AI Infant Health Monitor Earns Grainger Computing Innovation Prize



By Casey Moffitt
Grainger Prize 2023 InfaSafe

InfaSafe, a team consisting of student researchers from Illinois Institute of Technology, took home the $15,000 top prize in the third annual Grainger Computing Innovation Prize by developing a non-invasive infant health monitoring system—which incorporates artificial intelligence—to combat Sudden Unexpected Infant Death

At the final of the months-long competition on November 9, 2023, five finalist teams pitched their computing-powered prototypes to a panel of judges, the Illinois Tech community, and invited guests. The aim of the Grainger Prize competition is to build interdisciplinary teams of students to exhibit their computing skills through big data, AI, and data science projects that have the potential to positively impact society. Teams were encouraged to tackle projects in “Computing with Data for Social Good” to address real-world problems in education, health, energy, public safety, transportation, economic development, sustainable smart infrastructure, climate change, and more.

InfaSafe impressed the judges by leveraging AI technologies, such as pose analysis and audio monitoring, to provide real-time insights into an infant's well-being. The system combines advanced AI algorithms for infant pose analysis with thermal imaging and audio monitoring capabilities. This multifaceted approach enables the InfaSafe device to detect critical factors, such as sleeping position, breathing rate, and ambient conditions to offer caregivers and medical professionals a comprehensive view of an infant’s safety and health.

“In the realm of neonatal care, the need for an advanced, non-invasive monitoring system is paramount,” says Lukas Klicker (EE, M.S. CPE 5th Year). “InfaSafe stands at the forefront of this innovation, offering a comprehensive suite of AI-driven features that ensure the well-being of infants through meticulous pose analysis, thermal estimation, and cry evaluation. Our system is a beacon of hope for improving infant health outcomes and expanding research capabilities. This is more than a project to us; it’s a commitment to a future ensuring a healthy start for all.”

The innovation also emphasizes privacy and security. The data processed by InfaSafe, which includes visual frames, audio, and environmental readings, is managed locally. With recordings securely stored, the system ensures that sensitive information is protected. The InfaSafe app further enhances user experience by providing live monitoring and instant notifications, making it a user-friendly solution for both individual caregivers and larger institutions, such as hospitals.

The other members of InfaSafe are Alex Maliwat (CPE, M.S. Artificial Intelligence for Computer Vision and Control 4th Year) and Joanna Findura (CPE, M.S. CPE 5th Year), who, together with Klicker, have developed this groundbreaking technology with the potential to significantly impact the field of infant health care and research.

“The finalists for the Grainger Prize all demonstrated great talent and ingenuity, exemplifying the innovative spirit that abounds at Illinois Tech,” says Brian Walker, Illinois Tech trustee and vice president and chief product officer at Grainger. “The Grainger Foundation is dedicated to fostering education in the STEM fields, as well as improving the quality of health care, community services, and environmental sustainability. Each of this year’s nominees underscores that commitment and affirms the foundation’s investment in this competition.”

The five finalists were selected from a highly competitive initial field of 35 teams, made up of 135 Illinois Tech students, who engaged in three rounds of concept development and presentation. Another winner of the night was EIBreathe, a novel approach to diagnosing exercise-induced bronchoconstriction in athletes, which was awarded second prize and won $10,000. Placing third and earning $5,000 was H2.0 Resilience, which designed a system for dynamic flood prediction using satellite imagery. Tying for fourth place were Robot S Helper’s AI-assisted real-time wildfire management and SPACES’s community-connecting app to combat social isolation. SPACES also received the first Audience Choice Award from a live vote taken after the presentations.

The Grainger Prize is open to teams of two to five Illinois Tech students who are pursuing an undergraduate or master’s degree in any area of study. At least one undergraduate student is required in each team, and doctoral students are encouraged to participate as mentors.

Serving on the judging panel were Stacey Kacek, managing partner at Kacek Ventures and a member of Illinois Tech’s Board of Trustees; Jonny LeRoy, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Grainger; Marwan Omar, associate professor of information technology and management at Illinois Tech; Maryam Saleh, executive director of the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship; and Tim Stojka, CEO of Nexus3 Capital and a member of Illinois Tech’s Board of Trustees.

“Regardless of one’s career, computing and data are essential skills in tackling the problems of today’s world, and it’s part of our mission to embed the principles of computing across all disciplines at Illinois Tech,” says Lance Fortnow, dean of the College of Computing. “This was the first Grainger Prize in the ChatGPT era, and all the finalists incorporated AI techniques in their projects. The Grainger Prize showcases what students can accomplish when they integrate the latest computing techniques into their diverse areas of study, creating innovative solutions that transcend traditional boundaries and make tangible impacts in our communities and industries.”

A generous endowed gift funded by The Grainger Foundation, an independent, private foundation established by William W. Grainger, the founder of W. W. Grainger, Inc., supports the Grainger Computing Innovation Prize annually.

“The Grainger Computing Innovation Prize offers a significant opportunity for our students to apply what they’ve learned academically to address real challenges within Chicago and beyond,” says Kenneth T. Christensen, Illinois Tech’s provost. “The support from The Grainger Foundation enables our students to pursue lifelong learning and to serve as agents of transformation in communities across the globe.”

Photo: [From left] Illinois Tech Provost Kenneth T. Christensen; College of Computing Dean Lance Fortnow; InfaSafe team members Lukas Klicker (EE, M.S. CPE 5th Year), Alex Maliwat (CPE, M.S. Artificial Intelligence for Computer Vision and Control 4th Year), and Joanna Findura (CPE, M.S. CPE 5th Year); Brian Walker, Illinois Tech trustee and vice president and chief product officer at Grainger; and Jonny LeRoy, Grainger senior vice president and chief technology officer.