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SMILE mobile smart last-mile vaccine carrier for vaccination campaigns and disaster relief

SMILE keep vaccines between 2 to 8oC without power during transport and help healthworkers immunise effectively and efficiently.

Photo of Kitty C. Liao
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Describe what you intend to do and how you'll do it in one to two sentences (required 350 Characters)

SMILE’s novel design minimises vaccine spoilage due to temperature fluctuations and human errors during transport and immunisation campaigns. It extends outreach capabilities to 5 days without power in urban and remote areas. We will conduct field trials in June this year and would like to work with countries in urgent need as identified by GAVI.

Explain the innovation (2,500 characters)

Up to 85% of the vaccines are spoiled due to freezing and overheating. Currently, 19.9 million children still lack basic vaccination. Frequently, outreach sessions can take up to 7 days but current solutions last for less than 2 days without opening them. In addition to the inadequate vaccine carriers available, we observed human errors made by trained health workers during our field visit in remote Nigeria. We simulated these behaviours using existing field vaccine carriers in lab environments and results showed that these errors cause the temperatures to rise above the acceptable limit in a short time. For example, using an insufficient number of icepacks meant the vaccine temperatures were not maintained and the vaccines heated up rapidly. Moreover, leaving the carrier lid open throughout the session and placing usable vials on the floor all put vaccine potency at risk. The manufacturer's device's cold life is in fact shortened dramatically during immunisation when the lid is opened repeatedly. We focus on solving the thermal problems and create a system that is fail-safe during transport and immunisation sessions. Our smart, low tech device also considers technology and user adaptability for under-privileged and low-resource settings. SMILE keeps vaccine at the required temperatures for 4 to 5 days with a bespoke SMILE icepack. It has a self-closing door and a smart mechanism to separate the cold vaccine chamber from the hot environment when the door is opened. SMILE is designed to be intuitive to cut down training costs. SMILE can be transported on foot, bikes, donkeys, boats and drones easily with a dedicated backpack. SMILE does not need to be removed from the backpack during operation. We are developing a integrated temperature monitoring function and tracking function to provide data for analysis. We have tested the SMILE thermal performance in laboratories and we will be comparing the data with our upcoming field test results. The smart, low tech and user-friendly SMILE will change how vaccines are stored and administered during routine immunisation and in disaster outbreak sessions in both urban and remote settings. In urban areas, SMILE can be prepared in a mobile clinic and will either be stationed at the clinic or be transported by healthworkers to a designated area for immunisation. The location and the performance of the carrier will be registered by the electronics within the device.

Which part(s) of the world does this innovation target?

  • North Africa
  • Eastern Africa
  • Middle Africa
  • Southern Africa
  • Western Africa
  • Caribbean
  • Central America
  • Central Asia
  • South-eastern Asia
  • Southern Asia

Geographic Focus

The innovation would suit areas with a hot climate, terrain where it is difficult to deliver vaccines and slum areas which may be limited in space and prone to outbreaks of diseases. This would be suitable for most countries in Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and Central and South America.

Stage of Innovation

  • Pilot

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

We have been working with field experts from industries, universities and NGOs who provide product feedback. However, we would like to work closely with GAVI, the WHO and more stakeholders to ensure we bring their valuable feedback board for greater impact. We have a few novel elements in the device and a bespoke temperature monitoring part integrated within the device, we would like to collaborate with the WHO for any additional requirements that were not covered in the passive freeze-free standard. This may result in a new version of the passive standard being drafted or a new category that our device and any future innovations could apply to. We feel that frequent catch-up meetings and open-minded discussions with our collaborators help make the best progress. We have established long-term relationship with many field researchers, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Expo Live team and the Centre for Global Equality. We would be grateful to work with those sharing the same vision.

How is your idea unique? (750 characters)

Our team has in total over 40 years of experience in designing temperature systems, mechanical engineering, manufacturing, medicine and user-centred design for low-resource settings. The performance of a well-designed device would be compromised if used incorrectly. SMILE has gone through stages of iterations. SMILE is unique and has a self-closing door which addresses one of the most common human errors observed in the field. This substantially reduces heat transfer in extreme weather. Our innovative mechanisms allow users to take out and put in the vaccine vials without compromising the coolness in the storage compartment. Our technologies can be implemented in existing vaccine carriers to extend their cold life.

What is the name of your organization


Explain your organization (250 characters)

Ideabatic aims to solve the critical vaccine cold chain issues and continue to innovate and solve important problems in under-served areas. Our goal is to become a leader in solving difficult problems in low resource settings with smart innovation.

Type of Submitter

  • We are a For-Profit Startup or Startup Social Enterprise

Organizational Characteristics

  • Female-led organization

Gender and Diversity (500 characters)

We value individual’s talents and embrace equality. We have managed to attract talented and open-minded people from diverse backgrounds. Our 6 key team members come from 6 different countries and we have a 1:1 female to male ratio.

Organization Location (less than 250 Characters)

We are registered in Cambridge, UK. Our development work is in London, Stevenage and Cambridge. We conduct lab tests at and are affiliated to Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge. We work with field experts based in Africa.

Size of organization (number of employees):

  • Less than 5 people

Website URL

Scale of organizational work

  • Global (within 2 or more global regions)

Tell us more about you

Kitty Liao is the founder who has more than 10 years' experience in low-temperature system design and development, design for low-resource settings and innovation project management. She is an 2018 Enterprise Fellow at the Royal Academy of Engineering. Kitty’s mentor FREng Richard Goodwin is a rare example of the total engineer package, from business awareness to technical detail and efficient state-of-the-art manufacturing through to development and encouragement of young engineers. Abellona U is a clinical researcher with experience in field work and global health. Emily is a young talented design engineer. Wei is a chemical and thermal engineer. Cihat has years of experience in manufacturing, innovation and IP management.

Applying to Gavi INFUSE

  • Received an Email
  • Referred by a friend / colleague


Join the conversation:

Photo of Giomar Mestanza Rossi

This sounds like a great idea. It would be good to consider not just how easy it is to use the cold temperature device, but how sturdy is the product? If it malfunctions, is it easy to fix or does it need technical expertise? I'm specifically thinking about how some rural areas have unsealed roads and bumpy rides can damage the goods. Could the users be able to repair it easily?

Photo of Kitty C. Liao

Hi Giomar, many thanks for your suggestions. Indeed these are crucial points to ensure a device can survive harsh conditions and easy to repair and maintain to maximise its usability. We have iterated the designs to ensure it survives rough conditions (often times without paved roads and infrastructure in remote settings). It is also designed to pass WHO's drop tests, waterproof tests etc as well as to provide a product life time of 10 years. SMILE also comes with a tool kit for easy repair and maintenance. Thank you for these great points!