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Ford expands Smart Mobility pilot program to deliver improved access to healthcare in The Gambia; motorcycles with sensors

Pregnant women, children and those with medical conditions in The Gambia—one of Africa’s smallest, poorest countries—may have better access to healthcare through an expansion of a Ford Smart Mobility pilot program. Ford has equipped 50 motorcycles serving Riders for Health with sensor technology so the medical services group can collect a variety of data, including mapping coordinates, to improve the delivery of medical services and supplies—particularly in remote areas of the West African country.

The project uses Ford’s OpenXC (earlier post) sensor kits fitted to the motorcycles to gather information. OpenXC technology records every trip, and is accessed via an application on a mobile phone provided by Ford.

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Sensor kit that has been extended to motorcycles for the Data Driven Healthcare experiment. The sensor kit collects and analyzes data such as GPS data and mapping coordinates to reach people who need medical care in rural West Africa. Click to enlarge.

When a rider logs on to the internet, the data is uploaded—building a database of Riders for Health team routes, vehicle operating parameters, and environmental conditions like altitude and ambient pressure.

Ford is sharing the data with Riders for Health to overlay the real-world context, such as what was accomplished at stops along a route. Next steps include mashing up the data with other sources such as driver and rider logs, local maps, and terrain and weather information.

Ford is gathering and analyzing vehicle data collected by OpenXC as part of its Ford Smart Mobility plan to be a leader in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience, and data and analytics. Learnings could be expanded to other transportation modes—for example, helping ambulance and emergency services providers improve efficiency across the world.

For us, mobility means more than just moving people. In some parts of The Gambia, mobility facilitates delivery of life-saving healthcare services to those in need. As Ford sees mobility in different ways, we’re committed to using technology to bring about real, measurable change.

—Arthur Zysk, Ford research analyst leading the company’s data-driven healthcare program

For healthcare practitioners in The Gambia, motorcycles are essential. They allow quicker, more affordable transportation to remote areas across hazardous terrain, especially during the intense rainy season. Before motorcycles, healthcare workers used bicycles or had to walk, limiting their access to people who were ill.

Where no transportation is available, a lot of people will be dying. People will be losing their lives just because we didn’t have the means of transportation.

—Ebrima Kuruma, the sole healthcare worker in the small town of Basse

At an outreach program in Basse, Ford monitors how Riders for Health motorcycles are used. Kuruma, the only healthcare worker there, provides medication and treatment to pregnant women and children across three communities.

In an even more remote village on the north bank of The Gambia River, a lone nurse travels to neighboring communities on her motorcycle testing for tuberculosis, leprosy and other diseases.

With its OpenXC technology already installed on previously donated Ford Ranger pickup trucks, Ford is helping Riders for Health improve its maintenance systems and vehicle fleet logistics.

The team has used GPS and fuel level information to track routes, to identify gas stations and refueling habits. Ongoing efforts will use analytics to look into route optimization and vehicle performance attributes, and to gather feedback on driver and rider behavior.

Maximizing the time that both the trucks and motorcycles are on the road—traveling efficiently—is critical. For mobility health workers like Kuruma, who have no backup, a breakdown in the support network would immediately leave three communities with no effective healthcare.

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