SUTD students create wearable technological solutions for problems from Zika to friendly fire

SINGAPORE - With concerns about viruses like dengue fever and Zika, wouldn't it be nice to have a wrist device that warns you if your current location makes you a prime target for mosquitoes?

Here's the concept: the wristband would take into account the wearer's blood type, surrounding temperatures and sweat levels, while comparing the user's location with the National Environment Agency's dengue cluster map.

A prototype of the Mosquito Early Warning Wristband - Meww for short - was on display yesterday at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).

The wristband and 86 other first-year students' works were exhibitedas part of the compulsory Introduction to Design course.

With the theme of The Technological Body, the exhibition - now in its fifth year and involving 456 students - will run until tomorrow.

Each of the 87 groups was given a budget of $500 for its creations.

Ms Phoebe Chew and four team members created Meww, the mosquito warning wristband which features lights that change from green to yellow to red, the highest risk level represented.

Another project on display is Blinko, a highly adjustable vest made of strips of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) placed on the shoulders, as well as brake lights in the back.

The vest is meant for cyclists and the LED strips work like a car's signal lights. Mr Johan Farid Tang said the five-member team had little experience in making a vest. He said: "We are used to a lot of theory and writing. However, for this module, there was a lot of 'hands-on' work."

Mr Johan, 21, and Ms Chew, 19, are unsure if their teams will take Blinko and Meww, which cost about $450 and $300 respectively, beyond the prototype phase.

However, student Teo Tai Xiang has gone a step further and on Thursday applied for a provisional patent for his team's project, F³.

They are the first team to do so in the five years since the course started. Short for "Friendly-Free Fire", F³ uses a camera mounted on a soldier's rifle to detect a specifically-designed light on an ally.

The idea is that the soldier would don a wearable electrical muscle simulation device that connects to his trigger finger and this overrides the nervous system, preventing friendly fire.

Mr Teo said his team had exceeded the budget by "around $200 to $300", but the 21-year-old has big dreams for F³.

Should his project move in a commercial direction, he is considering launching a start-up or an online Kickstarter campaign. "We really do believe in this," he said.

Associate Professor Arlindo Silva, one of the two coordinators for the Introduction to Design course, said the course "sets the benchmark of not only what we want from them but also what they can achieve".

"They not only understand what is expected from them, but they also know that their limits are way beyond what they thought they were."