Boot insoles can turn a pair of really uncomfortable brogues into podiatric clouds that can take a long hike and remove the foot ache. Now, Lemur Studio Design based in Bogota, Colombia, has come up with a concept for insoles that won’t just save your instep, but could save your life. A submission to the World Design Impact Prize 2013-2014 competition, SaveOneLife is a wearable mine detector that fits in a shoe and warns the wearer if and where a potentially deadly landmine might lurk nearby.

Colombia has a major landmine problem. According to the International Campaign to ban Landmines (ICBL), the country is the second most mined in the world after Afghanistan, with over 10,000 casualties since 1990, including about 2,000 killed. Anti-government rebel groups have strewn antipersonnel and antivehicle mines along roads and foot trails, near government bases, in rural areas, around schools, houses, national parks, and indigenous communities’ land. The problem is made worse by drug gangs using mines to protect their coca farms from intruders.

This widespread, often indiscriminate mining combined with the mountainous jungle terrain of the region make detecting and clearing landmines extremely difficult. The notoriously dangerous job requires money, special equipment, and expert crews. It’s a long, slow task that even under the best conditions can take decades to complete. Meanwhile, soldiers, coca eradication teams, farmers, and people in general are at daily risk of being maimed or killed.

According to the designers, SaveOneLife isn’t a solution to the problem, but more of a stopgap technology to reduce the danger from antipersonnel mines. It works on the principle of a metal detector. The insole is made of a conductive material and has a planar coil printed on it. This produces an electromagnetic field. When the wearer walks within two meters (6.5 ft) of a mine containing metal parts, this disrupts the field and is detected by a microprocessor, which is also printed on the insole, as is a radio transmitter. The transmitter sends a signal to a wristwatch-like readout that sounds an alarm and displays the location of the mine on a small screen.

SaveOneLife was designed by Iván Pérez under project leader Lorena Cárdenas. It’s currently at a conceptual stage due to economic reasons, but is designed to be as realistic as possible with the aim of providing a template for eventually coming up with a practical, life-saving device based on nanotechnology.

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