To many of us, the age of nine brings back fond memories of cycling to the park or (in my case) obsessively playing video games.
Nine-year-old Arnav Sharma is going through his childhood differently – creating a device that is a revolution in the field of asthma care.
Named the AsthmaPi, Arnav has harnessed the power of Raspberry Pi along with some sensors and a shed load of C++ programming language, to invent an all-in-one machine to make any asthma sufferer's life easier.
It will send you alerts via email or text to take medication or go for reviews. It will scan the local area for what specific temperature, humidity, levels of gas or dust trigger asthma attacks. All-in-all, it’s fair to say this is amazing.
His work even won him some awards - The People's award and 'Winners of the winners' award, alongside being selected as a finalist for a BT Young Pioneer Award. With such an incredible journey, I just had to talk to him about what work it took, future goals and his motivations.
1. What inspired you to invent an Asthma Monitor?
I saw one of my friends in school having an asthma attack and my mom told me that my aunt also has asthma. I got curious about the illness and learned more about it.
I learned that Asthma is a very common illness. UK alone has 5.4 million asthma patients with 1.1 children. Every 10 seconds there is a serious asthma attack and 3 people die of asthma every day.
I also learned that avoiding the environmental trigger factors like pollution, dust, allergens, etc. is very important for managing asthma and preventing attacks.
I had already been learning to code for some time and had just got my Raspberry Pi.
I had seen some Raspberry Pi projects using sensors. So, I thought that maybe I could use Raspberry Pi with some sensors to detect some of the environmental trigger factors that could help people with asthma when their trigger factors are likely to be high.
So, that’s how I started building my AsthmaPi kit.
2. Can you tell me a little bit more about how AsthmaPi works?
AsthmaPi uses commonly available electronic parts to create an affordable kit that can help asthma patients manage their condition better. The current proof of concept uses Raspberry Pi, Arduino Uno and some readily available sensors coded with Python and C++ language.
AsthmaPi uses folllowing sensors to track environmental triggers like:
- Humidity and temperature - using Raspberry Pi Sensehat
- Smoke, dust and pollen - using a dust sensor - Sharp Optical Dust Sensor
- Hazardous gases like CO, CO2, NO etc. - using a gas sensor
Tracking these trigger factors allow an asthma sufferer to prevent an asthma attacks by telling them if a particular trigger factor is high. This monitoring could allow us to understand their trigger factors better by linking their asthma attacks to the different trigger factors range.
AsthmaPi also allows users to set-up reminders for their medications and hospital appointments - and therefore helps them manage their condition better.
3. How important do you feel Raspberry Pi is to the future of healthcare technology?
Raspberry Pi can be very helpful for healthcare technology as it makes it easier for even young children like me to test ideas and possibly create a useful healthcare technology.
4. How much did this device cost to build?
It costs just under £100 to build the Asthma Pi.
5. Have you received any interest from healthcare professionals to bring this technology to the everyday asthma sufferers?
I have had positive response from asthma patients or parents of kids with asthma, who have asked if this product is available. The charities like AshtmaUK have been in touch to write about it in their newsletter. My parents are looking at ways to take this technology forward.
We will have to refine the technology further and build a smaller prototype that combines all components in one design and then do some product and user testing.
6. When it comes to inventors in healthcare, there are many doubters who say that "technology like this should not be created by the everyday person, but rather left to the big health companies to create." How would you respond to these people?
I think innovation can come from anywhere or anyone not just big companies. The more people trying to innovate the more chances we have of creating better technologies.
7. What are your plans for the future? Any new ideas you're planning/working on?
I want to continue to improve my technology and coding language skills. I will keep trying other ideas as they come but no specific idea at the moment. I will love to be able to take the RaspberryPi further.
8. And finally, a personal one. When I was 8-9 years old, my life was still working hard to complete Crash Bandicoot on the Playstation! How did you keep yourself motivated and inspired to carry on and complete this amazing project?
I enjoy learning and trying new things. So, even though it was hard work at times, but it was exciting and challenging to just try and make it work.