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Indian students win the Big Data award at Imagine Cup 2018 with their drug authentication app

Talk about perseverance. It took Chidroop I, Pratik Mohapatra, and Srihari HS, from R. V. College of Engineering, Bengaluru two years to make their dreams come true. The trio won the $15,000 Big Data award at the 2018 Imagine Cup world championship in Redmond with their innovative app, DrugSafe. This was the team’s second attempt at the Imagine Cup. In 2017, the team had worked together on an anonymous emergency response system but couldn’t qualify for the finals back then. This year, they were one of the three student teams representing India at the Imagine Cup 2018 global finals.

DrugSafe aims to address the growing global issue of counterfeit drugs by helping people verify the authenticity of medicines. The team encountered the issue of fake medicines when one of their friends showed no signs of recovery after weeks of taking a prescribed medication. Learning that nearly half of all medicines sold in India were fake, they decided to create an app that could authenticate medicines and trace them back to their source.

The app uses Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to identify minute details in the design and packaging of medicines and compare them to the original manufacturer’s patented and trademarked attributes. After three levels of checks, discrepancies are flagged to help users identify medicines as counterfeit. Machine learning and AI-aided statistical analysis also help identify a potential epidemic outbreak in a region. The team designed a simple User Interface (UI) for the app so that it could be used by anyone regardless of age or technical skill and have the widest possible impact.

With the air still thick with excitement as the competition drew to a close, we caught up with the team amid their celebrations. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation with team DrugSafe.

What was it like to participate and win a special award at Imagine Cup 2018?

Participating in the world finals of Imagine Cup has been an amazing experience. The entire process of pitching our idea to experts and data scientists in three different rounds has given us a lot of learn and helped build our confidence. The competition from talented teams and innovative ideas from across the globe at Imagine Cup propelled us to excel in our efforts. We knew the whole world was watching and we had to put our best foot forward to present our idea.

After competing with 10,000 participants at the India leg of the competition and 48 other teams at the global finals, what has been your key learning?

One of the most important lessons is that if you have an idea, you must stay committed to overcome the initial obstacles and pursue it towards a logical conclusion. You must prove why you’re good enough to lead a project that could impact millions of lives or why your idea truly deserves attention. That’s a lesson we doubt any of us will ever forget.

How do you plan to use your $15,000 award?

Winning a special award was a big surprise. However, we were clear that if we won any prize money we would deploy it into making our app better. We plan to utilize the prize money to take DrugSafe to the next level. Perhaps the money could help us seek out partnerships with other companies. We could even use it to integrate more Azure services into our app and make the platform a lot more powerful.

After winning this prestigious prize and making India proud, what’s next for the team?

With our university sessions resuming after the summer break in barely a week, we plan to ideate and figure out how to make our project relevant to the masses. After identifying the major challenges, we need to think how we can push our product forward. Eliminating counterfeit drugs across the world with DrugSafe is our primary goal.

Team smartARM of Canada emerged as the world champion of Imagine Cup 2018 with their robotic prosthetic hand that calculates appropriate grip for objects utlilizing Microsoft Azure Machine Learning and Computer Vision. You can find out more details of Imagine Cup 2018 winners here.