As the Microsoft Imagine Cup hits Sydney, 400 student software-design finalists will face off for a piece of Microsoft's $3 million investment. We check out three brainiac U.S. teams.
Not following the doctor's orders (taking medication on time, scheduling follow-up appointments) causes 125,000 preventable deaths each year and costs the U.S. health-care system $290 billion. Students from MIT and Harvard created a two-way system of web and phone apps, which pings patients with reminders and tracks adherence. It's already used in 12 clinics in India and has helped boost maternal vaccination rates 10%.
Nationwide, nearly 15% of people struggle to put food on the table, and many don't qualify for government assistance. This Arizona State University team created FlashFood, a real-time mobile food-recovery system: Restaurants and grocers use the app to alert volunteers of excess food, which is then picked up and delivered to food banks. Families in need receive an automatic text when food is available for pickup. U.S. WINNER!
3. Cloud Monitor
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is the leading cause of death for infants under the age of one and the third-leading cause of all infant mortality in the U.S. This Winona State University team created a thin sleeping pad, called the Cloud Monitor, which measures a baby's breathing and heartbeat. Data are synced to a computer system that analyzes the information; the app alerts parents if the baby's data are abnormal.
A version of this article appeared in the July/August 2012 issue of Fast Company magazine.