Neopenda tackles infant mortality in developing countries

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The Neopenda is designed to help reduce the number of newborn deaths in the developing world

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Wearables are a dime a dozen in the developed world, but a New York City-based global health startup called Neopenda is looking to use the technology for more than just email notifications and step tracking. The company's namesake device is a baby hat aimed at helping newborns in developing countries survive their first month by tracking vital signs, and sending key information back to a tablet.

Neopenda uses a compact sensor array to monitor the wearer's heart rate, respiratory rate, blood oxygen saturation and temperature. When any of these variables drifts out of a preset threshold, an alert is sent via Bluetooth to a tablet monitoring system running custom software. Each monitoring system keeps track of up to 24 individual babies at once, and can be used to plot trends in each vital sign. Patient histories can also be exported to make sure doctors and nurses can keep abreast of a new patient's background without relying on manual recordings.

The system is aimed at making life easier for healthcare workers in developing countries, where a lack of staff can make it difficult to regularly record and monitor the vital signs of children in the crucial first months. Because of these factors, among others, the World Health Organization estimates over 3 million children die within the first four weeks of being born every year. What's more, the same WHO report says two-thirds of these deaths could be prevented if low-cost, simple monitoring technology was implemented in developing countries.

Currently, Neopenda's prototype hardware is being tested, refined and shrunk down to an appropriate size, but the software side of development is already finished. When the sensor is completed and is deemed safe by Ugandan regulators, its creators are hoping to start field deployment this year before expanding the rollout over the next three years.

So far, the project has raised over US$14,790 of its $40,000 Kickstarter goal with 28 days remaining. Pledges range from $5, which earns you a thank you note from the Neopenda team, to $10,000 - enough to buy you a personalized token from the sensor's development stages and dinner with the founders.

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