Ward of the 21 Century

Ward of the 21 Century


Ward of the 21st Century (W21C) is a healthcare systems research and innovation initiative based in the University of Calgary’s O’Brien Institute for Public Health, and the Calgary Zone of Alberta Health Services. The W21C Hand Hygiene project focused on designing an interactive system that provides positive feedback for using hand sanitizers, along with an auditing mechanism through an electro-mechanical system integrated inside an Internet of Things (IoT) framework. The IoT framework originally used was the Mosquitto MQTT platform but the research team decided to switch to Ubidot for added security and improved features for data analysis and management.

During the summer of 2021, students Richard Lushai and Courtney Macdonald aimed to create a scalable design which can be produced in high quantities, assembled easily, and deployed at the Alberta Children’s Hospital for field testing. This Campus as a Learning Lab project was funded by the Government of Canada’s Employment and Social Development , Sustainable Development Grant.


This project reviewed the designs from the previous Hand Hygiene project and set about redesigning a more scalable version. The team explored different design concepts for the product especially exploring a new method for triggering the system using an infrared proximity sensor, incorporating a magnetic reed switch as the trigger mechanism, and increasing security by using a new programming platform. The prototype was made using FusionCAD software and fabricated using hand tools. The team aimed to create a design that can be open sourced, including the mechanic designs and the codes involved. The redesigned final version incorporated a laser/waterjet cut aluminium sheet metal chassis involving only 4 parts held together by off the shelf components. The finalized design was not fabricated.

Next Steps:

The project presented a summary of the different design concepts and some issues that arose with the prototypes. Next steps would include field testing the proposed design at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. The team also provided further recommendations for the project such as, utilizing a graphic display unit on each device to encourage the use of hand sanitizers among children. The team recommends producing the designed parts and assembling them to provide a future framework for value engineering to be performed. Implementation of robust MQTT network that incorporates security features is also recommended.


This research was funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Sustainable Development Goals.