Hunting poachers, detecting early autism spectrum disorders, and preventing pedestrian deaths – these are all examples of potentially life-changing innovations announced last week as finalists in the Wireless Innovation Project.

Each year, the competition created by Vodafone Americas Foundation awards $600,000 to three organizations that offer the highest potential to drive social good.

The eight finalists stem from non-profits, universities, and social entrepreneurs, but all have created solutions with a potential to make a difference for communities around the world and direct lasting social change.

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“Each year we review incredible technologies and our 2017 finalists continue that pattern with projects across healthcare, wildlife preservation, augmented reality, childhood education, banking, and more,” said June Sugiyama, Director, Vodafone Americas Foundation. “The creative and innovative solutions presented this year show the potential ability of technology and connectivity to uniquely benefit communities worldwide.”

Since launching in 2009, the Wireless Innovation Project has awarded $4.9 million to scalable solutions which have directly impacted 40 million individual lives across more than 40 countries.

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From the eight finalists announced today, a panel of judges will select three winners, to be showcased during the Social Innovation Summit 2017 in Chicago, IL on June 6-8. The first place winner will be awarded $300,000, second place $200,000, and third place $100,000, paid over a period of three years, to continue developing their projects.

The Wireless Innovation Project’s 2017 Finalists:

EarlySee – A potentially revolutionary smartphone-based mobile application which can detect Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in children earlier, more efficiently, and at lower cost. Parents can administer this test within their own home, to recognize ASD as soon as possible, as some symptoms can occur as early as the first to second year. This ease of use can help identify the signs of autism earlier than current practices so appropriate service and supports can be put into place to provide the most successful outcomes for children with ASD.

SafetyAR – Roughly 135 children die daily due to pedestrian injuries- a tragic but preventable death. Safety AR leverages the power of smartphone-based augmented reality to create virtual environments to help children gain cognitive and perceptual abilities needed to develop safe pedestrian skills. Using the best of today’s technology, child pedestrians can learn how to navigate chaotic and dangerous traffic environments, potentially saving 50,000 children over the course of one year.

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Community Cellular– This project aims to bring cellular connectivity to the roughly 10 percent of the world’s population, or 800 million people, who live beyond the reach of a traditional mobile tower and are isolated from the rest of their country with no simple way to communicate. Mobile access will have positive social and economic impacts on these individuals. Through a new mobile phone technology that provides local coverage at a fraction of the cost of current mobile towers, CCN hopes to bridge the “last mile” connectivity issue.

DreamSave – An innovative mobile solution with the potential to help millions of unbanked members of informal savings groups around the world break the cycle of poverty. For the first time ever, people who have been invisible to the global economy will have direct access to a wide range of modern financial services, even if they live miles from the nearest bank. DreamSave will leverage mobile money integration, machine learning, behavioral science, and ground breaking new technology optimized for remote areas with limited internet access. By designing DreamSave as part of a broader digitally-connected community, users will also have access to a wide range of related services, unlocking their potential to create lasting social and economic change.

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ENVision – Between 30-50 percent of people in developing countries are working in the informal economy, not out of choice, but necessity. Low-literate and with little education, many are unable to distinguish between revenue and profit. ENVision is a simple open source offline mobile application that helps these workers understand their business performance without needing a computer. Utilizing a pictorial interface and real-time data visualization, informal workers can see their inventory levels, place orders, and calculate sales, which will ultimately improve their livelihoods.

Health-Aware Personal Assistant – Recent research has shown that mobile health applications tend to neglect several important user groups, such as users with low literacy, the elderly, or people with minor visual impairment. On the other hand, most personal assistant systems only search through the internet and bulk-feed the information. Health-Aware Personal Assistant personalizes the available health information based on the user’s mobile health data collected through mobile and wearable sensors. It also has a verbal component that interprets the data, allowing immediate, and easily digestible information for those groups commonly neglected by mobile health systems.

PathVis – A smartphone-based detection platform built to directly monitor and detect infectious diseases afflicting over 250 million people world-wide. This detection technology can provide data in less than 30 minutes- which can provide health organizations with real-time surveillance to decrease costs and increase efficiency in identifying outbreaks and preventing further spread of disease.

WIPER – A wireless anti-poaching collar for elephants and other animals across Africa that will automatically send the location of the animal to authorities when a gunshot is detected. WIPER can disrupt poaching and prevent irreparable damages to the environmental ecosystem through innovative ballistic shockwave detection, a tool that cannot be tricked by gun mufflers regularly used by poachers.

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