Zahid Maqbool | May 24, 2022 | 4 min read
For representational purpose (Photo: Joe Hilton, Unsplash)
Like most locals in Kashmir Valley, Mukhtar Ahmed Bhat's ears are accustomed to picking up the slightest noise in the environment and duck or run for safety. He worries for his son, though, wondering how he would save himself from sudden danger. The boy studies in a school for the differently-abled and is hearing impaired. In a region long beset by violence, he cannot hear gunfires or a blast, sounds that have been frequent in Kashmir, especially since militant Burhan Wani was killed in 2016. Five years since Wani’s encounter, and after the removal of the state’s special status, Bhat, like all locals, knows that peace is fragile. What mitigates his worry is the knowledge that innovation might come in handy for his son and children like him. He is pinning his hopes on SAAHI, an acronym for Situational Awareness and Alarming System for the Hearing Impaired. It is a wearable device that has been programmed to pick up sounds of high intensity in the vicinity and alert the user. The band starts vibrating as a warning signal against danger. The idea of SAAHI germinated when students Adil Showket, Danish Rafiq, Waqar Ahmed, and Suhail Majeed—of the Department of Electronics and Communication Engineering at Pulwama’s Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST)—embarked on a field trip to the Zaiba Aapa Institute of Inclusive Education for specially-abled children in south Kashmir’s Bijbehara town, and interacted with students and teachers there.
This is where SAAHI steps in. It is small enough to fit on the wrist of the user as the DIC team has kept the circuitry small. Moreover, it is not expected to cost much once commercially available. Parents such as Bhat are quite enthused with the idea.
“When I learnt about this innovation from the students of IUST, I congratulated the whole team and was informed that once SAAHI is in its commercial stage of production, the band won’t cost more than Rs 1,500,” he says, admitting, “We get worried about the safety of our children when they go to school or a picnic, fearful of their well-being in case violence breaks out.” Javid Ahmed Tak, who is specially-abled himself and runs the Zaiba Aapa Institute of Inclusive Education, is thankful to the IUST team for visiting his school and for the initiative that is expected to benefit dozens of vulnerable students. The DIC is the motivational force behind innovations such as SAAHI and aims to make technology that is beneficial as well as affordable to society. DIC fellow Jawaz Ahmed is heartened that youngsters are trying to find solutions to the problems of marginalised sections of society. “I am interested in taking the project forward and am making copies for feedback so that we can improve the band’s efficiency,” he says, adding that he is keen to use machine learning algorithms and include features such as informing the wearer of the sound's direction and its types. However, he has not set a deadline by which he plans to make the product ready for a commercial launch. Signalling devices for the hearing impaired do exist and use visual cues (flashing light) or vibrotactile cues. These are used to alert a hearing-impaired person about a host of events: doorbell ringing, smoke alarm, telephone, crying baby. SAAHI caters to another need, which is a real threat in conflict zones.
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