- Photo credit: The National
When Aryam Ahmed, 21, saw a construction worker pass out from the heat in the street, she decided she wanted to solve the problem.
The Emirati engineering student spent the next two years developing a suit which would keep outdoor workers cool – and is now set to pitch her fledgling business idea to an audience of international business leaders and investors.
She was recently chosen as one of the winners of the Pitch@Palace initiative that seeks to encourage Emirati entrepreneurship and is backed by UK royal, Prince Andrew.
She now hopes her invention will help over one million outdoor workers in the UAE and at the same time increase productivity for businesses.
Ms Ahmed, a student at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi, has already set her sights on taking her idea across the GCC.
“It started when we saw a worker faint on the street and we couldn’t do anything about it,” she said.
“As engineers, it is our responsibility to find solutions to problems to help our society.
“I do not just want to show it in the UAE, I want other countries in the world to know about it. It is not only the UAE that needs this solution, it is the whole of the GCC. We want to create something that everyone can have.
“Employers have a responsibility for the health of the workers, so will want to reduce the risks and number of cases. So I think they will be open to these solutions.”
The affordable cooling suit, made out of a special material she developed, is highly effective at maintaining body temperature for up to four hours, Ms Ahmed said.
She does not want to reveal precise details of how the material works, while its patent is pending. However, she said the suit has held up well in tests.
The suit has a smart system which monitors external heat and a worker’s body temperature, sending an alert to managers if the employee’s body temperature reaches 38 degrees.
It also includes a ‘panic button’ so a worker can summon help in an emergency.
Others have tried to invent cooling suits for outdoor workers but they have often featured complicated fans or water-based cooling systems.
Ms Ahmed, who developed the suit along with her project partner Latifa Al Seiari, believes the simplicity and safety of her design will mean it succeeds where others have failed.
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While current laws mean companies have to allow outdoor workers to take long breaks during the hottest hours of the day, Ms Ahmed said cases of heat-related illnesses remain a major problem.
Ms Ahmed will now go on to present her idea at a regional final next month in Bahrain.
The winners of that round will win a place at a global final in London in December.
The event is supported by the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, which seeks to encourage entrepreneurship among Emiratis.
It also helps young business people to be mentored by successful industry leaders and helps connect them with potential investors.
Aryam Ahmed shows off the prototype suit during the recent Pitch@Palace final.
“It has been a great experience, we have talked with many advisers and investors,” Ms Ahmed said.
“They have also allowed me to connect with many people who I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to meet.”
The other winners at the Pitch@Palace event were the creators of a Arabic language learning platform for children, an online tool to connect patients with doctors and pharmacies, and a home design app.
“It is great to be able to showcase some of the great innovation that has been going on in the UAE,” Prince Andrew, who launched the initiative in the UK before expanding it across the world, said at the event.
“This project is about collaboration, everyone working together as a team to help these businesses grow.”
This article originally appeared in The National on 19 October 2019.