Developers at the University of California, San Francisco, just won a Wireless Innovation Award in a national tech competition sponsored by Vodafone, and a $250,000 prize to fund further development of their SMART Diaphragm product.
The diaphragm, intended to reduce pre-term births, tracks early signs of pre-term labor, and sends wireless alerts to physicians, according to the university.
It is similar in design to the cervical diaphragm used for birth control, with embedded sensors that monitor the collagen levels in the cervix, a key indicator of possible early labor. If the monitor detects decreasing levels of collagen, it sends an alert to the woman's physician that she needs to be evaluated, often before the woman herself is feeling any symptoms, says project leader Larry Rand.
Interestingly, the device emerged not from the usual IT incubators, but from the UCSF bioengineering department. Bioengineering students developed the technology, in part due to their experience with micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS)--developing miniature devices for biomedical applications--says Shuvo Roy, an associate professor of bioengineering.
The project probably will have a global bent, according to university officials. One chunk of the cash award, $50,000, came from the United Nation's mHealth Alliance, as a nod to the technology's potential to help pregnant women in developing countries.