering persons with blindness. It plays a key role in advocacy and act as a service provider in the field of rehabilitation, education, training and assistive technology. In addition to a school for children with visual impairment and multiple disabilities, it runs a distribution centre of assistive aids and appliances for education, mobility and independent living. It has developed entertainment and education comprehensible for blind children through audio description of movies, creation of accessible books in Braille, e-text and audio compliant to DAISY standards. Saksham plays a vital role in the SmartCane project by determining the user specifications, involving users for trials and collating feedback and nationwide distribution with a network of partner welfare organisations.
Phoenix Medical Systems Pvt. Ltd (PMS)
Industry Partner: Design R&D, Manufacturing and QualityPhoenix Medical Systems is the industrial partner of the SmartCane project, providing R&D and executing the manufacturing process in the Phoenix Medical Systems ISO 9001 certified factory. They also look after the critical issues of testing and quality control, and have proactively included the SmartCane in its ISO scope to ensure the utmost care in its production. Founded in 1989 by Mr. Sashi Kumar, an IIT Madras alumni with the vision for establishing a pioneering company in the area of providing cost-effective and innovative solutions that match the best in the world at very affordable prices. PMS is a pioneer in India in the manufacture of products devoted to infant health care,the first product being an infant incubator. PMS follows Six Sigma and other ‘lean’ management strategies and is ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 13485:2003 certified.
Funding PartnerThe Wellcome Trust is a well recognised global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health and in pursuit of this, the Trust supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and medical humanities. The Trust’s support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests.
The Wellcome Trust funded the translational research phase of the SmartCane project, involving major R&D and extensive validation trials, undertaken jointly IIT Delhi, Phoenix Medical Systems and Saksham Trust. The generous funding support by the Wellcome Trust (almost £350 000) under the Affordable Healthcare Scheme played a vital role in translating a concept prototype to a usable product in the hands of the users.