Peepoo, It’s All In The Bag

Peepoo–a silly name for a very serious product.

It is a self-sanitizing, disposable, single-use bag, made by Peepoople, which serves as a portable toilet to collect human waste and prevent the transmission of disease.

Without proper sanitation, human waste harbors contaminants, such as viruses, bacteria, worms, and parasites that infect fresh and ground water.2.6 billion people (40% of the world) have no access to basic sanitation (i.e. toilets) and one child dies worldwide every 15 seconds because of this.

The Peepoo bags contain a simple, but important layer of urea, a non-hazardous chemical that makes human waste pathogens inactive in just 2-4 weeks.

The biodegradable bags are buried and decompose in about 1 year making needed fertilizer for people in poverty around the world.Despite a current 15% poverty in United States, we live in such an economically privileged and technologically advanced country here that it is hard to imagine not having the basics for human dignity and health like a toilet and running water.

I stand in awe of the people that are working globally to help to those in need through the development of innovative, functional, low-cost, and environmentally sustainable products such as this.

There is so much to do to help people at both the high-end and low-end of cost and technology that it can be confusing how to invest our finite resources. For example, at the high-end, this week NASA unveiled plans for the most-powerful rocket planned projected to cost tens of billions of dollars to carry people to planets deep in space and potentially make discoveries that can alter the course of humanity in the future. Yet, at the low-end, we have billions of people with fundamental human needs that remain unmet here on Earth, who are suffering and dying now.

I remember a discussion with colleagues that ourchallenge is not simply to carve up the pie between competing alternatives (because there are so many critical needs out there), but rather to grow the pie so that we can give more and do more for everyone.

This mimics our economic situation today, if we just try to carve up our national budget between mandatory and discretionary budget items, we are left with a situation where there is seemingly not nearly enough to go around. Hence the imperative to grow the economy–through education, innovation, small business start-ups, international trade agreements, and more. We’ve got to grow the pie and quickly, because there are people that need jobs today, while there are long-term needs such as social security and medicare solvency, medical breakthroughs, and all sorts of innovation that await us in the future.

We can’t forget the people that need Peepoo bags today and we can’t stop investing in NASA and like for the future–growth in our only answer–and that comes through education, research and development, and the promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship.

>Awesome Emergency Management Technologies

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Obviously, I am a technology aficionado, but there is none more awesome than technology, which saves lives.

So to me, defense systems (a topic for another blog) and emergency management systems are two of the most fascinating and compelling areas of technology.

Recently, I have been closely following the story of the Chilean miners trapped beneath 2,200 feet of rock and earth due to a cave-in on 5 August.

It took 17 days to even find the miners in the winding underground mineshaft, and since then the ongoing determination and ingenuity of the emergency rescuers has been incredible.

The Wall Street Journal, 1 October 2010, in an article called “Inventions Ease the Plight of Trapped Miners” describes this unbelievable rescue effort.

Here are some of the technologies making their way a half-mile underground to the 33-trapped miners:

The Paloma (or Pigeon)—supply pod that is “a five-foot-long hollow cylinder that works like a pneumatic tube.” Rescuers stuff it with supplies and lower about 40 of these every day through a 4 inch diameter shaft to supply the miners food, medicine, electrical supplies.

The Phoenixrescue capsule, 10 feet tall, 900 pounds, with its own oxygen supply and communication systems designed to extract the trapped miners and bring each of them for the 15-40 minute ride it will take to get them to the safety of the surface.

Fiber Optic Communications—the miners are using a fiber-optic video camera and telephone link hooked to videoconferencing equipment. This has been cited as one of the biggest boosters of the miner’s morale.

Video Projectors—cellphones with built in projectors have been sent down to the miners allowing them to watch films and videos of family and friends.

iPods—these were considered, but rejected by the chief psychologist of the rescue effort who feared that this may isolate the miners, rather than integrate them during this emergency.

Modern Hygiene Products—Dry shampoo, soap-embedded hand towels, and self-sterilizing socks, have helped reduce odor and infection from the miners.

NASA engineers have exclaimed about the innovation shown by the Chilean emergency rescuers: “they are crossing new thresholds here.”

There are some great pictures and graphics of these devices at an article in the U.K. Telegraph.

What was once being targeted as a holiday rescue, by December, is now being envisioned as an October-November rescue operation. And with the continued application of innovation and technology, the miners will soon we back safe with their families and loved ones.

Also, ongoing kudos to the heroic rescuers!

>Bathroom Etiquette and Enterprise Architecture

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Every facet of our lives can be enhanced with automation and technology.

The Wall Street Journal, 15 February 2008 reports “Restroom Décor: Germy Doorknobs Inspire Inventors.”

Many people are wary of germs and their disease spewing effects, and no place more so than in public bathrooms (germs “can survive on surfaces for hours or days”).

“A few years ago, after using a filthy gas-station bathroom strewn with soggy toilet paper, Mathew Fulkerson dried his hands under a wall-mounted blower. Then he realized he was trapped: How to leave without touching the door handle?”

The user requirement is clear here; the technology solutions creative (although some are simply using the “pinky pull”, foot pull, or grasping the handle with a paper towel or toilet paper):

  • L-shaped handles—the SantiGrasp “can be pulled with the forearm or wrist” for $124.
  • Sensors—the Sanidoor opens with the wave of a hand at a cost of $1000 installed.
  • Sprays—the HYSO (hygienic Solutions) is a “canister installed above the door handle that sprays it with disinfectant every few minutes…the solution dries instantly.”
  • Ultraviolet lights—“Sanihandles, a door connected to a pair of ultraviolet lamps that kills germs.”
  • Doors that open out—these can be pushed with the shoulder or butt; “last year Massachusetts state Rep. James Vallee introduced a bill on behalf of a constituent that would require all public-bathroom doors to open outward.”

Is there really a need for these elaborate bathroom solutions?

“In an August 2007 study, study sponsored by the Soap and Detergent Association and the American Society for Microbiology, 34% of males observed in public bathrooms across the country didn’t wash their hands; 12% of females didn’t wash up.”

Are hygienic EA solutions user-centric?

They sure are. “Hygiene is a big seller. There are now antimicrobial bedsheets and bacteria-killing carpets. Last year, American Standard introduced a toilet with an antimicrobial coating that suppose to last indefinitely. At Busch’s a supermarket chain in Michigan [and at many others like Trader Joe’s], stores have disinfecting wipes near the shopping carts that people push around.”

William Schaffner, vice president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases says that “It’s good to be clean, but one can become obsessive” He says that he doesn’t avoid touching doorknobs, but I for one don’t believe him.