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omnom., Hong Kong James Dyson Award Winner Attempts to Improve Quality of Elder Care

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This year’s James Dyson Award Hong Kong winner attempts to solve this problem. omnom. is a smart dining service and product system designed for the future care home. It enables elderly care home residents to enjoy the process of eating and have more interaction, while addressing common care issues such as difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia) and appropriate nutrition. omnom. connects stakeholders in the care home system through data digitization, enhances interaction quality through design and increases safety through performance monitoring.

The omnom. comprises five components, a wearable neckpiece, a spoon, a tray for personalised care, a trolley for smart catering and an app for data digitization. The neck piece is safer alternative to visual checking by staff, the swallow sensor uses IASUS throat microphone technology while the spoon is designed to maximise residents’ active involvement in their meals and sustain their oral muscles. The tray and smart catering trolley support personalised menus and meal tracking. By digitising data, rather than manually recording data about meals, care givers will be able to have more quality interactions with residents and their families.

The Inventor
The design engineer is Peggy Chang Pei-Chi, who recently graduated from Hong Kong Polytechnic University with a Product Design degree. Peggy says she was attracted to the James Dyson Award competition, because it emphasises problem solving and hands-on testing as well as solution finding, and because it values design and innovation that offers sustainable and comprehensive solutions.

Concerned about quality of care for the burgeoning elderly population, Peggy started her design process by identifying the bottleneck task inflicting the highest cognitive load, which occupied most staff, and exposed residents to risk. Her aim was to improve work efficiency and optimise workloads for care home staff, while maximising the quality of care and transparency through design and technological intervention.

Peggy said: “Increasing cases of care home elderly abuse over the past few years made me question whether the problem lies in the individual or in the care system. One key cause of abuse is caregiver burnout and in Hong Kong’s case, this issue is only escalating with the rapidly aging population and the lack of young staff resources.”

The greatest challenge she faced during product development was user testing, as COVID-related restrictions meant it was not possible to have physical interviews with elderly people. However, Peggy reached out to staff at the Hong Kong Society for the Blind Kowloon Home for the Aged Blind, whose frontline staff and professional occupational therapists gave her their perspectives and input. She was also unable to perform user testing on elderly people in care homes, but recruited volunteers.

Winning the national leg of the James Dyson Award will inject £2,000 into Chang Pei-Chi’s project.

Peggy says, “My major future goal is to conduct interviews with elderly care home residents for hands-on user tests as soon as conditions allows. I believe that there is still so much potential to explore within this product and service system in terms of understanding stakeholders, their interaction, and feedback on the current designs. Only with more extensive stakeholder insights, suggestions, and co-design workshops will the product be fully ready for the next test-implementation stage.”

Steve Yeung, Cofounder and Director of INNOSPHERE and JDA judge commended omnom. as being an enlightened project that improves service quality and efficiency through proper technology application.

Steve adds, “omnom. unties bottlenecks of existing care services through mindful concern about stakeholders’ expectations. Such “product + service” based models should be popular in the health care system of our community. I am glad to see that entries this year are showing great care for our community, from physical to mental needs, from hygiene to sustainable concerns. Their mission deserves our greatest applause and encouragement.”

The Runner-Ups
Uvify
Problem: Healthcare professionals often do not have an effective way to clean stethoscope diaphragms between patient consultations. Cleansing with alcohol swabs is time consuming, but infectious diseases could be carried from patient to patient.

Solution: UVify involves smart automatic stethoscope disinfection using UV light system using UV-C light with a specific range of frequency of around 260 nm as its main purifying agent. Its durable, non-corrosive outer shell both sterilises and protects the stethoscope. When a consultation is finished the UV will light up to give the head a disinfection bath for 60 seconds.

OCTAPS
Problem: Music and playing musical instruments can bring many benefits to children with ADHD. However, ADHD symptoms such as hyperactivity and inattention can make it more difficult to learn to play musical instruments.

Solution: Octaps is an inclusive musical toy for preschool children with ADHD which allows them to actively explore their interest in music by moving around and being active. Designed ergonomically for 4 to 6-year-old children, Octaps comprises a geometric-shaped stool and eight triangle modules that represent the notes on a musical scale. Children learn about music through engaging with the triangles and play songs following guiding or selecting different instrument sounds to create their own music.

The three Hong Kong finalists will progress to the international stage of the James Dyson Award.

The International shortlist will be announced on 13th October, and the International winners on 17th November.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, this year was a record year for the James Dyson Award with more than 2,000 entries submitted globally.

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