My younger sister is a nurse. She is, without question, the most amazing person I know. She spent all of 2015 working at an orphanage in Kathmandu, Nepal. The orphanage itself was just as people might imagine: no running water, spotty electricity on a good day, understaffed and overcrowded.
This all, of course, made practicing medicine difficult. It made everything difficult. When the very basic necessities of life—food, water, cleanliness—are at such a premium, quality care becomes nearly impossible. But with the Internet of Better Things, that might be slowly changing.
Each day, hundreds of new applications are created for the Internet of Things—that controversial, poorly defined (and even more poorly named) concept that encompasses the non-physical space where all our connected devices connect. While most new inclusions to the IoT are made to make our lives easier, some enterprising startups and health professionals are creating them to make the world healthier. They understand that problems in the third world are likely only going to get worse over the course of the century, and so finding little solves here and there has the potential to improve the health of millions, and maybe even billions, of people.
Eyecare in the developing world is a major issue, with the World Health Organization estimating that 90% of people with vision problems live in low-income areas. To address this problem, oDocs Eye Care, based in New Zealand, created what it calls “An affordable eye clinic in the palm of your hand.” Adaptors attach to smartphones, creating microscopes and cameras—essentially a mobile eye clinic—that can easily travel to the remotest of places and relay results back to labs, hospitals, etc. Additionally, oDocs has committed to donating half of its net profit toward eye health in regions where it is needed most.
Brazilian ad agency NBS and out-of-home maestros Posterscope executed an entirely different Internet of Better Things tack last year, when the two combined to create “Mosquito Killer” billboards in the wake of Zika and dengue outbreaks in South America. The billboards worked by emitting a solution made up of carbon dioxide and lactic acid, made to emulate human breath and the smell of sweat, which are to mosquitoes what the blinking green light was to Jay Gatsby. Any mosquitoes drawn to the billboard would become stuck to its adhesive surface, dying not long after of dehydration. The billboards, placed in “at-risk” areas where outbreaks had been reported, could, and did, kill hundreds of mosquitoes a day. And while in small numbers the billboards would have little effect, NBS and Posterscope made the technology used for them publicly available.
When even ad agencies can get in on the fun, there’s no reason your brand shouldn’t be doing whatever it can to pitch its own contribution in to the Internet of Better Things. There are so many needs to be addressed in the world that there’s no need to be deterred if you’re not primarily in the business of helping others—in fact, it’s all the better if you’re an ad agency working on behalf of public health. It illustrates how dedicated and willing you are to solving problems. And, for those of unlike my sister, who are fully content with our electricity and running water, and less inclined (or, to be more direct, too afraid) to go to the farther reaches of the world to try to make it a better place, it’s nice to know that we can start doing so right at home.
Trends inspired by trendwatching.com/premium