Making ESG Real
Environment, social, governance (ESG) programs are blooming everywhere these days, but few organizations can point to a harvest of their tangible accomplishments. That’s why at EPAM, we not only prioritize our ESG thinking we also make it real–thanks to our Made Real Lab. As Richard Ciccarelli, Senior Director, Made Real Lab, EPAM Continuum, says: Made Real Lab is a “convergence of technical research and experience-led, human-centered design.”
Made Real Lab teams have created a myriad of innovative and effective solutions to help benefit our local and global communities and make the world a better place. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we developed social solutions to help keep communities safe, healthy and thriving. At EPAM, we feel that if we can empower our workforce to creatively meet the challenges our world faces, Made Real Lab can be a space for these visionary minds to turn innovative ideas into thoughtful action.
Here are a few EPAM Made Real Lab Innovations that helped make an impact:
Keeping Healthcare Workers Safe with the GENTL Mask
When the World Health Organization (WHO) officially classified COVID-19 as a pandemic in March of 2020, fear quickly settled in while new terms infiltrated our everyday vernacular. One of the most common entrants into our lexicon: PPE, or personal protective equipment. Due to the nature of the pandemic, demand spiked globally for masks—specifically ones that included filters—and supply plummeted, as the world’s leading manufacturer, China, was in lockdown. Healthcare workers were left fighting a frightening new disease with improper equipment to keep them safe. This spurred our Made Real Lab team into action, prompting them to create the GENTL Mask—an open source design made with readily available materials. The design allowed manufacturers to easily produce a two-layer version used for general protection or a flat-cut, three-layer version that utilizes industrial-grade filter materials capable of capturing particles above 1.0 µm for added protection.
“We set out to address the needs of our healthcare workers with a modular design and then quickly got to work creating prototypes of the GENTL Mask in our Made Real Lab space that enables our clients and consumers to see, touch and experience new-to-the-world concepts for the first time,” said Chris Michaud, VP, EPAM Continuum.
The design was made open source so that it could be accessible to as many people as possible in an effort to protect our healthcare professionals and reduce the strain of the virus everywhere.
Read how our Hungary office took the GENTL mask one step further by working with a local foundation that employs people with disabilities to produce and distribute the masks and how our Belarus office partnered with clothing manufacturer Mark Formelle to build and deliver 100,000 masks for hospital workers.
Coming Together with Guide Lines
While healthcare providers have felt the brunt of the impacts of COVID-19, other businesses have also needed to quickly adapt and respond to the new conditions in order to survive and keep their employees safe and active—the retail and restaurant industries, in particular. And their customers wanted to support them in the best, and safest, ways they could. But many businesses were never physically designed to facilitate social distancing guidelines. Enter Guide Lines: Floor Markings for Social Distancing. Created by Buck Sleeper, Director, Innovation Consulting, EPAM Continuum, Megan Welker, Senior Innovation Consultant, EPAM Continuum and Alexis Victor, Innovation Consultant, EPAM Continuum, the digital toolkit gives business owners and operators simple tips for creating visual cues to direct foot traffic with readily available tools and materials. Using just paper, scissors, a pen and tape, businesses can ensure that everyone who enters their physical space adheres to social distancing protocols, staying as safe and healthy as possible in the process.
Taking inspiration from their colleagues who created the GENTL mask, the Guide Lines team wanted to create something that was easy to build and even easier to distribute to businesses in need—quickly.
“We realized that this new way of operating was going to be a marathon—not a sprint,” said Buck of how the idea for Guide Lines originated. “Our biggest goal was—and still is—to be a radically good partner during these troubling times. The best way for us to do that was to create something that people could implement easily and quickly but still had longevity.”
Taking a Pause with Paws to Wash
In 2020, Made Real Lab wasn’t always about brass tacks though; it also brought smiles to our COVID-strained faces. To instill good hygiene habits—and entertain little ones at home—David Rose, Futurist, Innovation Consulting, EPAM Continuum, created Paws to Wash with his son in April 2020. The DIY project guides parents and kids through the process of building a cute feedback timer with a waving cat to encourage healthy handwashing habits.
“Paws to Wash is all about blending fun, learning about digital technologies and building a physical product that kids can then use,” Rose said of the initiative. “It’s not only a project that gets kids excited about simple steps to stay healthy—it’s something that entire families can get involved in. In an era when so much of our activities have gone virtual, Paws to Wash is a way to think about applying digital skills in a new way, an interest or skill kids might not get the opportunity to be foster in virtual learning.”
In addition to adding the instructions to SolutionsHub, Rose shared the project with the team at Instructables, a website that allows students to explore, document and share their creations. View the complete guide to making Paws to Wash on Instructables.
Hacking for Good with C-True Mirror
Aside from COVID-related projects, Made Real Lab continues to engage deeply with emerging technologies and products that can improve the human experience and disrupt entire industries—including cutting-edge healthcare projects. Recognizing that, members of Made Real Lab were all too happy to participate in the Estée Lauder Companies (ELC) Virtual “Hack for Pink” Hackathon in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October 2020. The hackathon called for solutions that drive breast cancer awareness, raise funds for breast cancer research, or help create a breast cancer-free world.
Garnering much recognition at this year’s hackathon—including the Amazon Web Services (AWS) “Get Started” Program award, Final Team Award and the Grand Prize—EPAM’s C-True Mirror is a proof-of-concept for a smart home device that acts as a health aide for users with a secure smart camera that detects physical changes in patients.
“Since many other members of the team are part of EPAM’s Made Real Lab, we approached the hackathon like any other client engagement,” said Aliaksandr Babko, Senior Project Manager, Made Real Lab, EPAM, and the leader of the C-True Mirror team. “We thought about how we could make our ideas real by putting the human at the center of our design. Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis, or even being worried that you notice a physical change in your body is a pretty intimate moment. With a device like the C-True Mirror, users can privately determine whether they need to seek medical attention.”
Although teams only had to submit a proof of concept for the ELC hackathon, one key piece of the submission requirements was to describe the technology on which their concept could be built. For the C-True Mirror team, their concept relied on a smart camera using lidar and an infrared module to detect physical changes in the patient. With custom computer vision and machine learning algorithms trained on millions of registered breast cancer cases, the C-True Mirror can also train users on self-screening exercises.
Aram Manukyan, Senior Mechanical Engineer, was quick to point out that the C-True Mirror’s applications can go beyond even breast cancer detection. “The IR and lidar capabilities of the smart camera means it could also detect skin cancer or irregularities in the skin, fevers or any other medical issues that have physical symptoms, making it easily adaptable no matter what a company’s needs are.”
All EPAMers, including those creators working at Made Real Lab, are empowered to turn their idea or a client challenge into a real solution. EPAM Continuum’s history of bringing human-centered design to business and consumer problems alike further bolsters Made Real Lab’s model of working to help our organization drive our ESG program’s goals to help use our creative talents and innovation to drive lasting, transformational change as citizens of our world.