Four finalists have been selected in the My Air, My Health Challenge, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and its challenge partners. Each finalist will receive $15,000, and will transform their designs to measure air pollutants and related physiological measurements into working systems. One overall winner will receive a cash award of $100,000 to be announced in June 2013.
The competition was created to spur the development of personal devices used to gather and integrate health and air quality data that is usable and meaningful to long-term health outcomes. In addition to NIH's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), sponsorship for the challenge comes from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.
Since the announcement of the challenge in June, individuals and teams have submitted designs for wearable sensors that take into account the possible links between airborne pollutants and health measurements, such as heart rate and breathing. This first phase of the challenge attracted more than 500 participants and dozens of solution submissions.
"Now comes the exciting part, where ideas are turned into working prototypes," said David Balshaw, Ph.D., NIEHS program administrator. "The hope for these kinds of devices is that researchers, communities, and physicians can ultimately better understand the connection between environmental exposures and health."
The My Air, My Health Challenge finalists are:
Finalists: Guy Shechter, Ph.D.; Mark Aloia, Ph.D.; Johan Marra, Ph.D.; Arpana Sali; and Ronald Wolf, Ph.D., from Philips Healthcare
Location: Andover, Mass.
Project Description: Linking exposure to ultrafine particulates with exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease through measurement of vital signs and respiratory function.
Finalists: Michael Heimbinder, HabitatMap; Michael Taylor, Carnegie Mellon University; Carlos Restrepo, Ph.D., New York University; and George Thurston, Sc.D., New York University
Location: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Project Description: Using an integrated system to link exposure to carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter with heart rate variability and blood oxygen levels.
Finalists: Gabrielle Savage Dockterman, Angel Devil Productions; Dot Kelly, Shearwater Design; and David Kuller, AUX
Location: Carlisle, Mass.
Project Description: Integrating sensors for multiple airborne pollutants with sensors for heart rate, breathing rate, and physical activity into fitness clothing for athletes.
Finalist: Aaron Hechmer
Location: El Cerrito, Calif.
Project Description: Integrating modular air quality sensors, audio based spirometry, health assessment games, and biomarkers via an infrastructure that promotes sharing of health information.
In addition, Rajiv Totlani of Frisco, Texas, and Peter Sotory of Raleigh, N.C., were selected as honorable mentions.