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Prescription for better health

Smart dispenser gives powerful drugs in proper doses

When medications are essential — but also potentially dangerous, as in the case of narcotics — having a medical professional hand a patient each dose is ideal. But not practical. That's where a smart pill dispenser can be a lifesaver.

About the size of a thick smartphone with a computer screen, mini computer and battery all built-in, the device designed by SAIT's Applied Research and Innovation Services (ARIS) team can dispense one pill at the right time as prescribed by a doctor.

Solving a heartbreaking problem

The client, Afshin Hamed, came to SAIT with this challenge: create a product that ensures someone who needs medication can't take more than prescribed. Make it tamper-evident and send data electronically to a care provider or loved one.

Hamed learned first-hand the dangers posed by opiates when his business partner's son overdosed as a teenager. The two entrepreneurs set out to save lives the best way they knew how - through invention and innovation.

SAIT Mechanical Engineering Technology graduate, Scott Baker, works on the Design, Fabrication and Testing team in ARIS. He was the principal researcher on the smart pill dispenser.

"Of course, you could take a hammer to the device and get at the pills if really motivated," says Baker. "But when you try to get it refilled, the doctor or pharmacist will know it has been broken into and can take steps to protect the patient from abuse of the medication."

Life-saving solution

Once in the SAIT lab, the project took about four months from brainstorm and sketching through to 3D printing the final prototype and building in the touchscreen and electronic locks. The hardest part of the project was also the one that matters most - reliably dispensing just one pill at just the right time, every time.

Baker says this was a great project to be part of and hopes to see it in use one day.

"Solving the dispensing issue was a breakthrough moment," says Baker. "We make some pretty cool stuff in ARIS and this one has the added potential to help people manage their health."

Hamed is determined to see the smart dispenser in the hands of people who need it. Despite obstacles with legislation, privacy and insurance, he knows it has a future.

"We've heard throughout this process that patients who take narcotics want someone to watch over them. Our device can do that."

Bring your ideas to ARIS for a partnership with our expert researchers to develop your technology. Get started by submitting your project inquiry.

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