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Emerging Markets and the Internet of Things: Why Devices Designed for High-Income Countries Don't Work and What to Do About It

Timothy Prestero (Design that Matters)
Location: Festival Pavilion
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Slides:   1-PDF 

The “world that we have” is one where we’ve built the capability to connect every conceivable thing to the internet, from John Romkey’s TCP/IP toaster in 1990 to Peter Semmelhack’s networked office chair for Herman Miller.

The “world that’s coming” is one where even a rural village in Africa has wireless data access. How might we apply “the internet of things” and “social machines” to move beyond concepts like mHealth and mobile money to improve tools like medical devices designed specifically for low-resource rural hospitals?

DtM’s Firefly Infant Phototherapy is an example of a product designed specifically for the context of a low-resource hospital in a developing country. Already implemented in Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, DtM partners plan to expand to at least 1,000 Firefly devices next year, reaching at least 500,000 newborns.

Right now, we have no way to follow up on Firefly implementations. short of visiting each clinical facility. How might we assist clinicians to better track patient treatment schedules in the crowded wards of a poor hospital? How might we empower hospital administrators and national ministries of health with more information about the use and benefits of specific medical technologies? How might we help the international aid community stay engaged with equipment they’ve already donated, and make better choices in the future based on data received about the effectiveness of equipment in the field?

The “internet of things” opportunities extend beyond data-collection. Right now, the only way to update the firmware on a donated medical device is to physically connect to the device. What if we could push firmware updates as easily as with a Makerbot Replicator or an iPhone?

Photo of Timothy Prestero

Timothy Prestero

Design that Matters

Timothy Prestero is the founder and CEO of Design that Matters (DtM), a 501c3 nonprofit based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. DtM collaborates with leading social entrepreneurs and hundreds of volunteers to design new products and services for the poor in developing countries. A former Peace Corps volunteer and MIT graduate, Tim has worked in 17 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. He is a Martin Fellow at the MIT Laboratory for Energy and the Environment, an Ashoka Affiliate and a Draper Richards Kaplan Fellow. His awards include the 2007 Social Venture Network Innovation Award, and the 2009 World Technology Award. DtM’s Firefly infant phototherapy device received a Silver Award for social impact design in IDSA’s 2012 IDEA Awards, a 2013 Edison AWard and won the “Pitch Your Prototype” competition at the 2013 World Maker Faire New York. DtM’s NeoNurture Infant Incubator was named #1 of the “50 Best Inventions of 2010” by TIME Magazine. In 2012, DtM was named the winner of the National Design Award in Corporate and Institutional Achievement.