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The Spanish edition of MIT Technology Review has awarded 10 young, under-35 Mexicans who have been clever enough to resort to innovation to solve important social problems in a transformative way. Moreover, two of them will receive special acknowledgement: Innovator of the Year and Social Innovator.
Alejandro Cantú, 28
Has designed an earthquake alert system by satellite that can measure earthquake intensity.
The emergency protocol for earthquakes recommends immediate evacuation as every second is a matter of life and death. The difference can be marked by having an earthquake alert system like the one created by Alejandro Cantú, founder and managing director of SkyAlert. This is a system that sends earthquake alarm signals by satellite that are received by users on any of their up-and-running devices, such as tablets and smart phones.
No stranger to satellite alert systems this 29-year-old entrepreneur already attempted to use similar technology back in 2009 to alert fire fighters to fires at Mexican day-care centers. That project failed to secure sufficient funding, but led to the technological development that his current systems are using, which make it possible to know of an imminent earthquake some two minutes in advance.
Josue Gio, 28
Has designed an application that enables travelers to reserve accommodation at the last minute.
Last-minute reservation tools must be simple and user friendly, enabling registration in very few steps. LastRoom, the application designed by this young entrepreneur allows reservations to be made under such conditions. It has a geolocation system that shows those nearby hotels with rooms available. You can pay by credit card or in person at the hotel reception desk. It uses a log-in system to access the application, but also enables identification by means of Facebook credentials.
Even though there are other specialist, hotel search applications on the market, last-minute reservations normally include a selection criterion (like rates, dates, number of occupants, etc.) and produce worse results the closer the search time comes to use time.
Daniel Jacobo, 31
Has developed an alternative system to genetic modification to convert waste vegetables into bioactive compound factories.
Every year some 33,700 ton of carrots are thrown out in Mexico because they fail to meet quality criteria for human consumption. To make the most of this type of defective vegetable, which would otherwise end up as compost, the 31-year-old researcher, Daniel Jacobo at the Department of Food Biotechnology and Engineering in the Technological Institute of Monterrey (ITESM) has managed to transform a simple carrot into a manufacturer of valuable chemical compounds. Moreover, this young biotechnologist's team has managed to do so without touching even a single plant gene.
Instead of designing new crop varieties, the strategy of this ITESM and University of Texas A&M (USA) educated researcher consists of provoking carrot, lettuce and other everyday plant stress.
Juan Leonardo Martínez, 28
Has created an App to read the result of colorimeter analyses results quickly and accurately.
In his last year of doctorate studies at the University of Cambridge (UK), the young Mexican, Juan Leonardo Martínez devoted his free time to creating the first version of a smart phone application called Colorimetrix. He aimed to "put the concept of remote medicine into practice" and provide an alternative that would transform the colorimeter analysis market.
This biotechnology engineer, a graduate of the National Polytechnic Institute (Mexico) and holder of a Master's Degree from the University of Sheffield (UK) sought to create a portable tool that was capable of reliably interpreting the results of this type of test that is normally used to analyze, among other things, blood or urine samples.
Rubén Morones, 33
His combination of antibiotics and silver salts multiplies the effect against infectious diseases.
Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin in 1928, predicted that improper use could see pathogenic bacteria becoming resistant to it. Today, this threat has come true in hospitals around the world. The need to gain time against increasingly resistant bacteria led the Mexican chemical engineer, Rubén Morones to look back and resort to an anti-microbial element used since antiquity: silver.
This young man's focus does not consist in developing a new medicine from scratch, a slow and high-risk process. Morones's idea is based on "trying to avoid the normal path" and use already proven antibiotic combinations and builder substances to improve their effectiveness: silver in non-toxic amounts, in this case.
Scott Munguía, 24
Has designed technology to make bioplastics from avocado seeds.
This young engineer's mind was gripped by one idea above all: to come up with a sustainable product based on a plentiful source that has no other uses. He eventually hit upon the idea of the avocado. Since then, his work as focused on isolating the polymer and designing a viable industrial process.
Mexico is the biggest avocado producer in the world, producing some one million ton a year. An important part of this is used for processed food, such as guacamole. This means that some 4,700 ton of seed is thrown out every month in Mexico alone. A quantity which, according to Munguía, suffices to meet the bioplastic needs of the country ten times over.
Caleb Rascón, 32
Has created a robotic hearing system capable of detecting and locating several sound sources with a smaller number of microphones.
For the young Mexican researcher, Caleb Rascón, sound limitations are a challenge to the field of robotic hearing which, if overcome, would greatly improve the quality of human and machine interaction. This is a critical aspect for Rascón and his team at Mexico's National Autonomous University, the Golem Group, which is creating a service robot to act as an electronic butler.
Among other chores, his Golem II+ butler answers requests, moves around and shifts objects on demand. As it is constantly interacting with people, it is essential that it be "as human as possible" in its behavior, but also in the way it listens. Accordingly, Golem II+ is capable of identifying different sound sources and attending to them, simulating the same courtesy patterns as those of a human waiter.
Fernando Rojas, 32
Has designed a remote risk assessment and monitoring computer system for pregnant women.
Maternal and newborn deaths are caused by the lack of an appropriate monitoring system during pregnancy, given that, in Mexico, a lot of patients don't get to visit a health center until two months before the baby is due, which is then too late for prevention. This is exactly what AmaneceNET is trying to avoid, which is the name of the remote monitoring system for pregnant women designed by Fernando Rojas, general manager of Technological Innovations at the Carlos Slim Health Institute (Mexico).
AmaneceNET is based on an Android application implemented on the latest generation tablets, which makes it possible to get an initial risk assessment of the pregnancy. The indicators that go to make up this risk factor are calculated on the basis of a medical questionnaire and the measurement data taken by health professionals who attend the patient during the home visit. Even though the information returned by the system to the user cannot be considered as a diagnosis, it does greatly facilitate the decision-making process for personnel on the ground , the majority of whom do not have a medical qualification.
Guillermo Ulises Ruiz Esparza, 25
His strategy is based on nanovectors improving the carrying of therapeutic molecules for heart failure.
Heart failure is one of the main causes of disability and death in the world, as a problem in heart functioning prevents the pumping of enough oxygenated blood to the rest of the body. According to the European Society of Cardiology, the number of sufferers will increase by 25% over the next few years due to, among other factors, the ageing of the population.
Ruiz Esparza has designed a strategy to transfer the bioactive molecules of the remedy to the heart of sufferers to improve the treatment of this ailment. The method is based on nanotechnological vectors, agents that carry fragments of genetic material or other molecules inside the cells. To accomplish this delivery efficiently, the young man has taken as an example the way in which the nanovectors work in therapies against cancer, based on the permeability of the blood vessels.
Blanca Lorena Villarreal, 27
Has created a robotic nose capable of detecting and quickly following the path of a source of smell.
This 27-year-old researcher has created an artificial nose capable of identifying the direction from which gas leaks and other smell sources come. Even though current robots fitted with chemical sensors can detect the smell of gases, Villarreal reminds us that "it's not enough to detect its presence, but rather it is necessary to trace it back to its source". To achieve this, instead of resorting to wind sensors that do not function in enclosed spaces or where there are currents of air, this young woman decidedto imitate as far as possible how the human nose works.
The device consists of a set of chemical sensors housed in chambers that imitate nostrils, separated by a thin wall. The data captured on the cameras by the sensors are sent by radio frequency to a computer that analyzes them in real time and obtains an estimated direction of the position of the smell source. From there orders can be issued for the robot to move in one or another direction depending on the smell and its path.