Maker Movement Mania

New Makers Build Ebola-Proof Tablet, Robots

Today’s top creative minds aren’t just interested in building products that add to the noise — they’re using technology to help people and make the world a better, fairer, more interesting place.

It’s become a joke so prevalent in startup culture that the television show Silicon Valley has made it a running gag: All tech companies are trying to “change the world” with the latest app, smart device or social media platform.

The new generation of makers aren’t telling jokes. Instead, they’re using Intel Edison technology to improve lives around the globe.

Ken Krieger Helps Tackle the Ebola Epidemic

When fighting one of the worst epidemics in human history, communicating quickly and efficiently is the difference between life and death. But getting the necessary information from point A to point B isn’t always easy.

As Ebola wreaked havoc across Africa in 2014, doctors and health workers encountered a significant problem.

Because doctors weren’t able to remove papers, pens or computers from the quarantine tent without spreading the disease, explained Ken Krieger, lead engineer of Project Buendia, they needed a portable, Ebola-proof solution that would allow them to go back and forth between quarantine and non-quarantine areas.

With an incredibly painful disease killing people at an astonishing rate, any other method was ineffective and deadly.

“If we aren’t going faster than the epidemic, the epidemic’s going to win,” Krieger said. “It’s really all about time.”

ebola-proof tablet

Luckily, a team at Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) came up with an idea to create an infrastructure that would use technology to connect the medical professionals and volunteers. Google, Crisis Response and volunteers quickly rallied around what would be called Project Buendia.

The project required a small wireless computer that could connect to the server. This meant using a portable network in the form of wirelessly interconnected tablets hosted by a common server.

To avoid spreading the disease, the tablets and server would be encased and dunked in a chlorine solution that killed the virus.

“The only solution we found was the Intel Edison,” Kreiger said, noting that the group chose this particular technology because it allowed them to build a system — a task that would normally take two years — in a quick two months.

Edison’s low power consumption, Wi-Fi capabilities, built-in storage and self-cooling feature were essential for creating a viable solution to the doctors’ communication conundrums. Even when submerged in chlorine to kill the virus, the system remains intact.

“It’s really a full-on computer in an ultra-teeny package,” Kreiger said. “It’s computing for the next century.”

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And Project Buendia is just the beginning. With the help of RFID equipment startup Thinkify, Krieger and team were able to bring their hard work to hospitals and the commercial market.

“When they heard about the project, Thinkify actually changed the whole focus of their company for a few months to dedicate themselves to this project and help make it a success,” Kreiger said, referring to custom engineering work the company tackled.

“They’re going to spend the money to bring this technology to the world and help NGOs all over the world fight diseases.”

Slamtec Designs Smarter Robots for the World

Despite significant technological advancements, the field of robotics is still in its infancy. The five friends who started Slamtec, a Shanghai company focused on robot mapping, localization and navigation, have a different view.

“Maybe it sounds obvious, but we believe that robots are the future,” Shikai Chen, CEO of Slamtec, explained, saying that the Slamtec crew boasts different strengths, from programming to designing.

“We all have the same goal to build smarter robots that could detect environments and respond to them.”

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With that goal in mind, Slamtec set out to power the world’s robots. The result was a robot “brain” or base that could be used in everything from self-guided Segways to mechanical arms.

Slamtec used Intel Edison to create Slamware, the brain. Although the team looked at other systems, Edison was the only technology that was small enough, efficient enough and powerful enough to meet their needs.

“Without Edison we couldn’t be making things like this,” Shikai said, noting that the next step is to make an open source robot that people can customize.

“It’s really exciting to create a robot. They can and will make our lives faster, easier and smarter.”

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