The Indian Institute of Technology Delhi’s Assistive Technologies Group (ASSISTech) is proud to announce the launch of the SmartCaneTM device; an innovative and affordable navigation aid enabling safe mobility for the visually impaired.
According tothe World Health Organisation, 285 million people are estimated to be visually impaired worldwide, with 90% residing in developing countries. India is home for 12 million peoplewith blindness, the largest for any country in the world (2011 census data).
Developed jointly with Saksham Trust and Phoenix Medical Systems, with funding received from the Wellcome Trust (UK), the SmartCaneTMhelps users detect all obstaclesabove the knee-level.Utilising modern sensor technology, this device detects obstructions up to a distance of 3 metres and is compatible with the standard folding white cane currently used by millions of visually impaired people across the globe. Further, the SmartCaneTMdevice removes the need for physical contact with the cane in order to detect obstacles in the immediate environment. At times, accidentally touching or poking a stray animal or another human with a cane could lead to an unpleasant response.
The cost of SmartCaneTM, inclusive of distribution and training costs is Rs. 3000 while comparable navigational devices globally cost Rs. 65000 or more. Notwithstanding its affordable price tag, the manufacturer i.e. Phoenix Medical Systems, Chennai has ensured that the device meets global standards in terms of quality and reliability. Saksham Trust has developed an extensive distribution partner network, geographically spread across India for spreading awareness, training as well as after-sale support.
The various features of SmartCaneTMhave been driven by end-users’ input on their needs and then ratified through extensive field trials with over 150 users. Talking about the product, Dr Rohan Paul, who has played a key role in the development of the SmartCaneTMdevice, said “Blindness is not just a medical condition but possesses the larger dimensions of social exclusion, stigma and neglect. Blind people are often taken by surprise by over-hanging branches, protruding air-conditioners and parked vehicleswhile navigating through unfamiliar terrain. SmartCaneTMwarns the user of such objects in their path through a unique system of vibratory patterns, designed to detectpotential obstacles even at head height.”
Professor M Balakrishnan, Department of Computer Science& Engineeringwho along with Professor PVM Rao of Mechanical Engineering Department leads the ASSISTech activities, said, “I strongly believe that role of organizations like IIT is to promote technology-based entrepreneurship so that the country develops quality products that find mass acceptance not only in India but globally.”
Dr Diana Tay, Business Development Manager for Technology Transfer at the Wellcome Trust said “The SmartCane™ is a mobility aid device that will have a positive impact on the day-to-day activities of the visually impaired in India and possibly further afield. The cross-disciplinary team approach behind the SmartCane™ has enabled the successful delivery of this technology to the marketplace.” The Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation, provided a research grant of around £450,000 under the“Affordable Healthcare in India”schemefor translational research on SmartCane™.
Mr DipendraManocha, Director of SakshamTrust and Delhi-President of National Association of Blind, has provided research and marketing support through its network of organizations. Phoenix Medical Systems, India’s leading manufacturer of medical devices for infant and maternity care is the industrial partner of SmartCane™, providing industrial R&D support and executing the manufacturing process.