Bengaluru: An Indian-born woman research Scholar from the University of Washington won the Paul Baran Young Scholar Award for 2018 for using smartphones to detect life-threatening symptoms, the California-based Marconi Society, which has instituted the award, said on Tuesday.
"Nandakumar Rajalakshmi is the winner of this year's Young Scholar Award for her outstanding research work in detecting life-threatening symptoms using smartphones," the Society said in an e-mail to IANS. Inspired by bats, which use sonar to navigate in the dark by sending acoustic signals and using reflections to identify objects, Rajalakshmi, 28, has turned a smartphone into an active sonar system to detect physiological activity like movement or respiration in a human body by a remote device.
"Rajalakshimi's system works by transmitting inaudible sound signals from a smartphone's speaker and tracking their reflections off the human body. The reflections are analysed by algorithms and signal processing techniques," the Society said in the e-statement.
The system is disrupting the sleep industry by creating a non-intrusive, low-cost application -- ApneaApp for detecting sleep apnea, a breathing disorder that affects millions of people the world over and yet remains undiagnosed. "I wanted to find a way to detect physiological signals, like pulse and heart rate, which are used for healthcare applications.
When I found that many consumer electronic devices have speakers and microphones, I decided to study if inaudible signals could help detect physiological movement," Rajalakshmi told IANS via another e-mail. The Society will honour Rajalakshmi with the award on October 2 at Bologna, Italy.
"Being recognised by the Marconi Society is humbling and motivates me to excel further in this field and to have a much larger impact," she said. Paul Baran (1926-2011), a Polish-born Jewish American engineer, was a pioneer in the development of computer networks. He won the Marconi Prize in 1991 for inventing packet switching technology, used in data communications, worldwide.
Set up in 1975 by Marconi's daughter Gioia Marconi Braga through an endowment, the Society annually awards outstanding individuals whose scope of work and influence emulate the principle of "creativity in service to humanity" that inspired Marconi. The young scholars are selected by an international jury of engineers from leading universities and firms on nomination from their academic advisers.
The award consists of $5,000 (Rs 362,500) and expenses to attend the annual ceremony. "More than the prize, Young Scholars are offered mentoring and guidance by the Society's distinguished roster of engineering greats," added the statement.
A post-doctorate scholar in the University of Washington's Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering at Seattle, Rajalakshmi went to the US in 2013 after a two-year stint as a research assistant at Microsoft India Research Centre in Bengaluru during 2011-13. She graduated in B.Tech from Guindy College of Engineering in Chennai after studying at TVS Lakshmi School in the temple town of Madurai in Tamil Nadu.