March 14, 2011

Dengue Innovation bags grand prize in Smart Awards

Bulacan State University's "3D: Dengue Detecting Device" was recently proclaimed the grand prize winner in the 7th SWEEP Innovation and Excellence Awards of Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) at the SMX Convention Center.

By Smart Communications, Inc.

In second place was "Overload Monitoring for Medium-sized Commercial Marine Transport in Davao City" of Holy Cross of Davao College, followed by "Smart Farmbihira" of Batangas State University.

The University of Baguios "Self-sustaining Street Lights with Wireless Power Monitoring System" was awarded a special prize for innovation, the first granted in the history of the SWEEP Awards.

The SWEEP Awards is Smarts annual search for the best wireless applications developed by partner schools under the Smart Wireless Engineering Education Program (SWEEP), an industry-academe partnership that seeks to help raise the level of technology and engineering education in the country.

This years awards, which adopted the theme "Empowering Communities through Wireless Technologies", drew a total of 132 entries from SWEEP schools nationwide.

The top three winners went home with cash prizes worth P500,000 for the grand prize, P300,000 for first runner-up and P150,000 for second runner-up, with their schools getting equivalent amounts in the form of a grant.

"Bulacan State Universitys dengue detection project is the only one that uses an image processing technology, making it unique," said Arlene Romasanta, a judge in this years SWEEP Awards.

"The accuracy of (the 3D dengue) detection is also high compared to the manual tests that local health facilities are currently employing. This, (considering that) its not easy to test dengue," added Romasanta, a Senior Science Research Specialist of the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCIEERD).

The other judges of the 7th SWEEP Awards included Smarts Strategic Business Development Group Head Alex D. Ibasco; Broadband, Internet and Data Services Department Head Gio R. Bacareza; and Network and Platforms Services Division Department Head Teddy R. Leonardo. Joining them was Hapinoy sari-sari store franchise founder Mark Ruiz.

BSUs Dengue Detecting Device uses a microscope, a camera phone, and a digital analyzer machine that automatically counts blood platelets and enables examinees to instantly determine if theyre positive for dengue or not. Dengue tests in hospitals currently provide results within 24 hours.

Project team leader Laurence Louie Lugue said his team invented the Platelet Counter software, which is compatible with the Smart Bro platform, to count actual platelets. They intend to pilot 3D among barangay health centers and public hospitals in Malolos. Ultimately, they hope to decrease dengue misdiagnosis and fatalities in the country, in collaboration with the Department of Health and the DOST, he added.

If commercialized, 3D can cost less than P20,000, according to Lugues estimation ­ a far cry from the P1M per unit cost of a hematology analyzer now used by major hospitals for platelet analysis, said Lugue.

Meanwhile, Holy Cross winning entry can help detect marine vessel overloading through the installation of "overloading sensors" in medium-sized commercial passenger ships.

"The sensors automatically detect overloading and transmit the information in real-time to a microcontroller that is interfaced with the cellular phone network, for processing," said project team leader Bobby Jay Carmelotes.

If the microcontroller (connected to a CPU with GSM capabilities) confirms that the vessel is overloaded, it sends an SMS alert via Smart to the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA).

The team hopes that their overloading detection device will eventually lessen, if not eliminate, maritime disasters in the country. Carmelotes said they want to test vessels plying the 15-minute run from Davao to the Island Garden City of Samal (Igacos). Once fully tested, the product can be made commercially available to owners or operators of commercial passenger vessels in Davao.

Second runner-up Smart Farmbihira of the Batangas State University can irrigate farms by targeting plant roots, using an automated low pressure water source. Farmers can type keywords corresponding to specific tasks into their mobile phones and send the message, to trigger a command. For example, typing "TSET" sets the duration of automated watering, while "SHUT" halts the system operation.

Automated watering is triggered when the soil sensor "detects the need to start the irrigation," said project team leader Josephine Medina. Irrigation is done continuously and automatically through "pores in the drip tapes/hose, targeting the exact root of the crops."

This system is "useful in areas with limited water supply" and "ideal for high-value crops that need monitoring," he added.

The team demonstrated their prototype on a 15-meter-by-1-meter lettuce bed and spent only P5,200 for the entire set-up. It was also tested at a farm in Lipa City, Batangas for lettuce production and proved more efficient than conventional irrigation and water sprinkler methods.

Romasanta said, "With this project, the farmers can spend the time they would spend on irrigation to focus on other areas of farming. It will increase their productivity and make their lives easier."

The other finalists included Ateneo de Naga University (Community-driven Social Welfare and Emergency Response Information System), the University of Southeastern-Philippines (Hydrogen Fueled Electric Generator), the Ateneo de Zamboanga University (Automated Load Retailer), the Batangas State University (Smart Power Vendo), the Mapua Institute of Technology (Flood Alert System via Smart SMS Technology), and the University of San Carlos (Preventive Illegal Logging Monitoring Endeavor or PRIME).