Design to Improve Life: The 2009 Index Award Winners


Funded by the Danish government, the Index design award claims to be the biggest in the world, and "improving life" is the name of the game. In the buildup to the announcement of the 2009 winners' circle we've posted on entrants such as the Bambulance, Phillips' LED village lighting, and a disposable cup for washing your undercarriage in a train bathroom. None of these, however, were among the winners. Check out the five lucky worldchangers below; each one has a lovely video on the Index site, and plenty of further reading.Freeplay Fetal Heart Monitor
We've liked the wind-up electronics from Freeplay for a long time, and we're pleased to see the technology expanding beyond flashlights and radios. This heart rate monitor for in utero babes is designed for health clinics where electricity is iffy. Freeplay has been using its foundation to distribute appropriate tech for places like Rwanda, and 100,000 Euros will help keep them cranking them out.

Chulha Stove
We noticed the Chulha stove back before it had a name. Designed by Phillips, it is meant to reduce the smoke from cooking fires that is implicated in so much lung disease around the world. After two years of refinement, the Chulha is an easily replicable, functional design for the bottom of the pyramid.

Needing no introduction, this eBay-like site lets users make microloans of as little as $25. With a 98% repayment rate, Kiva has now set up lending proframs in its 52nd country: the US.

Pig 05049
Christien Meindertsma, a young designer from Rotterdam, challenged herself to find all the things that a certain pig became after meeting its fate in a commercial slaughterhouse. Winner in the Index "Play" category, Pig 05049 is an artistic fact-finding mission that traces the swine's carcass as it become everything from tea cups to bullets. And bacon, of course.

Better Place
"Cars are social devices," says Better Place founder Shai Agassi. Better Place has thoroughly shaken up the world of electric cars by proposing to sell mobility, not cars, and letting subscribers pay for miles of electric driving at a charging station as they would for cell phone minutes. Better Place's proposed battery swapping stations would let motorists pop in a new li-ion pack in a matter of minutes and be on their way, thus killing what Agassi calls "range anxiety."

Street Swags
Winning in the People's Choice category, Street Swags is portable bedding system for people living on the street. But Street Swags are just a cog in a beneficial social network: "Street Swags has empowered and brought together all levels of the community. Corporate and private entities donate funds. Prisoners sew, gaining work readiness skills and recognized qualifications. Aboriginal communities gain government employment, home industry skills, and a finished product for their families. School children roll and pack Street Swags with blankets, pillows, hygiene packs, and knitted winter essentials as part of their school’s Social Justice Program. Numerous aid organizations such as St. Vincent De Paul and Salvation Army, hospitals, community groups, and volunteers distribute them across Australia."

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