Innovating the Future

Five young innovators transform their futuristic ideas into possibly path-breaking gadgets at the Innovators Show 2016 in Abu Dhabi

By Sujata Devadas, March 29, 2016  

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“We know what we are, but know not what we may be.”

 What William Shakespeare wrote in his play ‘Hamlet’ back in the 16th century is a take-off point for Indian innovator Aaquib Parkar. He is a third year electrical and electronics engineering student at Heriot-Watt University, Dubai. 

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 'Hermes' drone - Aaquib's invention

It took him 45 days to build ‘Hermes’, a light-weight custom-built drone that meets a courier customer’s HIGHEST expectation: the shortest time to deliver a courier.

According to Aaquib, it is superbly viable and has great commercial prospects, and he credits his friends Allan Antony, Ashwin Nair and Lana Benny with helping him to test it.

Aaquib’s drone ‘Hermes’, named after the Greek God of messages, flies up and out of the reach of traffic congestions. It requires no fuel. It has a carbon fibre skeleton making it durable and tough. “We accidentally dropped it out of a six-storey parking lot. The only damage was a broken landing gear,” says Aaquib. 

Hermes was presented at the Innovator Show 2016 held this March at the East Plaza, Corniche, Abu Dhabi, and it spiked a lot of interest, much to Aaquib’s delight. Based on suggestions from visitors to the show, he is now adding a GPS module and a sonar system to make Hermes completely autonomous.

Smart system guidance for the blind
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Competitors at Innovator 2016 admired each other’s projects. Aaquib’s friend, Lana who helped him test Hermes, highlighted electronics engineer Monther Al Shehabi’s project — a smart guidance system for the blind — that was the overwhelming winner. 

Emaratis Monther and his fellow classmates Abdullah and Ahmad Ali, spent a year designing and implementing the project.

 All three are students at the Ajman University of Science and Technology. This was their graduation project. What motivates them?

“Engineering is interesting when you apply it to solve problems that make human life easier,” says Monther in his quiet manner. The Smart guidance System of the Blind detects obstacles within a distance of 5 metres from the wearer. For effectiveness, it makes a distinction between the floor  and obstacles. It can detect a depression or a rift in the flooring.


The person using the system is guided around the obstacle with the aid of 5 vibrators with audible instructions from the guidance system . The prototype is innovative in using 2D printed codes to work with the position of the guidance system and its wearer. Possible destinations are stated along with their corresponding direction in degrees as well as the distance to it. It identifies rooms, offices, stairs and elevators. Although at present, the prototype works fairly well in a building or a closed space, the algorithm developed by Monther and his team can be used in future to guide blind people outdoors as well.

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From l to r : Ahmad Ali, Monther Al Shehabi, Ahmad Karem wearing the project prototype, Moahamad Al-Shamsi, Abdullah Ali

They watch with their hearts in their mouth as the prototype is tested.

The result can be seen at

The team and their blind guidance project has won:

◉ FIRST place at the UAE Artificial Intelligence & Robotics Award for Good in 2016.

◉ SECOND place in INNOVATOR OF THE YEAR, hosted in Abu Dhabi in 2014, from among 160 competitors and innovations in and around UAE.

◉ THIRD place in the Senior Design Project competition in the 8th IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers)UAE Student Day 2013 where 28 teams contributed from 15 universities in the UAE.

◉ BEST scientific paper at the Ninth Student Scientific Conference of Ajman University held in 2013.

◉ BEST paper at the National Conference on Emerging Technologies held in 2013 at the Birla Institute of Technology, Ras Al Khaimah campus.

Text within reach of the blind

At the next stall, students from  the American University of Sharjah,  Ragini Gupta, Anza Shaikh and Heba Saleous present Read2Me, yet another innovation to help the blind. “For 39 million blind individuals worldwide and 285 million who are visually impaired, newspapers, books, sign boards, and menus, are mostly out of reach,” the girls explain.

They created two prototypes. One is a stand-alone device equipped with a remote control and a minicomputer — a Raspberry Pi 2 Model B (RPi) microcomputer — with a compatible camera module that can be mounted on a number of accessories, such as eyeglasses, or on a stand. The second prototype is an Android smartphone application.

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The Read2Me stand and Ragini demonstrating its use 

The Read2Me system looks simple. But it took these three final year computer engineering students a year to accomplish. Their guide was Dr Assim Sagahyroon. Read2Me captures the image of a text that a person wishes to read, converts it into an audio file, then reads it out loud. The innovators used an optical character recognition on the Cloud and various softwares to convert the captured text content in the image to speech.

The girls demonstrated their project at the Innovator Show 2016. Visitors congregated. Ragini smiled as visitors praised their solution. Robert Frost’s

words floated through her mind. “Two roads diverged in a wood. I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.” 

The wireless charge

“We can charge electric vehicles (EV) wirelessly. Move away from fuel energy,” says Ashwin Kumar Balaji, Trishna Raj and Firoza Patel, final year undergrads of electrical and electronic engineering from Heriot-Watt University, Dubai, presenting their invention, the WiCharge project. Capitalizing on the principle of induction, these scientific minds from India use a transmitter coil and a receiver coil, to charge EVs wirelessly. 

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WiCharge transmitter coil prototype

Visitors could see the project’s transmitter coil at the Innovator Show. For WiCharge to work, the transmitter coil is fitted into the ground of a public or private parking slot, ‘the charging station’. The receiver coil is fitted underneath the chassis of the EV. When the EV is parked over the charging station, ultrasonic sensors in the transmitter coil detect the presence of the receiver coil in the parked car. 

A message appears on the vehicle user’s mobile phone, and using an app he or she can start and stop the charging, monitor the charging level and view the time required for this purpose. A full charge of the EV could currently range from 3.5 hours to 8 hours determined by the vehicle’s specifications.

“Doing your best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment,” Trishna says. “Funding for this project could come from governments that collaborate with us to install charging stations in public areas, malls and offices.”

The Innovator Show was an amazing outlet to reach the public, says Trishna. “Many motorists were intrigued by EVs, their convenience and safety. We got the chance to spread awareness on ways of innovating and aiming for greater sustainability. People of different backgrounds and perspectives gave us their opinions. Professionals suggested improvements.

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From l to r : Firoza Patel, Ashwin Balaji and Trishna Raj

“Being an innovator is a living, breathing experience pushing for progress. We are now working on the dynamic scope of our project: charging an EV while driving it — possibly with charging pads linked to a solar panel. That is a perfect green transport solution.”  This is a team that has faith in this planet’s natural resilience.

 Futuristic ‘Smart’ Shopping
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After ‘office’ hours, there is often a drive to the supermarket for groceries, then home. If you detest queuing up to pay after shopping, Richa Kheskani empathises. Her innovation is the solution: a Smart trolley.

An electrical and electronics engineering student from BITS Pilani, Dubai, Richa worked alone on the concept of new tag detection sensors and wireless transmitters.

“In my mind this completely eliminates the need for barcodes and optical barcode scanners.” 

With her solution, each item on the supermarket shelf has a tag, detectable by a sensor. Add that item into the purchaser’s Smart trolley, and billing for that item reaches a host computer of the supermarket. All transaction-based information is wirelessly transmitted to it.

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Upon completing your shopping, the Smart trolley and the futuristic shopper is directed to a specific booth with an LED screen, similar to an ATM machine, where the bill is paid via cash or credit card. “The LED screen would clearly mention that you are using trolley-2 and you are paying at booth-3.” Richa explains. “For technologically-adept individuals, the payment could be through a smart phone application that would be linked to an online payment mechanism such as Google Wallet. The entire process can save a lot of time and energy, enhancing the shopping experience.”

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Smart trolley inventor, Richa Kheskani

Richa is just completing her degree. Arms akimbo, she says: “People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Richa acknowledges that to turn her project into a regular form of shopping “bigger equipment and more capital are required — for the associated research, development, installation, testing and commissioning”. She is happy with how her project was received at the Innovator Show 2016.

“Immense appreciation, quick implementation came my way as a real possibility for this futuristic way to shop. Many understood my concept. Many considered the prospect of funding it. This is great. It is very inspiring to promote its launch in the consumer market.”

2016, Sharing Solutions, Humanity Helps Me

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