Dubai mum invents 24-hr baby 'wearable' to track vital signs, send emergency alerts

The Iraqi resident developed a smart wristband for the health and safety of infants


Waad Barakat

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Published: Mon 24 Jun 2024, 10:44 AM

Last updated: Mon 24 Jun 2024, 9:59 PM

In 2018, Dr Rula Sharqi's son, Joseph, got sick with the seasonal flu, making it challenging to care for him as he was fussier and seemed more uncomfortable than when he only had a common cold.

As a single, working mum, Dr Sharqi had to constantly monitor her son's vital signs on her own to make sure that he was still safe regardless of his flu.

Inspired by her experience, the Iraqi resident developed 'LittleGard wristband', a baby monitor devised to send text alerts or emails to parents and, in extreme cases, alert emergency services.

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Using her engineering expertise, the Associate Professor of Engineering at Heriot-Watt University, invented this baby monitor that can be attached to an infant’s wrist, making it easier for parents to monitor their baby's vital signs.

"Caring for Joseph during his illness, where his body temperature spiked at night due to seasonal flu, highlighted the universal need for continuous monitoring of vital signs such as temperature, oxygen levels, and pulse rate," she told Khaleej Times. "I realized that every parent faces similar challenges and would appreciate a reliable solution to alleviate their concerns."

"The LittleGard wristband was born out of this desire to offer proactive monitoring and timely alerts, empowering parents to take prompt action when their child's health needs attention," she explained.

Dr Rula Sharqi
Dr Rula Sharqi

With the assistance of Nakhul Kalaivanan, a robotics engineering student, Dr Sharqui built advanced nanosensors covered by cotton bands placed directly on the infant's skin. This was done to minimise false readings and ensure accurate vital signs monitoring.

Nakhul Kalaivanan
Nakhul Kalaivanan

"By continuously monitoring temperature, oxygen levels, and pulse rate, the LittleGard wristband empowers parents with real-time insights into their child's health," Dr. Sharqi explained. "This proactive approach can lead to early intervention and potentially prevent serious health issues, offering unparalleled peace of mind to parents."

While the LittleGard wristband is not yet available on the market, Dr. Sharqi is seeking an industrial partner to bring it to life. "As an educational engineering institute, our role is to develop innovative solutions," she said. "We are now validating the reading accuracy before launching the product."

Dr Sharqi's passion for innovation was ignited at a young age. "My journey into engineering began with deep admiration for my parents, both pioneers in the field in the Arab world," she shared. "Their remarkable achievements inspired me to pursue a career where I could make a tangible difference through innovation and technology."

LittleGard wristband
LittleGard wristband

She sees engineering not only as science and math, but also as a practical solution to save lives “As they say, 'Wherever there is a problem to be solved, an engineer is there to find a solution. Engineering uses math and science to address challenges, and my life's purpose is centred around discovering and implementing innovative solutions that positively impact society,” she emphasized.

Dr Rula uses her engineering knowledge beyond just infant healthcare. She is also working on a project that will enhance adults’ lives. "I'm also working on a smart fridge that will enhance people's health and lives," she revealed. "The fridge will read the fridge components of food items and their expiry dates, plan meals for the owner based on the available ingredients, and send notifications about expired items."


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