From Restoring Carousel Horses to Winning $300,000 Innovation Prize

Professor wins $300,000 first-place prize in the Vodafone Americas Foundation Wireless Innovation Project for his research that uses a wireless bug sensor to help zap worldwide hunger

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) —  A University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering professor has won first place in the Vodafone Americas Foundation Wireless Innovation Project and will receive $300,000 to further his work on a wireless bug sensor that has the potential to lessen the damage insects cause on food crops worldwide.

Eamonn Keogh will receive his award, which is given by the Vodafone Americas Foundation, Tuesday (April 17) at the Global Philanthropy Forum in Washington D.C.

Keogh is the first place winner of the competition designed to spark innovation and help solve pressing global issues by leveraging the ever-increasing accessibility to wireless technology.

The second place team, from Stanford University, will receive $200,000 for their tool that would create an inexpensive and easy-to-use screening method for oral cancer. They will also receive the $50,000 mHealth Alliance award, which will provide strategic and networking support.  The third place winner is a non-governmental organization, which won for its simple credit building tool for entrepreneurs in developing countries.

“It’s incredibly energizing to be able recognize these innovative solutions for social good,” said June Sugiyama, Director of Vodafone Americas Foundation™.  “This is our fourth year of this competition and we continue to identify unique and impactful solutions.”

Eamonn Keogh

Eamonn Keogh, a professor of computer science and engineering at the Bourns College of Engineering

Keogh’s research aims to address a largely unrecognized barrier farmers face: insect infestation. This is a particularly big issue in developing countries due to high costs, and limited access to, pesticides.

Keogh and a team at UC Riverside, in collaboration with ISCA Technologies, a Riverside, Calif.-based company, has created a technology that senses the location, type, and number of harmful insects in the field, alerting the farmer about the type of intervention needed with a once-a-day text message.

Inspired by the lasers used in spy movies to listen in on conversations, this wireless technology drastically reduces the costs typically spent by farmers on untargeted, blanket pesticide spraying. Ultimately, this will increase profits for farmers as well as alleviate hunger worldwide.

Keogh’s research centers on data mining, which is discovering patterns and/or irregularities in large data sets, or, as Keogh puts it, “statistics on steroids.” While much of data mining today focuses on social media and finance, Keogh isn’t interested in those areas.

Instead, he has collaborated with everyone from anthropologists and cardiologists to astronomers and entomologists and worked with data as diverse as 15th-century historical manuscripts, primate skulls, graffiti and medical records.

This makes some sense when Keogh’s background is considered.

He grew up in Dublin, Ireland, where his father worked for Guinness, the beer company. At 15, he dropped out of high school and worked painting cars. Four years later, he won a visa lottery and came to the United States.

While working full-time doing everything from building and designing mountain bikes, restoring vintage cars, and restoring carousel horses, he worked his way through college before hired at UC Riverside in 2001.

Open to nonprofit organizations, universities, and NGOs (Non-governmental Organizations) each year, the Wireless Innovation Project selects three winners and helps stimulate the projects through the next stages of development, such as prototyping and scaling. Since the Vodafone Americas Foundation Wireless Innovation Project was launched in 2009, nine winners have been awarded more than $1.8 million in cash and additional benefits. Vodafone provides invaluable support for the winning projects by integrating the teams with the foundation’s vast network of social entrepreneurs, NGO’s and international agencies.

About the Vodafone Americas Foundation Wireless Innovation Project™

Vodafone Americas Foundation™ launched the Wireless Innovation Project™ in 2009 to make a global impact through innovative wireless solutions.  Applicants compete for first, second and third-place prizes worth $300,000, $200,000 and $100,000.  The mHealth Alliance Award winner will receive an additional prize package worth $50,000, which includes strategic and networking support from the mHealth Alliance, an organization dedicated to enabling the use of mobile technologies to improve health throughout the world.

A panel of esteemed judges from the fields of wireless engineering, international development, social entrepreneurship, and business evaluate the applications for their potential to address issues in the fields of education, health, access to communication, the environment, and economic development.

Further details about the competition and winning projects can be found at project.vodafone-us.com. More information about the mHealth Alliance and its work can be found at www.mhealthalliance.org.

About the Vodafone Americas Foundation™

Vodafone Americas Foundation™ is part of Vodafone’s global network of foundations. It is affiliated with Vodafone Group Plc, the world’s leading mobile telecommunications company, with ownership interests in more than 30 countries and Partner Markets in more than 40 countries. As of March 31, 2011, Vodafone had approximately 370 million proportionate customers worldwide. In the U.S., the foundation directs its philanthropic activities towards  wireless technology projects in order to make a positive and enduring impact on the community. The Foundation is driven by a passion for the world around us. It makes grants that help people in the community and around the world lead fuller lives.

About the mHealth Alliance

The mHealth Alliance champions the use of mobile technologies to improve health throughout the world. Working with diverse partners to integrate mHealth into multiple sectors, the Alliance serves as a convener for the mHealth community to overcome common challenges by sharing tools, knowledge, experience, and lessons learned. The mHealth Alliance advocates for more and better quality research and evaluation to advance the evidence base;  seeks to build capacity among health and industry decision-makers, managers, and practitioners; promotes sustainable business models; and supports systems integration by advocating for standardization and interoperability of mHealth platforms.  The mHealth Alliance also hosts HUB (Health Unbound), a global online community for resource sharing and collaborative solution generation. Hosted by the United Nations Foundation, and founded by the Rockefeller Foundation, Vodafone Foundation, and UN Foundation, the Alliance now also includes HP, the GSM Association, and Norad among its founding partners. For more information, visit http://www.mhealthalliance.org.

Media Contact


Tel: (951) 827-1287
E-mail: sean.nealon@ucr.edu
Twitter: seannealon

Additional Contacts

Eamonn Keough
E-mail: eamonn@cs.ucr.edu

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