Many areas of Africa lack affordable, reliable motorized transport. In these areas, pedestrians often carry commercial and domestic goods, such as water, firewood, and crops, on their heads. This practice, known as head-loading, is an exhausting task predominantly performed by women and children.
Of the estimated 750 million women and children in Sub-Saharan Africa, the majority will carry heavy loads (more than 40 kg/88 lb for adult females) on their heads. Thus, head-loading represents a huge potential public health issue in Africa. Despite this, the long-term impacts on maternal health, quality of life, labor productivity, and life expectancy have largely gone unrecognized and unstudied. Until now!
NI Alliance Partner Key Engineering Solutions Ltd partnered with engineers and product design students from the University of Leeds to develop a wearable measurement device for a head-loading study. The resulting device, the intelligent load orientation assessment device (iLOAD), uses accelerometers, gyroscopes and GPS positioning to provide measurement feedback. The team used LabVIEW to develop an intuitive user interface, establish wireless connectivity to the iLOAD using Bluetooth, and stream measurement data from iLOAD.
Results from the study will be published in international journals. Using this data, researchers can help make this essential means of goods transportation a safer practice for the millions of African women and children who do it every day.