Two students of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO), Isaac Uchechukwu Edmund and Ebulue Ifeanyichukwu Henry have designed a smart device that could prevent users from touching their faces.
This is a much-needed measure as the world looks to defeat the deadly coronavirus.
Called Sentinel, the device is an automated wristband which renders a very shrill beep whenever its user brings his or her hand too close to their face.
But that’s not all it does as the device also has a pouch which could secrete hand sanitizers from time to time. Once the user feels the secretion, they are expected to rub it all over their hands.
This ensures the hands are frequently sanitized even when the user isn’t conscious about it.
Speaking on what inspired his team to come up with such an innovation, Isaac Uchechukwu said it came about after the Coronavirus lockdown prevented his team, Creation Energy, from travelling to the US to represent in a competition.
We are supposed to go to the US to represent in a competition. But the coronavirus shut everything down. One day I was thinking, what can we do to proffer solution to this (Covid-19). Since Coronavirus is on ground and preventing us from moving out, we might as well fight it. I thought about it and we started working on this solution.
Isaac Uchechukwu Edmund
And the solution, though still a bit crude, looks like a good and very important one. Sentinel also has the capacity to monitor symptoms like fever and high temperature and has been programmed to contact relevant agencies if the user gets too much symptom, especially those associated with the Covid-19.
At a time when Covid-19 detection rate is incredibly low and people are very hesitant about visiting hospitals, this device could play a bit of a role in detecting and alerting relevant bodies. However, does that feature really work? Is it, at the moment, registered to the communications network of these relevant bodies like the NCDC, Ministries of Health or even hospitals?
“It hasn’t been registered yet but the team is working assiduously towards it,” Uchechukwu said.
He also said his team has been invited to meet with the Imo State Commissioner of Science and Technology in relation to how they can onboard the solution to the appropriate communications channels among other matters. Considering that such a feature would largely be rendered inefficient without connection to relevant authorities, it is imperative that Creation Energy gets that right.
But Sentinel’s most important feature is the face contact prevention. To avoid contacting Covid-19, it is important to avoid touching one’s face. Research, however, claims that a person touches their face at least 23 times in an hour. And it is completely involuntary. Thus, asking people not to touch their faces is a tall and almost impossible order.
But Sentinel wants to make it, not just possible, but also easy. However, in a demo carried out via YouTube video, we noticed that the device’s reaction time is quite slow and the person wearing the device had to raise his hand slowly to elicit a beep.
In other words, his movement is slower than that of someone unconsciously reaching for their face. Thus, it is possible for one to have actually touched their face before the device beeps.
Admitting that the device is indeed a bit slow for now, Uchechukwu explained that it was due to the ‘local and crude’ materials which the team could manage due to the restrictions of the lockdown.
“There’s a lag. Some things there, while they are working, they aren’t working optimally. The optimization wasn’t there. So that’s why there was that lag. But asides that, the whole thing works well. Once we get the right components and materials for the design, it will work very well. The recent one we produced works faster and has a faster response time so before your hand gets to your face, it is already beeping.”
It is important that it took only about two months for Creation energy to build the Sentinel device. And it was the work of extensive research and consultation. Uchechukwu expressed his hope that it won’t take that long to optimize and hit the market.
“The government is involved with this so they will help us get it across,” he said. “This does not need too much marketing because it markets itself. The govt is involved and we have marketing partners to help us get it across.”
As Nigeria looks to reopen itself for business even with the ever-rising cases of Covid-19, no measure can be too much measure. A simple wristband like sentinel could go a long way in protecting people from the virus. And, if fully optimized, it could also play a major role in the detection of Covid-19.
Creation Energy comprises of two students; Isaac Uchechukwu Edmund and Ebulue Ifeanyichukwu Henry and their patron, Engr Dr Ezema.