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Monday, July 4, 2022

Kashmiri innovators make wristband to alert deaf persons to danger

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Five years since Wani’s encounter, and after the removal of the state’s special status, Bhat, like all locals, knows that peace is fragile. What mitigates his worry is the knowledge that innovation might come in handy for his son and children like him.

He is pinning his hopes on SAAHI, an acronym for Situational Awareness and Alarming System for the Hearing Impaired. It is a wearable device that has been programmed to pick up sounds of high intensity in the vicinity and alert the user. The band starts vibrating as a warning signal against danger.

The idea of SAAHI germinated when students Adil Showket, Danish Rafiq, Waqar Ahmed, and Suhail Majeed-of the Department of Electronics and Communication Engineering at Pulwama’s Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST)-embarked on a field trip to the Zaiba Aapa Institute of Inclusive Education for specially-abled children in south Kashmir’s Bijbehara town, and interacted with students and teachers there.

"During the visit, we observed how difficult it would be for such children to save themselves from danger during an outbreak of violence," says Peerzada Shoaib Hamid, Assistant Professor at the department and a former fellow at the Central University of Kashmir’s Design Innovation Centre (DIC). He acted as the leader of the project.

Hamid points out that common hearing aid devices are not of much use in an emergency and can’t alert the wearer to the noise in the environment. "The problem with hearing-impaired persons is that they are least aware of the goings-on in an emergency. They are usually physically hauled out from a dangerous situation or shown danger signals of some sort. But in the case of a speeding car on the road or a violent situation, people first try to save their own life than think about helping others."

This is where SAAHI steps in. It is small enough to fit on the wrist of the user as the DIC team has kept the circuitry small. Moreover, it is not expected to cost much once commercially available. Parents such as Bhat are quite enthused with the idea.

"When I learnt about this innovation from the students of IUST, I congratulated the whole team and was informed that once SAAHI is in its commercial stage of production, the band won’t cost more than Rs 1,500," he says, admitting, "We get worried about the safety of our children when they go to school or a picnic, fearful of their well-being in case violence breaks out."

Javid Ahmed Tak, who is specially-abled himself and runs the Zaiba Aapa Institute of Inclusive Education, is thankful to the IUST team for visiting his school and for the initiative that is expected to benefit dozens of vulnerable students.

The DIC is the motivational force behind innovations such as SAAHI and aims to make technology that is beneficial as well as affordable to society.

DIC fellow Jawaz Ahmed is heartened that youngsters are trying to find solutions to the problems of marginalised sections of society. "I am interested in taking the project forward and am making copies for feedback so that we can improve the band’s efficiency," he says, adding that he is keen to use machine learning algorithms and include features such as informing the wearer of the sound’s direction and its types.

However, he has not set a deadline by which he plans to make the product ready for a commercial launch. Signalling devices for the hearing impaired do exist and use visual cues (flashing light) or vibrotactile cues. These are used to alert a hearing-impaired person about a host of events: doorbell ringing, smoke alarm, telephone, crying baby. SAAHI caters to another need, which is a real threat in conflict zones.

The DIC has filed a patent for SAAHI. Shahid Kamili, President of Federation Chamber of Industries, Kashmir (FCIK)-an amalgamation of industrial associations of Kashmir-plans to strengthen its collaboration with DIC and further encourage young entrepreneurs to commercialise innovations not only for their benefit but of the society at large.

(The author is a Kashmir-based freelance journalist and a member of 101Reporters, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.)

–Ajit Weekly News<br>zahid/dpb

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