Varsity’s hi-tech scale weighs in as a boon to baby clinics
It eliminates risks linked to human error and faulty equipment when measuring crucial milestones such as weight
One of the most exciting things to witness as a new parent is your child growing into a healthy human being.
But when unreliable devices are used to measure crucial milestones such as weight gain and head circumference, or there is a chance of a human error when performing such tests, the effects can be devastating.
These measurements give a good indication of the degree of brain and bone development, malnutrition, obesity or normal growth.
Now researchers at North West University believe they have a solution to these potential problems, having developed an automated scale that digitally records a baby’s weight, head circumference and length.
Professor Leenta Grobler, from the university’s engineering department, said sensors on the scale that gather information about the baby inside it eliminated the chances of human error or inaccuracies.
As well as collecting data, the scale stores it, allowing the user to assess a child’s progress between clinic visits.
Grobler said similar devices were in use overseas but their cost made it difficult to deploy them at government clinics. “To our knowledge the addition of the head circumference and automated data storage and analysis modules was not done by anyone else yet,” she said.
The scale had been designed to offer minimal discomfort to the baby.
“During a process where the baby is placed in the scale for a few seconds, electronic measurements are made by means of surrounding sensors. The scale’s automated technology enables the results to be made available electronically, immediately after the measurements are completed,” said Grobler.
She came up with the idea with a doctor colleague, Henri Marais, after having twins a few years ago. Work started two years ago when final-year students Gerhard Potgieter and Henrich Pretorius tackled the project.
The university nursing school has joined the team to inform the scale design and “to ensure that we follow a user-centred design approach in our final iteration”.
Grobler said the scale, which is yet to be tested at clinics, would seamlessly integrate with the digital road to health platform – a drive to digitise information about early childhood development.
“We would also like to investigate whether image recognition could result in an even more affordable solution that is more vandal-proof and cheaper to replace if damaged or stolen,” she said.