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Mobile Technology Spotlight: Mobile Phone Microscopes for the Developing World

Aydogan Ozcan_IMAGEThis is a guest blog contributed by Dr. Aydogan Ozcan, Chancellor’s Professor at UCLA. **

In many developing regions today, cellphones and other mobile devices have begun to play a significant role in healthcare distribution. Local networks operated by service providers allow medical staff to utilize mobile technology to treat, educate, and set follow-up appointment dates with patients. Not only can patients access information about their health, but they can meet with physicians via video over the mobile network. For regions where people may be hundreds or even thousands of miles from a local doctor or hospital, these mobile devices can become lifesaving tools.

While cell phones and other mobile devices such as PCs and tablets can serve as a source of medical information or as a virtual meeting place between a doctor and patient, the technology itself can play a more important role of improving health care in developing regions as an actual medical device. Take for example, the work of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Chancellor’s Professor, Dr. Aydogan Ozcan. Ozcan is creating portable and lightweight microscopes that affix to the mobile phones, thus transforming them into a platform for conducting microanalysis of blood, bodily fluids and water samples. With Dr. Ozcan’s vision and technology research, cellphones can become a mobile medical lab that can diagnose life-threatening diseases.

Mobile Technology Saves Lives

According to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index, by the end of 2014, the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on earth, and by 2018 there will be nearly 1.4 mobile devices per capita. The massive volume of mobile phone users drives the rapid improvements of the hardware, software and high-end imaging and sensing technologies embedded in our phones, transforming the mobile phone into a cost-effective and yet extremely powerful platform to run biomedical tests and perform scientific measurements that would normally require advanced laboratory instruments. In addition to their massive volume, cost-effectiveness, coverage and data connectivity, rapid improvements in cellphone related technologies and components over the last decade provide important insights into some of the unique capabilities that our cellphones currently have. One of the most interesting components rapidly advancing on cell phones is the optoelectronic image sensor.

The mega-pixel count of cellphone cameras has been doubling almost every two years over the last decade. These advanced optical imagers on our cellphones provide various opportunities to utilize the cellphone as a general purpose microscope that can even detect single viruses on a chip. Microscopy is one of the most widely used tools in sciences, engineering and medicine, and the creation of high-end optical microscopy and imaging platforms that are integrated into cellphones is rather important for not only telemedicine (e.g., telepathology, remote diagnostics), mobile health, and environmental monitoring applications, but also for the democratization of measurement science and higher education.

Besides microscopy, these advanced imaging and optoelectronic or electronic sensing/sampling technologies embedded in cellphones can also be utilized for various telemedicine, and mobile health-related applications including, blood analysis and cytometry, detection of bacteria or viruses and diagnosis of infectious diseases.

Big Data for Service Providers

Mobile phone based field-portable measurement tools are also digitally connected to each other, forming a rapidly expanding network. Based on the advances in the broad use of cellphones for micro-analysis, imaging, and sensing, within the next decades, we can expect several orders of magnitude increase in the number of personal microscope and diagnostic tool users globally. All of these cost-effective and ubiquitous cellphone enabled devices designed for field portable imaging, sensing and testing would generate high quality, sensitive and specific data from wherever they are being used, forming a global network. In addition to mobile phones, other emerging consumer electronics devices – especially wearable computers such as Google Glass, Samsung Smartwatch and others – might also play important roles in the future practices and designs of next-generation mobile health, telemedicine and POC tools.

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Mobile phones will change the way that imaging, sensing and diagnostic measurements/tests are conducted, fundamentally impacting the existing practices in medicine, engineering and sciences, while also creating new ones. This transformation will also democratize high-end measurement and testing tools worldwide, which might significantly improve research and education institutions, especially in developing regions.

As the world becomes increasingly mobile, service providers have a unique opportunity to use their core technology and business assets to create new solutions and services to enhance their users’ experience and utility, reshape businesses and business models, and create new sources of value beyond their core access business.

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**Dr. Aydogan Ozcan is the Chancellor’s Professor at UCLA leading the Bio- and Nano-Photonics Laboratory at the Electrical Engineering and Bioengineering Departments.

Dr. Ozcan holds 22 issued patents (all of which are licensed) and >15 pending patent applications and is also the author of one book and the co-author of more than 350 peer reviewed research articles in major scientific journals and conferences. Dr. Ozcan is a Fellow of SPIE and OSA, and has received major awards including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), SPIE Biophotonics Technology Innovator Award, SPIE Early Career Achievement Award, ARO Young Investigator Award, NSF CAREER Award, NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, ONR Young Investigator Award, IEEE Photonics Society Young Investigator Award and MIT’s TR35 Award for his seminal contributions to near-field and on-chip imaging, and telemedicine based diagnostics.

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Service Providers Can Utilize Network Virtualization to Advance Human and Economic Development

With a rapidly increasing number of people, devices, machines and sensors coming online across the Internet of Everything (IoE), global service providers will require new capabilities to lead in the delivery of value-added, cloud-based services and applications. Service providers are recognizing the importance of using intelligent, virtualized networks that efficiently deliver new experiences and expand revenue opportunities. While there are many residential, business and mobile solutions that service providers can offer, network virtualization is also crucial for deployment in developing regions.

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The IoE aims to bring the world together through technology and empower those who were once isolated, by transforming the ways they communicate. Access to mobile technology varies and may not be as prevalent in developing regions of the world. However, tablets and mobile phones are beginning to transform how these developing regions obtain and relay information. In fact, mobile phone subscriptions have climbed to nearly 5 billion in the Read More »

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Critical Infrastructure: How Smart Cities Will Transform Latin America

Although Latin America is a developing region, the area is making strides towards becoming more efficient, cleaner and more innovative—characteristics of smart cities and the Internet of Everything (IoE) are making it possible. Many people now beg the question, “Are smart cities real?” Wim Elfrink answers the question with a firm yes, referring to smart cities as tangible and necessary to foster economic and developmental growth.

With more and more people flocking to urban areas, cities that don’t embrace the digital economy will lag behind. Leading cities are reinventing themselves with real-time, networked applications to improve everything from traffic flow and parking to water usage and city-wide energy consumption. In some, passersby can instantly find nearby restaurants, shopping deals, mass transit and more at their fingertips through connected mobile devices.

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Internet of Everything Enabling Connected Cities
Recently, Cisco partnered with AGT to develop an upcoming Internet of Things-enabled traffic management system that Read More »

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Safeguarding Privacy in the Internet of Things

Jason KohnBy Jason Kohn,  Contributing Columnist

You can’t open a web browser these days without coming across a story on the Internet of Things (IoT), and the ways that connected, autonomous devices will revolutionize every industry. There’s a reason for the hype: Cisco forecasts 50 billion connected devices by 2020, with the potential to create more than $14 trillion in value for global businesses over the next decade.

But IoT also heralds another revolution, in the degree to which individual behavior can be tracked and analyzed. While much of IoT focuses on verticals like manufacturing, energy exploration, and industrial applications, where the massive data generated by fine-grained monitoring is almost entirely beneficial, IoT will also touch on a broad range of consumer devices. From transportation to home automation to connected medical devices, machines will be monitoring the behavior of individuals more than at any time in human history. This raises a number of serious questions about consumer privacy and information security.  Read More »

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Improving Lives Through Wearable Technology

Wearable technology continues to advance and will produce countless opportunities for wearers, as we move forward into the future. New connections, new technology and emerging solutions enabled by wearables will change nearly every aspect of our lives.

Our capabilities when it comes to technology today seem nearly endless. New devices are becoming smaller, smarter and more efficient. Think back to the television of 20 years ago. It pales in comparison to the television options available today. Years ago, TVs were pretty standard in terms of what you could expect. Today, the options are much more expansive, including things such as display size, width, depth, and technology behind the TV screen’s display. This sort of technology evolution is currently happening right now in terms of wearable technologies and the Internet of Everything (IoE).

Wearable technology currently resides in an early adopter phase. However, Read More »

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