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The Automist Wins 2009 James Dyson Award

The Automist could be a breakthrough in home safety—a kitchen-faucet sprinkler system that controls residential fires.


After months and months of brilliant ideas, the winner is in: The 2009 James Dyson Award goes to Yusuf Muhammed and Paul Thomas, for their design concept, the Automist. The runners up were Min Kyu Choi's Folding Plug and Jude Pullen's Pressure Alert.

In the few years that it has existed, the Dyson Award has arguably become the world's most prestigious student competition, by virtue of the intense competition from thousands of entries, which compete for country and worldwide awards. Though Dyson insists that the awards aren't a recruiting exercise, many entrants have gone on to work for Sir James. Still others have quickly established new design practices as a result.

Muhammed and Thomas, who are students at London's Royal College of Art, will split a £10,000 prize. Their university gets a £10,000 prize as well.

The Automist just might be the first major advance in home safety since the smoke detector. It would finally bring fire sprinklers into private homes, through a kitchen faucet fitted with a high-pressure pump. It's activated by heat sensors. And though you'd think there would be problems delivering enough mist, with enough pressure, to fight a fire, the designers say a prototype has already been tested.

Muhammed and Thomas point out that in the U.S. alone, there are over 400,000 residential fires each year, causing thousands of casualties. A whopping 60% begin in the kitchen. Meanwhile, it's long been known that to control a blaze, you don't need to douse a fire—misting the air can readily contain a blaze.


Brilliant as the Automist is, it had heavy competition from the two runners up: The Pressure Alert by Jude Pullen, and the Folding plug, by Min Kyu Choi.

Min Kyu Choi, who's also a student at hte Royal College of Art, has been a instant success this year: His plug has garnered many accolades, after debuting at this year's RCA graduate show. Choi's idea was to design an alternative to the U.K. three-prong plug which was as graceful and slim as the MacBook Air:

Folding plug

Folding plug

Pullen's invention, the Pressure Alert, is a brilliantly analog solution to a problem that exists every time a patient undergoes anesthesia. During that process, doctors slide a tube down the patients throat, so they can breathe. To allow the air to flow, the patient's airway is also sealed with a balloon, called a cuff. But if its filled too much, the cuff can bruise or split the trachea. That makes it a delicate, tricky procedure, even for experienced anesthetists.

To make it easier, Pullen designed a pressure indicator—a "pilot balloon" which fills in proportion to the cuff. If they pressure is too high, the pilot balloon simply pops up. Couldn't be simpler.

Pressure Alert

Pressure Alert

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