This Canadian province is creating MVPs that are saving lives

By Dayna Sargen

Nova Scotia is helping its citizens by combining heart defibrillators with IoT

 

On June 9, 2016, twenty-three-year-old Sean Ferguson collapsed while shooting hoops at Cape Breton University in Nova Scotia, Canada. Quick thinking on the part of his friends, along with a nearby automated external defibrillator, or AED, saved his life.

As Ferguson discovered first-hand, AEDs, which use electric shocks to restart a heart after cardiac arrest, save lives. But they can only work if bystanders know exactly where they are when emergency strikes.

Now, the government of Nova Scotia, through a pioneering Province of Nova Scotia and IBM Garage collaboration, is at work to ensure that happens consistently throughout the province.

40,000 cardiac arrests

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research estimates that 40,000 cardiac arrests occur every year in Canada. Almost all of them, up to 85 percent, happen outside the home. Which means that knowing the location of the nearest AED can turn almost anyone into a first responder.

Shawn Porter, Nova Scotia’s Innovation Director, wondered how citizens could reliably locate an AED when needed. Further, was there a way emergency services could alert people of not only a cardiac emergency, but also the location of the nearest functional AED—and to do it quickly enough to make the difference when every second counted?

The answer, developed in Nova Scotia’s IBM Garage, turned out to be AEDs brought online via Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and a mobile application.

Innovation to the rescue

Nova Scotia and IBM launched the first public-sector garage in Canada in March 2018 in Halifax. The Garage helps the public sector of Nova Scotia deliver services and programs more efficiently and effectively by leveraging agile development methods and cutting-edge technologies.

It now runs up to 8 high-impact, high-return projects for departments across the provincial government at any given time. A virtual staffing model for project teams of 10 to 15 people helps keep teams agile while breaking down departmental silos.

Porter says the group has seen a return on investment of 7 to 10 times the government’s modest investments in individual projects even before completing the first year.

Life-saving connections

The garage built a working prototype of the connected AED system, including mobile app, for in a cost-effective way. Porter says the cost of the hardware needed to connect every AED in the province was worth it.

“The cost is not a prohibitive variable here,” says Porter, “because what we’re doing is taking commercially available technology and applying it in a smart way.”

Early project successes along with the prototype have given Porter and his colleagues the credibility they need to move from proof of concept to the next step. They want to connect every verifiably functional AED in Nova Scotia to the 911 system, make a smartphone app available for anyone to download, and send emergency text alerts to registered citizens who have knowledge of CPR. All at a total estimated cost of about a million Canadian dollars.

More importantly, thanks to the partnership between the IBM Garage and the Province of Nova Scotia, residents and visitors to the province soon will be that much safer. And that is without price.

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