The Marconi Society’s Celestini Programme, dedicated to celebrating, inspiring and connecting innovators building tomorrow’s digitally inclusive world, has awarded top prizes to Indian students for creating solutions that address challenges of women’s safety and air pollution.

A team from Bharti Vidyapeeth College of Engineering, Delhi, including Piyush Agrawal, Subham Banga, Aniket Sharma and Ujjwal Upadhyay, has developed an Android application available on Google Playstore called ‘Rakshak’ which detects speech patterns via the audio microphone of the user’s smartphone.

When the application detects audio snippets with speech commands requesting help or saying “stop” in a distressed tone, it generates SoS alerts and the location of the user, and sends them to emergency contacts specified by the user. ‘Rakshak’ took the top prize of $1,500.

This solution is significant given that a Thomson Reuters Foundation report of 2018, pegged India as the most dangerous country for women, who face high risk of sexual violence or being forced into slave labour, according to a poll of global experts.

The team winning the second prize of $500, also from Bharti Vidyapeeth College of Engineering, addressed air quality given that, according to the World Health Organization’s Global Ambient Air Quality Database, India has 14 of the 15 most polluted cities in the world.

Team members Harshita Diddee, Shivam Grover, Shivani Jindal and Divyanshu Sharma created a privacy-aware smartphone application called VisionAir, which uses photos of the horizon taken from a smartphone to estimate the air quality. This builds on the work done by last year’s Celestini Prize winners which showed that a machine learning model can be built to estimate air quality from an image by extracting image features such as transmission index or haziness and combining them with meteorological data and historical air quality data.

“This is the third successful year of the Celestini Programme in India,” said Vint Cerf, Chair of the Marconi Society. “We see a clear trend of Celestini Program participants choosing research careers and technology-oriented graduate programmes, which helps us fulfil our mission of inspiring the bright minds that will bring the benefits of connectivity to the next billion.”

The Celestini Programme India partners with IIT-Delhi and is anchored by Aakanksha Chowdhery, a researcher in Google Brain, and a 2012 Marconi Young Scholar. The programme is run by the Society’s Young Scholars. The Marconi Society and its Young Scholars select universities with promising telecommunications and engineering undergraduates and provide them with support and mentorship to help tap their potential.