Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Innovating with the best creative tool on Earth: a child’s mind

June 8, 2017

One thing you forget about kids (when you haven’t been one for a while) is how ridiculously smart they are.

And I don’t mean they can write a detailed business strategy or carry out complex data analytics – I’m talking about the kind of unbridled creativity and thoughtfulness most of us have lost by the time we arrive in the working world.

This is what I saw at the all-day hackathon event we hosted at IDEALondon last Friday in partnership with Lloyds Bank, Mental Health UK, and Woolwich Polytechnic.

25 pupils aged from seven to 12 came to our centre in Shoreditch, tasked with creating an answer to a real-world problem.

The challenge in question? Come up with a digital solution to one or more of the many mental health issues plaguing people’s lives today in our communities.

Our would-be inventors were split into teams and given just a few short hours to brainstorm and develop their ideas.

A nice easy task, then!

Here are some of the ideas they came up with…

Tackling dementia

Whenever something like this kicks off the first question is always: “Who wants to go first?”

Thankfully there was no shortage of enthusiasm in the room, and before the sentence was even finished a sea of hands shot up.

The first group of pupils discussed their idea for a smartwatch that helps people suffering from dementia, which they called Circle.

Circle works by encouraging memory recall using stimulation such as a favourite song, and it also enables you to set reminders and receive messages from loved ones throughout the day.

The watch also uses biometrics to monitor mood levels and detect problems like anxiety, automatically sharing that information with loved ones so they can assist in the right way.

Coping with stress

The next group presented Smile: an app designed to support people dealing with stress by helping them focus on something else.

Users can access blogs, games, music or information that is all specifically tailored to help them relax.

What makes Smile different, however, is the inclusion of one-to-one support within the platform for those who need additional help dealing with stress.

Tackling mental health at University

Next, it was time to hear about Uni Aid: a platform designed to assist students suffering from mental health issues by helping them realise they’re not alone.

Uni Aid lets any student set up an account and input information about their mental health issues, after which they have the option of connecting with people going through the same thing.

You can chat to those people either through text or video calls, and the platform is packed full of information and advice.

What impressed me most about this group was how much thought went into the way they would promote the service. They suggested bringing celebrities on board to discuss their own mental health issues and direct people towards Uni Aid.

The pupils added Snapchat would be one route to publishing influencer marketing videos, showing they’d really thought their plan through.

Bringing people together

Similar to Uni Aid, Unity aims to connect people with others suffering from the same mental health issues as them.

What makes Unity different, however, is that all connections are anonymised. Users can therefore express themselves freely and without the fear of being judged.

But depending on your individual needs there’s also an option for a kind of virtual group therapy, where a professional runs an online group and provides support to multiple users at once.

One particularly interesting aspect of this idea was the idea of ‘trust’ ratings, where users can rate how much they trust another individual on the platform. Once a user builds up enough trust they can unlock additional uses like running their own support groups.


Of course, these ideas are just that: rough outlines that need plenty of refining before they take on a more commercially viable shape (no different from any innovation in business).

And that’s exactly what they’ll be doing between now and the end of June, when they’ll be presenting to a panel of Lloyds executives at the final event.

Thankfully they have a good head-start. Throughout the morning none other than Cisco UKI Chief Executive Scot Gardner was on hand to give guidance and advice to the students, and Cisco’s CTO Office’s Head of Solutions, Chintan Patel also came along with some words of digital wisdom for those taking part.

It was great to see senior executives offering mentorship to young people in this way. There are many contributing factors to the tech skills shortage the UK faces today, but a lack of interest among young people who’ve yet to decide upon a career (that may not even exist yet according to Chintan) is one of them.

If people like Scot and Chintan can spark something in even one of these children, that child could go on to be the next Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg and have a hugely positive impact on UK tech.

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