Pocket Health Analyzer

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Remember the fictional character Dr.McCoy from science fiction TV flick ‘Star Trek’, who handled a device called the ‘Starfleet Tricorder’? For those who haven’t been an ardent Star Trek fan, the tricorder was basically featured as a 23rd century futuristic, portable, high-resolution device used as an instant diagnosis tool for patients which could also detect the presence of dangerous organisms. The word “tricorder” is a combination of “tri-” and “recorder”, which refers to its three device input keys. By default they cover GEO (geological), MET (meteorological), and BIO (biological) functions. Well, this was all in reference to the original movies where even non-living elements were used for analysis on alien planets. This definitely sounded amazing, not just back in the 1960s when the movie was released but even today. And seeing a futuristic device turning into reality is surely an exciting affair to watch out.

Think you have flu yet not convinced? Fed up of the lengthy and tiresome pathological procedures? Or even worse can’t take out some time even for your essential routine checkups or monitor your dwindling health? A Star Trek fashioned medical tricorder will be a potential choice! While no substantial devices have yet been successfully invented or built, there are numerous reports of scientists and inventors working to create such a device. The fictional device has spawned a search for its real-life equivalent. After all, today’s health care needs to catch up to the tools it is surrounded by as we witness wireless technologies revolutionizing the medical domain. More and more research facilities are open to novel approaches to the medical world that will not only improve the lifestyles of the people, but also provide a helpful hand to the doctors. Many real life developments are being carried out in this field.

We already have many instances like our own smartphones offering countless apps for only specific health measurements like read a digital stethoscope, or allowing doctors to view images from MRI, CT and PET scans on their iPad or iPhone. There have been numerous incentives directed towards this field. From researchers of Purdue University introducing their portable (briefcase-sized) DESI-based mass spectrometer, also referred to as the “tricorder” which can be used to examine compounds in ambient conditions without prior sample preparation to the recent most X Prize Foundation coming up with Qualcomm Incorporated the Tricorder X Prize, a $10 million incentive to develop a mobile device that can diagnose patients even better than a panel of board certified physicians!

Eventually, by the firm Scanadu, one of the entrants of this competition comes a small hand-held sensor which by putting next to a patient’s forehead detects vital signs such as breathing rate, blood oxygenation, pulse transmit time and temperature. It has electrodes to measure heart signals, and emotional stress and works in conjunction with a mobile app all this in just a matter of a few seconds. This personal health tricorder called the ‘Scanadu Scout’, approved by the FDA, will require a downloadable app which will be available for both Android and iOS devices, supporting Bluetooth 4.0. With approximately an hour’s time of charging using its Micro-USB port, it should approximately last around a week. Currently in its initial stage of research, Scout will collect and store data usable for post analysis. These measurements can be shared with family members and doctors or used to plot changes in health over time. The data can additionally be accessed remotely on a web browser, meaning if a friend or relative is having a health problem, users can keep an eye on them from miles away. The Wello, from Indian firm Azoi, fitted with monitoring sensors that measure a number of key health vitals in a similar manner. Azoi’s founder and CEO Hamish Patel described Wello as ‘a not-so-small engineering feat in microelectronics, nanosensors, imaging, data analytics and design.’ It will especially benefit the in cases of long distance travel, military or space missions.

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And that’s not all. Further, it may be possible to combine a high-power microscope with a cell phone and use it to analyze swab samples electronically. Two electrodes on a device may measure heart action and serve as a portable electrocardiogram. Glucose levels can be measured by sampling tiny blood samples. It may analyze polarized light coming from a person’s skin to reveal information about cancer or the healing of a wound. Sensors may pick up on abnormalities with DNA as well as the presence of antibodies. An ultrasonic probe can plug into a smart phone, allowing it to be used to create ultrasound images and so on. It may very well become as ubiquitous as home thermometers. Through improved self-awareness of key vitals, technology could very easily reduce the incidence and impact of a wide range of illnesses and diseases.
While being able to monitor your own health would never eliminate the need for doctors, this pocket health doctor could certainly make life easier. So it’s time to gear up for another futuristically depicted device set to be a new wonder. After all, instead of splurging about $100,000 behind certain medical diagnostic facilities, there can be nothing better than coming up with a $100 app or lesser!