On Saturday, Index, a Copenhagen based non-profit that sponsors awards every second year for innovative designs that improve life, announced the winners of its 2009 awards. Mint takes a look at the designs that won across five different categories: body, home, work, play, and community.

Click here to view a slideshow of the Index Award winners

Freeplay Fetal Heart Rate Monitor: Winner, Body

According to UNICEF, children in developing countries are 500 times more likely to die in their first day of life than at one month of age. Newborn mortality accounts for nearly 60 percent of infant deaths. In order to make it easier to measure an infant’s heart rate during birth, John Hutchinson – the CTO of Freeplay Energy of Cape Town, and University College London medical associate John Wyatt, have created the Freeplay fetal heart rate monitor.

Freeplay fetal heart rate monitor

Should an infant not receive enough oxygen in the mother’s placenta, its heart rate slows down to lower the need for oxygen. According to childbirth experts, this is a reliable sign that the fetus is not handling the birth process well. Discovering the lowered heart rate allows medical workers to change tactics and suspend delivery.

The Freeplay monitor has a robust design, created expressly for the harsh conditions of rural and remote settings in the developing world. It has only an on-off switch and a hand crank for generating its own electricity: cranking for one minute provides 10 minutes of operation; two minutes provides 20 minutes etc.

Chulha: Winner, Home

The World Health Organization estimates that 1.6 millions deaths per year occur due to toxic fumes released during indoor cooking with bio-mass fuels. The chulha was designed to counter this. Philips Design is making the stove available to social entrepreneurs free of charge, so that they can produce the stove, themselves, and generate local business.

Although the focus in creating the stove was Indian families in rural areas, Philips sees potential for the chulha in Africa and Latin America as well.

Kiva: Winner, Work

Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending Web site. It empowers people to lend directly to small entrepreneurs. Lenders at Kiva are not paid interest. The site has lent more than $87 million to date, and has a 98-percent payback rate.

PIG 05049, Winner: Play

PIG 05049 was an actual pig, raised and slaughtered on a commercial farm in the Netherlands. Rotterdam designer, Christien Meindertsma decided to track all the ways in which the animal was used in order to bring to light how resources are consumed in a highly industrialized world. She found that she could document 185 products contributed to by the pig, including ammunition, train brakes, automobile paint, soap and washing powder, bone china and cigarettes, and has published a book on her findings.

Better Place: Winner, Community

Better Place is a provider of electric vehicle services. The organization aims to move drivers, the automotive industry and energy-distribution past the internal-combustion engine to a more sustainable mode of transport.Rather than focusing on a particular design element, Better Place takes a holistic view and includes measures like providing hundreds of thousands of plug-in charge-spots, and providing switching stations for mechanized battery exchange of lithium-ion batteries (which, in a typical sedan, can deliver a range of about 100 miles / 160 kilometers on a single charge.)

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