Thursday, July 19, 2012

How Smartphone Screens Could be Used as Disease Diagnostic Tools

This is a guest post by Maristella de Asis.

Make no mistake, our beautiful smartphone screen not only provides us a great and sleek viewing experience: It can now function as a cool and portable disease diagnostic tool! Do you think I am kidding? Read on to find out. 
The medical industry is now booming with high-end instruments that can aid in the detection of some diseases and illnesses. But little did we know that our smartphones- yes, the computer phones we so love to carry- can also be great tools for diagnosing several diseases. Two Korean medical researchers, Hyun Gyu Park and Byuong Yeon Won of the Korea Advanced Institute for Science and Technology based in Daejeon, South Korea, are asserting the immense capabilities of our smartphone touchscreens. How is that for the smartphone lovers out there?

As a matter of fact, the news that says smartphone display surfaces have more functions than we know is not at all unusual. For one, the smartphones can actually be used for detection purposes, but it needs to have peripherals. What is astonishing about this is that the researchers propose that the touchscreens can indeed detect even some of the most extreme differences in capacitance (electric charge). They can be used to ascertain if a person has the flu or is infected with salmonella.

The researchers believe that a bio sample- which can be in the form of saliva, sputum, blood, and urine- can be placed on the screen of your phone for prognosis. Of course, the results cannot be generated through the smartphone. It has to correlate differences in the sample with something clinically relevant.

According to Paul Marks of New Scientist:

“The idea depends on a method the pair have devised to harness the way a touchscreen senses a fingertip’s ability to store electric charge – known as its capacitance. The capacitive sensitivity of touchscreens is far higher than what is needed to sense our fingers as we play games or tap out tweets. So the pair began proof-of-concept tests to see if the touchscreens in our pockets could play a role in diagnosing our ailments. First they took three solutions containing differing concentrations of DNA from the bacteria that causes chlamydia and applied droplets from each to an iPhone-sized multitouch display. They found that the output from the screen’s array of crisscrossed touch-sensing electrodes could distinguish between the capacitances caused by each concentration using droplets of only 10 microlitres.”

Whew! That’s a pretty scientific explanation! But this only reflects that our smartphones aren’t called smart for nothing. It is a testament that even little things can do great things, no matter how impossible it may seem.

The challenge for everybody is to recognize the inherent greatness of our electronic devices. They may seem trivial and frivolous to some of us, but I know there are so many good people out there who want to make something out of a tiny contraption. And this great functionality is an awesome start!
About the Author
Maristella, an average geek/blogger who wants to write, talk and know everything about technology and gadgets. She also writes for Cash for smartphones where she is dedicated in giving tips on making the most out of your old electronics. Follow her on twitter @kyoutohru7.