10 PM NETWORK FEBRUARY 2015 WWW.PMI.ORG
Fed up with subpar Thai food abroad, the
Thai government sponsored a project to
ensure purveyors of the country’s cuisine
meet its exacting standards around the
world. The Thai Delicious Committee,
overseen by the government’s National
Innovation Agency, unveiled its “
e-delicious” tasting robot in September.
Using 10 sensors to determine taste
and smell, the boxy contraption works
by tasting dishes and measuring the
chemical signature of the food against a
government-approved standard recipe for
the same dish. It then computes a rating
out of 100; any score below 80 indicates
The project team spent about a year
developing e-delicious, developer Krit
Chongsrid, PhD, told ABC News. Syncing
the smell and taste sensors was the most
difficult part of the US$100,000 robot
project. “There is a 5 to 10 percent error
probability,” Dr. Chongsrid said.
His team hopes to produce at least 100
of the machines, with the goal of selling
each for US$18,000 to Thai embassies in
countries with many Thai restaurants. In
addition to the taster, the committee produced a free app named Thai Delicious that
offers officially approved recipes, as well as
a logo restaurants can display on menus if
they use government-backed recipes.
E-delicious isn’t the world’s first
electronic tasting robot—previous
projects have delivered a beer-tasting
robot in Spain and a wine-tasting robot
in Denmark. But it is the first devoted to
“We wanted the cheapest and easi-
est approach to measure food,” Sirapat
Pratontep, PhD, a nanotechnology expert
who led the robot’s development, told The
New York Times. “You just put in the food
and you get a rating.” —Brittany Nims
but bad ideas are killed pretty quickly,”
Ms. Bailey says. “The ideas where you have
clinical, engineering and business buy-in—
those are the ideas that take shape.”
A New Kind of Ambulance
One CAMTech innovation has taken
shape in Uganda.
During a 2013 hackathon in Mbarara,
Uganda, a team visited a local maternity
ward where a woman was hemorrhaging.
Nurses explained that, like many patients,
she did not have access to reliable transportation so she could not get to the hospital quickly. Ambulances are often in a
state of disrepair.
So the team created an innovation that
took advantage of a widespread mode of
transportation that Uganda does have:
motorcycles. By the end of the hackathon,
the team designed a stretcher that could
be attached to motorcycles, turning them into makeshift ambulances.
After winning a CAMTech award of US$10,000, the project team has continued to
develop its prototype, which is now in its third iteration.
“We’re very interested in commercial viability,” Ms. Bailey says. “Our agenda is to
build entrepreneurial capacity to generate a pipeline of products that have the potential to be innovative, impactful and viable.”
To ensure hackathons attract talented participants, CAMTech relies on partners such
as the Mbarara University of Science and Technology in Uganda and Glocal Healthcare in India, as well as extensive outreach through social media.
Yet there are stakeholders beyond the hackers with their own—sometimes conflicting—agendas. One CAMTech funder, the United States Agency for International
Development, seeks innovations bolstering maternal and child health in India, Ms.
Bailey says. Meanwhile, corporate sponsors may want to continue to serve higher-end
markets in low-income and developed countries, while expanding their reach into
Securing buy-in from the myriad funders and other stakeholders while remaining
aligned with CAMTech’s global health mission is “one of the things that keeps me up
at night,” Ms. Bailey says.
To guarantee that buy-in, funders promote their own agendas by awarding prizes.
For instance, brewing company Anheuser-Busch InBev has sponsored awards for
innovations addressing road safety, a major public health issue. (Nine out of every 10
deaths due to traffic collisions occur in low- and middle-income countries, according
to the World Health Organization.) “If you create just a small incentive around a specific challenge, you drive activity in that area,” Ms. Bailey says.
To ensure that all that activity remains aligned with each hackathon’s strategic
At each hackathon’s start,
participants (known as
to present a healthcare
challenge and pitch an
idea to solve it.
A group works at a Hacking