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Mint profiles five innovative ideas by students from engineering colleges across the country that made it to the list of Top 10 Innovations of 2015 compiled by Swedish telecom equipment maker Ericsson AB

Project: Guardian

Team Members: Avinash Bansal, Ayush Banka, Chiraag Kapil, Manik Mehta, Paras Batra

College: IIT Delhi

Rank: One of the two winners

Appalled by the brutal gangrape-murder of a 23-year-old paramedical student in New Delhi in 2012, five students from IIT-Delhi came together to create a prototype of wearable jewellery fitted with a Bluetooth device that can send alerts and messages to family and friends through a smartphone app.

While this may seem like any other wearable security device for women, it taps nearby cell towers and Wi-Fi routers in addition to the Global Positioning System (GPS) to track and locate users. In addition, it relies on a network of people using the app to call for help, and not just family and friends.

The smartphone app that is paired with the jewellery is activated when a push button on the jewellery is tapped twice.

The app then sends alerts with the location address to family, friends and local users of the app in the surrounding area.

“When an alert is activated, it is received by our cloud-based server, which tracks the location of the particular user and converts it into textual address, thus sending the alerts to people concerned who have the app," explained Ayush Banka.

In case there is no app or no Internet connection, the alert is sent vis SMSes.

“We are working on an SOS button as well that will send an alert to the police control room as well. As many areas have poor network connection, this SOS button will search for any other device or network within the 30-metre radius and use that to send the server an alert," said Manik Mehta. The project, Guardian, which won an Ericsson innovation award this year, resulted in a full-fledged product and prompted these fresh graduates to start a company—Leaf Innovations Pvt. Ltd—in February. They recently raised 10 lakh from angel investors in Mumbai.

After the company started taking pre-orders in April, it received many enquiries from India as well as other countries.

“The product, now known as Safer, which is in the form of a pendant to begin with and costs 3,500, will be ready to be shipped by July," said Avinash Bansal.

Project: Smart earphone

Team members: Parth Gaggar and Vijay Jain

College: IIT Roorkee

Rank: One of the two winners

All that Parth Gaggar and Vijay Jain were trying to have a year back was to make a simple telephonic conversation. They were unable to hear their own voices—a band was playing on one side of the road while the noise of traffic was deafening on the other side. That’s when it struck them that they could work on making a device that could select the voices it wants to hear and cancel out the ambient noise. “We didn’t think it was possible at first, but then we started researching," said Gaggar, who graduated from IIT Roorkee this year. The two electronics engineers were mulling over the idea when they got a chance to actually work on it for a competition—the Ericsson Innovation awards at IIT Delhi in May. The device consists of an earpiece with microphones and an app that can run on any smartphone. The microphones send audio signals from the background to the smartphones. The app then lets a user see all sources from where voices are coming, and enables the user to select any single source and amplify it. “Users can select what and who they want to hear from a group of people," said Gaggar. This is different from normal hearing aids that simply amplify the sound coming from the direction which the user is facing. Gaggar believes the device can have applications in fields such as medicine and gaming. Gaggar and Jain are in the process of filing a patent and plan to start a firm. “Once we have prototypes, we will do field testing and look to raise money through angel investors or crowdsourcing," said Gaggar.

Project: Advanced Breathalyzer Helmet

Team members: Naman Singhal, Rishabh Babeley, Shubham Jaiswal

College: IIT BHU

Rank: Figures in the top 10 nominations

Two first-year engineering students at IIT BHU, Naman Singhal and Rishabh Babeley, went to their seniors and asked what they should be doing during the college’s tech fest. They particularly wanted to address some social problem.

“We thought why not do something to ensure that a drunk person won’t be able to start a vehicle," recalled Singhal, one of the three students who worked on the advanced breathalyzer helmet—a project that made it to the list of top six innovations in Ericsson’s Innovation Awards this year. Together with one of their seniors, Shubham Jaiswal, Singhal and Babeley started working on a helmet which would prevent drunk drivers from starting a bike.

The helmet comprises sensors to analyse pressure to see if the helmet strap is fastened, measure the carbon dioxide content to make sure it is a human wearing the helmet and check for the smell of alcohol from the driver’s breath.

The helmet has a Bluetooth device that emits wireless signals to the bike’s spark plug circuit to switch off the bike if alcohol content in the driver’s breath is more than the permissible limit. “We have added a module so the bike won’t start without the helmet to prevent bike theft. We are soon planning to install a GPS device in the bike that will contact emergency numbers in case of a mishap," said Singhal. The three of them, who are yet to graduate, are already planning to take it forward by approaching government bodies, insurance firms as well as bike manufacturers.

Project: 3D display and user interface (without stereoscopy)

Team members: Lavisha Aggarwal, Mayank Pathak, Pranav Kumar

College: IIT Kanpur

Rank: Figures in the top 10 nominations

How cool would it be if you could see a three-dimensional (3D) model of a product that you wanted to buy online? This was what prompted Pranav Kumar, Lavisha Aggarwal and Mayank Pathak to work on an algorithm that could create a 3D image on a computer or mobile screen with the help of a web camera or a front camera.

The aim is to display an object as if it were a real 3D entity (on screen), showing its perspective view based on the viewer’s face’s orientation with respect to the camera, and taking a minimal number of views of the object beforehand.

“Everybody shops online these days, but there are always concerns about how the product will actually look in reality," said Aggarwal, a third-year student at IIT Kanpur who was part of the project, 3D display and user interface, that was nominated as one of the top six innovations at this year’s Ericsson innovation awards.

“So we worked on an algorithm that measures a user’s distance from the screen as well as inclination of the user’s face and using the images of an object from different angles creates an image that the user will perceive as a 3D image of the object," she explained. “Our application uses a single camera for its functioning and is purely based on algorithms." The three students are planning to further the project with a mobile app. They believe their “idea will be useful to electronic commerce companies such as Amazon, Flipkart, eBay etc. where customers can visualize the products they are buying in real-time".

Project: iDitya Solar Assistant

Team members: Praneet Agarwal, Navneet Saini, Anshuman Kumar

College: IIT Delhi

Rank: Figures in the top 10 nominations

While Indian households are increasingly warming up to the idea of using solar power, the cost and complexity of installation remains a challenge. A team of three students—Praneet Agarwal, Navneet Saini and Anshuman Kumar—at IIT Delhi came up with a ‘Do it Yourself’ solar power kit to address this problem last year during the Mahindra Rise Challenge—a competition conducted by Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd.

The solar assistant kit comprised a solar panel, a mechanical structure to hold that panel and an electrical system that acted as an interface between the solar panel and users. The trio brushed up the idea and put an additional feature that could let an Android smartphone connect with the solar kit through Bluetooth for the Ericsson innovation awards 2015. “The smartphone app for DIY solar kit basically has three main functionalities—installation, maintenance and remote user assistance," explained Agarwal. “While you are installing the solar power kit, the app will be able to tell you the right angle of inclination (of the solar panel) and the right direction for optimum efficiency. It can also alert users when the system needs maintenance by detecting deteriorating power generation."

In addition, the students thought of providing remote assistance to diagnose preliminary problems in case of a glitch rather than having to send somebody directly. The idea was to have the app collect data about the system, which users could then send to back servers for diagnosis. A solar power system set up by using the kit could generate electricity in the range of 100W to 250W depending upon the size of the solar panel—enough to power a fan, a light and a television. “Since we graduated this year, we all went in separate directions, but the idea will always be there," said Agarwal.

Other projects that made it to the Top 10 nomination list:

Recognition of facial speech gesture: It can analyse facial gestures and convert it into sound combinations to determine words for text input on Android devices.

Location-wise traffic analysis based on social network data: A web-application that can provide real-time traffic updates to users using posts on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

Smart paper calendar device for everyone, including visually-impaired people: A product, which comprises a calendar integrated with a clock, and can sync a paper calendar with a digital one to show and notify users about registered events.

Education data analytics: An analytics solution, which uses data generated by technology-aided education techniques such as learning games to help teachers identify students who face difficulties with some concepts. It can be used to design better curriculum and improve exercises by measuring students’ engagement level.

Smart ward: A solution that aims to automate the patient monitoring system by providing real-time values of patients’ vitals and alerts on critical changes in those parameters to the nurse on duty.

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