Innovation here and there!!

August 17, 2009 at 5:10 pm Leave a comment

By Peter Baeck

Innovation is a funny thing. Researching on the topic can take you around the world, from the poorest and most underdeveloped parts of Kathmandu in Nepal to high tech cities in Japan,  Europe and the US.

In Kathmandu the combination of a growing birth rate, insufficient medical supplies and the lack of financial resources has forced doctors to think in alternative ways. One such way is inventing an incubator that is primarily build out of spare car parts, and costs less than 1000 $ (The incubators used in western hospitals can cost as much as 40.000 $).

In Japan it is the exact opposite challenge that forces the country to think in alternative ways. With a very low birth rate and an ageing population, there are simply not enough nurses to take care of the increasing number of old people. Japanese companies are therefore using their expertise in building robots for the industrial sector, to create robots that can replace or assist nurses. The robots can already now talk to elder, to make sure he or she is ok, play games with them that strengthens their memory, help them eat, bathe get in and out of bed etc.  This means that the human nurses in return will have more time to care for the things the robots can not (yet) do, such as lead conversations wash hair etc.

 Whats fascinating is that in both Japan and Nepal, people wanted to expand their welfare without having the necessesary resources, be it financial or human, which has forced them to think in alternative ways.  It will be interesting to see what innovations the future will bring if people inspite of the current budget deficit and warnings of  a public spending squeeze still want to maintain a constant increase in their welfare. Or in other words, how can more be delivered for less?

Japan bath

Sanyo Electric has introduced what is essentially a robot bathtub. Costing about $50,000, it closes around a patient who is seated in a wheelchair.

The wash and rinse cycles operate automatically. A nurse’s aide takes care of washing hair and toweling the resident off.


Entry filed under: Innovation Worldwide.

Can artificial intelligence improve service and efficiency, and maybe even cut costs, in the public sector? How do we define innovation?

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