Hardware mobile apps – making smart phones ‘medically’ smarter!

In the era of smart phones and mobile gadgets becoming smarter day by day, it would not require a lot of effort to intuitively assess their ‘smartness’ for innovative medical applications. Mobile apps for conventional medical alerts, reminders, health parameters monitoring (blood sugar, blood pressure, BMI etc) have been in widespread use since a long time. Voxiva, a Washington D.C. based company provides mobile health-coaching programs which target a wide variety of users, including pregnant women, diabetics, and smokers. SpiroSmart is a recent innovative iPhone app which enables the measurement and analysis of conventional lung function parameters. However, applications based on mobile devices has reached an altogether new dimension with the rapid development of innovative ‘mobile hardware apps’ for diverse medical use. These pieces of hardware are used in conjunction with a conventional smart phone as potential medical diagnostic devices. Let us take a closer look at some of the most interesting (and technologically stimulating!) hardware mobile apps –


Netra is a solution proposed by the Camera Culture Group at MIT. It is an inexpensive mobile hardware app which is based on an inverse Shack-Hartman sensor for the estimation of refractive errors in the human eye. The key idea is to interface a lenticular view-dependent display with the human eye at close range just a few millimeters apart.

Image Source: Camera Culture Group, MIT Media Labs


The OScan team at Stanford University has developed an affordable screening tool that brings standardized, multi-modal imaging of the oral cavity into the hands of rural health workers around the world, allowing individuals to conduct screenings for oral lesions. This inexpensive device mounts on a conventional camera phone and allows for data to be instantly transmitted to dentists and oral surgeons. OScan aims to empower minimally-skilled health workers to connect early stage patients to health care providers and teach communities about the importance of oral hygiene.


Mobisante, a Redmond based company has developed a mobile ultra sound system (MobiUS) which includes a Toshiba Windows Mobile-powered smart phone, ultrasound probe, and the accompanying Mobisante software. The exams include “Quick Scan”, a general purpose setting, AAA, FAST, Cardiac, OB, Pelvis, Vascular and small organs.

e-Petri Dish

With the ePetri Dish system, scientists no longer have to remove the cells from the incubator but can simply look at the laptop images. Less manipulation makes for better cell health and reduced risk of contaminating them. With the ePetri system, cells are grown on a CMOS image sensor – the kind found in common digital cameras. A smartphone placed above the sensor provides – via a commercially available app – a scanning spot of light that sweeps back and forth across its LED screen.


It is a non-intrusive Bluetooth enabled device that connects to a glucometer and transmits data to a mobile phone. The Diabeto device can transmit to any diabetes mobile application. The Diabeto app will also have multiple utilities that can check your blood sugar levels, give history, suggest diet, notify the physician etc.


The RVA Smart-clamp is a universal endoscope adapter which enables pictures and video to be taken with a mobile phone camera. The app is unique in the sense that it is a purely mechanical device which helps the surgeon in the real time viewing of endoscopic images with great ease.


SmartHeart is a gadget that turns a mobile phone into a powerful medical tool able to detect heart problems. It connects to, and converts, a smartphone into a hospital-grade heart monitor capable of performing electrocardiograms in just 30 seconds. The device hooks around the user’s chest and records their heart rate by measuring its electro-activity.

Image source: SHL Telemedicine


CellScope‘s clip-on otoscope helps pediatricians increase the standard of care by creating a visual history of the middle ear and allows parents to save time by allowing ear infections to be diagnosed and treated remotely. Also, CellScope’s innovative clip-on dermascope enables patients to capture and transmit high-magnification, diagnostic-quality images of the skin from the privacy and convenience of their own homes.


Flow cytometry is a technique for counting and examining cells, bacteria and other microscopic particles. Researchers at the BioPhotonics Laboratory at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have developed a compact, lightweight and cost-effective optofluidic platform that integrates imaging cytometry and florescent microscopy and can be attached to a cell phone. The resulting device can be used to rapidly image bodily fluids for cell counts or cell analysis.
Image source: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ac201587a


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