Colorimetrix, a new smartphone app, could serve as a health care game changer in developing nations. The app, which was developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge, measures color based saliva or urine tests through the phone’s camera. The user takes a picture of a test strip that has been placed in the solution, and the app uses an algorithm to transmit the results into a readable number. Results can then be sent to healthcare providers or specialists for analysis in real time.
This app has the potential to transform the current means of patient screening. It provides quick, low-cost and portable diagnostics that can be transferred to medical professionals around the globe within seconds. Patients are also able to monitor chronic conditions, such as diabetes, with this app. Also, because patients are able to transmit results information so quickly, Colorimetrix may be able to slow or limit the spread of pandemic diseases by communicating with community healthcare professionals. “This app has the potential to help in the fight against HIV, tuberculosis and malaria in the developing world, bringing the concept of mobile healthcare to reality,” said Ali Yetisen, a PhD student in the Department of Chemical Engineering & Biotechnology.
There are some major strengths to this app, the main one being how quickly it can connect patient data to physicians to interpret the results. This would cut down on hospital expenses, empower patients, and allow for less waiting time in health clinics. On the other hand, systemic healthcare problems and technological capacity within many developing nations may inhibit this app from reaching its full potential. Lack of trained healthcare providers to interpret results and low bandwidth in developing countries may pose barriers to the adoption of this app.
Tin Can, a new mobile phone application, allows mobile phones to communicate with each other without cell service or connection to the Internet. According to developer Mark Katakowski, Tin Can allows users to contact other participating mobile phones within 100 feet. While this range appears limited, the relay capability is actually much larger, given that all recipients can relay the message to phones within 100 feet, so the radius of information becomes larger with each recipient.
This application uses Wi-Fi radio capability to connect users, but ultimately does not require any Internet connection. Tin Can is currently available for smart phones only but Katakowski hopes to expand its potential in the near future.
Tin Can has the potential to revolutionize how individuals in the developing world communicate with each other. In areas where cell and Internet service is both expensive and unavailable, Tin Can can connect individuals through basic communication and even data sharing, which is largely unavailable in many areas of the world. This innovation could prove especially useful in organizing civil society events or mobilizing large groups of people, a task often reserved for Twitter when available. Protest efforts, such as those recently occurring in Egypt and Turkey, could have benefitted from this technology. This technology highlights the capability of collective data sharing in times of crisis, as outlined by Patrick Meier in his 2011 Ted Talk.
Tin Can could prove especially valuable for broadcasting in protest settings, where many individuals are in close proximity.
Tin Can faces one dominant criticism: it could potentially enable the spread of viruses or malware and, given the source anonymity of mass messages, these malicious hacks are virtually untraceable. Katakowski is currently examining solutions to this problem and recognizes that this weakness prevents Apple from sponsoring the app at the present moment.
Read the full article here.
According to a new World Bank study, 75% of the plantet’s population now has access to mobile phones. As we have explored through various reports in this class, phones are used in myriad ways. Health and financial services are becoming inextricable from mobile phone technology, and the impact is being seen through employment and government sectors. While this study encapsulates a great deal of information, I would like to focus on something we have not directly covered in class–employment and the role for government involvement. According the this study (Information and Communications for Development 2012), the mobile phone industry has become a major source of employment opportunities on both the supply and demand side (Kelly and Minges pg. 8). Interestingly, one chapter of the work is focused on something referred to as business incubators or mobile labs (mLabs) for supporting entrepreneurial activity in the mobile industry, as well as new economic opportunities related to trading goods and services that exist only online. In an interest to learn more about this concept I found this site : mLab Southern Africa. MLab Southern Africa is classified as a “mobile solutions laboratory and startup accelerator” which provides entrepreneurs and mobile developers with the tools they need to develop innovative mobile applications and services. They work to build a sustainable technology business that will meet the demands of a growing base of mobile consumers in Africa and around the world.
We are witnessing an entire new app economy develop! According to the aforementioned study, more than 30 billion “apps,” were downloaded in 2011 –“software that extends the capabilities of phones, for instance to become mobile wallets, navigational aids, or price comparison tools” (World Bank). As we have seen, new apps reshape and create new livelihoods for many individuals in the developing world–the very creators of that technology reflect a new economic sector.
If the larger goal at hand is to empower the poor, it can be seen that mobile phones are a critical platform for unleashing tools and services. But these platforms are problematized by cost, control, and barriers to innovation. Those of us who are excited about opportunities for technology and development (and all these new Apps we have investigated) must recognize the tensions presented by any combination of technologies and social, governmental, and economic structures.
In the New York Times article “Monitoring Your Health with Mobile Devices”, Dr. Eric Topol jokingly commented that “the smartphone is the future of medicine–because most of his patients already seem ‘surgically connected’ to one”, but this statement is becoming a reality. In today’s age, most people are too busy taking care of their families, working, and attending school to take a day off to visit a doctor. With the assistance of smartphones, many people will have access to apps and relatively low-priced attachments that measure health statistics such as heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, and a plethora of others. In addition to providing patients with information about their current health state, this information can be sent to doctors to further evaluate and to determine if a follow up appointment will be necessary.
Of course, these methods of health measurement will have a certain percentage of error and will not be 100% accurate, but the immediate access to these statistics can assist people who do not have the time, money, or opportunity to attend regular doctor appointments to monitor themselves more closely.
Although the majority of developing countries do not have a high rate of smartphone access, even having a few smartphones per community with a connection to a doctor will help improve overall health tremendously. If a patient believes that he or she may be in need of care, but has difficulty finding transportation to a health care professional, he or she can send information to the doctor and receive feedback or perhaps a recommendation to see another professional who is located closer to the patient’s home.
The new technology associated with mobile devices is incredible and the more availability to these technological services that can be spread worldwide, the faster the developing world can better themselves and further innovation.