Meet three young girls who built a remote mini ICU (Intensive Care Unit) to monitor COVID-19 patients. Ranjana Nair, Sanchi Poovaya, and Aardra Kannan Ambili put together a Mini ICU Unit to monitor COVID patients for quarantine facilities. The three founders, who run Bangalore based Ray IoT Solutions created a product to check on patients in quarantine and ensure they were monitored.

SheThePeople.TV speaks to Ranjana Nair. Some edited excerpts from our conversation.

How did you come up with the idea of the Mini ICU?

The idea came to us when a celebrity who was converting his 14 room sprawling bungalow into a quarantine facility reached out to us. His problem was access to Doctors/nurses and medical equipment to fully equip his quarantine facility. We had to come up with a low-cost solution that could monitor the vitals of 100s of patients checked by doctors from anywhere, anytime. This product connects to Doctors through video when the patients are moving into severe or critical stage. The solution also had to support the government taskforces who is monitoring the population by providing them a quarantine database.

Women built COVID Monitor
Women techies built Mini ICU Unit to monitor COVID patients for quarantine facilities
PC Ranjana Nair

We created a product that’s AI-powered, wifi enabled, with a highly accurate respiration monitoring system. It is set up at a distance of 3 feet from the patient, the device can track breathing rate and send the data to the app. The app will then give notifications of drastic fluctuations in breathing rate and doctors can use this information to establish what next steps should be. The device is also capable of audio and video streaming which will be especially useful for monitoring critically ill patients.

In the time of COVID-19, a highly contagious virus strain that aggressively attacks the respiratory tract, it is clear that a remote vital tracking system is the need of the hour. We had been working on breathing rate and raising awareness around it since 2016.

What is the biggest goal here? Is this an app-based technology? 

For every patient detected with COVID-19, we plan to rent our technology to monitor their health for the 14 days of the prescribed quarantine. This way, without investing on a device, patients will have their health monitored by doctors from anywhere in a cost effective manner and reach out to a larger population.

With an estimated count of 49000 new cases from April to End of May in India, our devices can cover 12500 cases for 14 days. Not having enough resources for the estimated affected population, or caregivers, hospital beds or ventilators and importance of preventive action in the wake of no vaccine, we are short of 600000 doctors and 2M nurses.

We have 5000 readily deployable devices which can cover 25% of the infected population over this period.

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How do you think will COVID-19 pandemic change the global approach towards research and technology based businesses like yours?

We have been talking about the importance of respiration rate as a predictor vital since 2016. Now because of the COVID situation, everyone will want a respiration tracker for themselves. Because COVID is a respiratory illness and the only symptom that differentiates it from Flu is shortness of breath. We believe that this will increase the number of people investing in their health and the demand for more research based solutions will happen.

How will the field of technology itself evolve when this crisis is over? Will there be a change in focus? Will we be ready to predict future outbreaks? 

Definitely. Every Ministry Of health will invest in technology that can predict and prevent outbreaks and save the affected from the outbreak. Technology will be widely used in disease surveillance, contact tracing and targetted-quarantine. People do have short memories but in this case I think the impact of the pandemic will stay fresh in the minds of people for a long time

Do you think the stories of the successful women working to curb the pandemic today is a game-changer in the field of STEM? Will women finally get due recognition in this field?

You cannot ignore the work that is being done by women. Be it about creating test kits before going to deliver the baby or the women leadership of the countries like Germany that are successfully combating the virus. This time, you will not be able to ignore the work put in by women.

STEM has been a challenging field for women to rise in the ranks. How has the scenario changed over the decades? Is it less male-dominated space than it used to be?

50% of our work force is women technologists and engineers. We never found it difficult to recruit or train women technologists. It’s definitely changed over the decades but I still find the women outnumbered in any leadership room. Women still face unconscious bias and gaps in pay and research resources.

Your message to young girls who want to pursue a career in research and technology in the future…

What helped me in my career was having examples of strong women role models. Inspirations and motivators are important for aspiring women. Find your role models and find your mentors.

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