Vedika Lall is a 26-year-old MA/MSc Global Innovation Design graduate from Royal College of Art. Her final project is called Bia.
Design Week: Can you briefly explain your project and your motivation for doing it?
Vedika Lall: The experience of uterine contractions for pregnant women is highly subjective. Up to 40% of women are not able to recognise and track contraction activity appropriately. The difficulty in accurately communicating the duration and frequency of this critical biomarker leads to uncertainty, avoidable or delayed trips to maternity facilities, and unnecessary admissions for assessment. These activities incur significant time and travel costs for women and healthcare costs for maternity facilities. Leading research centres for maternal health in the UK also lack the tools to observe uterine contractions remotely, making this biomarker an understudied and under-researched area in maternal health.
Bia is a patent-pending product ecosystem (wearable + app) for at-home monitoring of uterine contractions. Designed for women during at-term pregnancies, it is a non-invasive and discreet monitoring device that integrates seamlessly into a mother’s rest routine. Bia uses novel sensing technology to pick up maternal bio signals, making it a sustainable and comfortable solution for the long-term monitoring of uterine contractions preceding labour.
By enabling automated at-home monitoring of uterine contractions, Bia could demystify the contraction patterns that lead up to labour by building an anonymised dataset (and apply machine learning approaches in the future). This would, for the first time, allow women and healthcare professionals to provide personalised information and make informed decisions about interventions such as induction of labour, which 160,000 women a year in the UK utilise to shorten pregnancy.
Women frequently face healthcare access disparities, including affordability, availability, and cultural barriers. I hope to address such issues with Bia to ensure that women have equitable access to healthcare services and to advance the public health discourse.
DW: What was most challenging in the design process?
VL: There were many challenges while working on Bia, but one of the most important ones was learning how to work sensitively with mothers and being mindful of their intimate experiences. A large part of the project focused on developing a novel sensing technology for which I collaborated with different research groups and pregnancy experts. This helped me not only develop technological proof-of-concept but also brought rigour to my creative experimentation. Because many current intrapartum technologies ask too much of women, it was critical that Bia was designed to seamlessly integrate into a mother’s routine without causing any discomfort.
DW: Where do you see your design career in the future?
VL: I strive to design to empower. As a result, I have mindfully built my practice around creating meaningful interactions and product ecosystems by articulating unmet needs, creating tangible prototypes, and technological experimentation. In keeping with my core co-design philosophy and practice, I intend to continue working on Bia by prioritising the development of technology designed with and for women and other key stakeholders. I envision building a motivated, multidisciplinary team to deliver impactful innovations that empower women and make the healthcare system more robust.
Check out other graduate projects from this year’s cohorts here.