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USP Device Invention For Visually Impaired Granted Patent In Australia

USP Device Invention For Visually Impaired Granted Patent In Australia
Printed Circuit Board (PCB) drilling machine. Photo: PAULINI RATULAILAI
April 30
10:00 2016

the University of the South Pacific’s (USP) invention has been the first in Fiji to be granted and officially registered under the Australia Patent Act early this month.


This innovation patent is now an exclusive right granted by a country to an inventor, allowing the inventor to exclude others from making, using or selling his or her invention in that country during the life of the patent.

In 2015, a group of USP engineers Utkal Mehta, Shivneel Kumar and Mohammed Alim from the School of Engineering and Physics in the Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment had invented a handy mobile device for the blind and visually impaired.

Dr Mehta said they had enquired with the local patent lawyers if there was a local innovation but was advised that there was none.

He said they were later suggested that the best option was to first get registered with Australia, since they have an international patent system recognised worldwide.

This electronics device, particularly the mobile cane to carry by hand, contains a smart sensor logic system.

“We were inspired to create the device after seeing visually impaired students around campus struggling to use a cane.

“After literature study and communicating Fiji Blind society, it was concluded that most of the advance devices available globally to guide blind persons are very expensive and complex to adopt. Another drawback is these devices need a systematic training to use in regular life.

“Therefore, it is highly recommended to have a smart, simple and cost-effective device that will assist blind and/or partially sighted persons to make them independent in society and regular day activity. This was the main motivation for us.”

Dr Mehta said they have so far made four devices and are not in the process of selling it.

“At this point of time, we are looking for international aids to support us so that we can manufacture ourselves within USP facility or looking for commercially to work with an industry that is related to electronics field.

“We are looking for partners to work with us where we provide the ideas and designs to make a particular product and sell it in the market.

He said there would be propriety rights with terms and conditions involved.

“They are also some NGOs that are interested in this device.

“We have the capacity but we need funding to help us make more devices and help people.

He said the estimated cost for the device is around $250 but it could cost less if it is produced in bulk.

“It is a great honour for me and for the USP to receive the international recognition.

“It shows our programme delivery is up to the standard and comparable other well-known university in the world.

“This recognition will bring encouragement to the young engineers studying, to become more innovative and solve community issues in Pacific via ICT and electronics advancement.”

Faculty of Science and Technology Engineering Dean Dr Anjeela Jokhan said:

“Our professional programmes in FSTE, Electrical and Electronics Engineering and Mechanical Engineering have recently undergone an accreditation evaluation by Institution of Professional Engineers of New Zealand.

“We continue to build the quality of our programmes to ensure that our students get the same experience and education that students from other countries have”.


Future plans:

“We are working on project to invent completely new concepts out of the way that will enhance the teaching of braille to blind and/or partially sighted children.

“Most of the advanced equipment available globally to teach braille is very expensive.

“Furthermore, because the number of special schools in both urban and rural areas is limited, not all parents are able to send their children to these schools (some of them being in remote locations) to study braille.

“Another drawback is the lack of trained personnel to teach braille script. Therefore, it is highly recommended to have a smart, simple and cost-effective ICT tool that will assist in the early Braille learning of the blind and/or partially sighted children from a young age to make them independent communicators.”


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