In the heart of the Ranga Reddy district in Telangana, southern India, a 17-year-old prodigy is making waves with a game-changing invention that has the potential to revolutionise dementia care.
Meet Hemesh Chadalavada, an entrepreneur and speaker who has embarked on a mission to transform dementia care after witnessing his grandmother suffer with Alzheimer’s disease.
When Hemesh was 12, his grandmother Jayasree, then 63, accidentally left the gas on in the kitchen after making herself a cup of tea at her home in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh.
The incident concerned Hemesh who found himself wondering what would have happened if he hadn’t been there to intervene.
“She had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but I was still in shock. What would have happened if I hadn’t been there?”
Hemesh knew that he had to do something to make sure his grandmother was safe at all times, so he turned to the internet. After watching robotics tutorials on YouTube and channelling his passion for coding, Hemesh set about creating a smart device.
He spent time in a day centre run by the Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India to learn more about the needs of people with dementia.
20 prototypes later, and the Alpha Monitor was born. Using sophisticated machine learning technology, the gadget, which can be worn on the wrist or like a badge, sends an automatic alert to caregivers when any abnormal activity is detected, such as if the user falls down, wanders off, or has an accident.
The Alpha Monitor is synced to an app which displays the user’s health data and the information is also sent to the user’s doctor who receives daily reports on their patient’s health status, including their pulse and temperature readings.
The wearable is equipped with a camera so that the user’s movements can be tracked and a notification system is in place to remind users to take their medication.
In India, an estimated 8.8 million people suffer from dementia. It’s believed that 6 out of 10 people living with dementia will wander at least once, and many do so repeatedly.
Wandering can be dangerous and in some instances life-threatening. It can also be stressful for caregivers and family members when a loved one wanders off.
Reflecting on how Alzheimer’s has affected his grandmother, Hemesh said, “She used to get up at 3 or 4 in the morning and go outside, thinking she was on a train.
“She had no control over her mind and body. Sometimes she would leave her bed in the middle of the night and we couldn’t find her.”
Before becoming ill, Jayasree had a successful career as a civil servant, rubbing shoulders with top politicians and policymakers in Telangana.
Sadly, Jayasree passed away last year, but her death has only reinforced Hemesh’s determination to continue his mission of improving dementia care far and wide.
While other devices rely on Wi-Fi and are therefore unable to detect movement outside a limited range, the Alpha Monitor uses long-range technology that can detect a person’s movement more than a mile away in cities and three miles away in the countryside.
This gives caregivers peace of mind that their loved ones are safe and their whereabouts are being monitored.
Hemesh has won numerous awards and accolades for the Alpha Monitor, including praise from Indian President Modi who wrote on X that he “truly admire(d)” the young man for his innovative spirit and dedication to improving the lives of those affected by dementia.
At the age of 13, Hemesh received the Bal Puraskar, India’s highest civilian honour for children.
In 2022, he was selected from 18,000 entries as the winner of Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow competition, which celebrates young adults who have created technological solutions for social good.
Hemesh was given a $40,000 grant from Samsung and was assigned some of the company’s top engineers as mentors.
In 2023, Hemesh was named as one of the youngsters part of The Times of India’s #Unstoppable21 initiative, which celebrates the achievements of outstanding young people who have excelled in their field.
The Alpha Monitor isn’t Hemesh’s first invention either. At the age of 12, he built a heat detector to monitor his friends’ temperatures while they played cricket.
“We all loved playing cricket, even in the summer heat, but many of my friends would get sick,” Hemesh said. “I wanted something that allowed us to maximise our fun by playing for the longest possible time by knowing when we should stop because our bodies were overheating.”
Dhruv Saidava, one of Hemesh’s mentors and co-founder of Tinkering India, said, “I first met [Hemesh] in 2019 during Ideate for India […] Hemesh stood out. What set him apart was his exceptional aptitude for thorough research and implementation.
“When I provided guidance on prototype development, testing, and monitoring, Hemesh displayed tremendous dedication. He delved deep into the subject and executed the recommendations with great precision. His achievements and recognition are a testament to his own hard work and brilliance.”
In March, when Hemesh’s school exams are over, he plans to do research at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi and refine his prototype so that it’s ready for market by September.
He has made it clear that he wants the device to be sold at an affordable price so that it’s accessible to people in less developed countries.
Hemeshi is currently in class 12 and aims to study an electronics engineering and robotics degree from either an IIT or an overseas university, hoping to transform his passion into his career.
Click here to find out more about Hemesh’s story.