Over the years, the XPrize foundation has offered up millions of dollars in prize money aimed at inspiring solutions to problems as diverse as landing robots on the moon and illiteracy in the developing world. Now the non-profit is hoping to have imaginative minds applied to the issues of women's safety and water scarcity, through a pair of new competitions announced in New Delhi today.
Water security is a serious problem in a world experiencing rapid population growth and a changing climate. According to the World Bank, 1.6 billion people currently live in regions with absolute water scarcity, a figure that is expected to balloon to 2.8 billion as soon as 2025. Smarter management of the water already available to us is key to minimizing the social and economic impacts of this, but increasing the size of the pool can certainly help too.
We know that technology has real potential to give these supplies a boost. A water bottle that pulls vapor from the air to fill itself, irrigation systems that do the same and an off-grid bamboo tower that traps passing fog are just a few examples of recent technological innovations in this area, and it is this kind of thinking that XPrize will be looking to tap into, so to speak.
The US$1.75 million Water Abundance XPRIZE is aimed at increasing access to fresh water through energy-efficiency technologies that harvest it from thin air. It tasks competing teams with developing a device that draws 2,000 liters (528 gal) from the atmosphere each day using only renewable energy and costing no more than two cents per liter (0.26 gal).
Likewise, technology also holds promise in making the world a safer place for women. We have seen examples of smart jewellery and discreet sensors that can send out a call for help when a threat presents itself. The $1 million Women's Safety XPrize will encourage teams to use these types of connected technologies to develop a device that automatically and discreetly triggers an alert and notifies emergency responders within 90 seconds of an event, all while costing less than $40 a year for the user.
The Water Abundance XPRIZE will run over two years, with an initial five-month team registration period, while the Women's Safety XPrize will take place over 20 months, with a four-month registration period. The competitors will be assessed based on the standards set in their plans, and then the performance and scalability of their solutions.