Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 September 2019

UAE's young medical minds win Dh1 million funding boost

Emirati students are being backed under an initiative aimed at promoting innovation in the healthcare sector

Emirati students Ahmed Al Mansouri and Khaled Al Dhaheri have come up with a way to help long-haul drivers stay awake on the roads. Victor Besa / The National  
Emirati students Ahmed Al Mansouri and Khaled Al Dhaheri have come up with a way to help long-haul drivers stay awake on the roads. Victor Besa / The National  

A million-dirham idea from a pair of Emirati students aimed at saving tired drivers' lives on the roads could soon become a reality.

Ahmed Al Mansouri and Khaled Al Dhaheri are developing software to alert motorists when they appear to be falling asleep.

The potentially life-saving technology could be downloaded as an app for a mobile phone or be installed in the vehicle.

The duo have received Dh1 million in funding under the Future Medical Stars programme, operated by VPS Healthcare and Al Bayt Mitwahid Association.

The software is linked to a device placed on the rear-view mirror of the car to detect the driver's eye movements.

“It scans your face with a camera, and when your eyes are open it doesn’t do anything,” said Mr Al Mansouri, who is going on to study in China.

“When you start blinking and your eyes close, it alerts.”

The system beeps loudly to stir the driver and also activates when a drivers eyes turn away from the road, such as in a scenario where a person's head tilts when drifting off to sleep.

While similar technologies already exist in high-end cars, We Heart targets all kinds of vehicles — especially lorries, which are often driven by people undertaking long journeys.

“We are focusing on any person who has a vehicle that is not up to date, and truck drivers who drive for long hours and shifts. They are of great interest to us,” said Mr Al Mansouri, an 18-year-old artificial intelligence student.

Pankaj Paul, director of strategy and innovation at VPS, believes the scheme can bolster road safety.

“The bottom line is newer cars have the technology that help you drive better, but what about hundreds and millions of cars and lorries on the road that don’t?” said Pankaj Paul, director of strategy and innovation at VPS.

“Drowsiness is one of the biggest challenges for road safety and it exists globally.”

Once the system is ready, the Future Medical Stars team will help the students find potential buyers for the product.

“At first we would like to focus on insurance companies, considering they take on the financial burden of car accidents, so they could introduce it with car insurance packages,' said Mr Al Mansouri.

“We could also sell it as a standalone product in electronic shops, and even hospitals.”

Another start-up project being supported by the Future Medical Stars programme aims to reduce unnecessary hospital visits.

Sultan Al Suwaidi is working on an app, which will be utilised by Burjeel Hospital in Dubai, which tells user if they need urgent medical care.

Users can log in to the app and answer basic health questions when feeling unwell or in pain.

After they enter all the necessary information, the app tells them if they need to see a doctor, or if the issue is not serious enough to warrant professional treatment.

The app also provides an option to book the doctor appointment on behalf of the user.

“It will take us six months to fully develop this,” said Mr Paul.

While Burjeel Hospital is already on board to use the app once ready, more hospitals and medical facilities will be approached.

Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, chairman and managing director of VPS Healthcare, said it is vital to encourage innovation.

“If you are not innovating you fail; no country survives well in healthcare unless it looks well after its own people, failure to do that would be letting your country down,” he said.

Updated: August 17, 2019 02:49 PM

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