Wednesday, January 2, 2013

5 US Companies That Will Turn Your SmartPhone Into A Tricorder

Star Trek fans watched Leonard McCoy (of whose occupation escapes me at the moment) for years use a handy mobile device called a "tricorder" that could diagnose the symptoms of an ill shipmate, Klingon, or green-skinned-alien-native-girl.  Now, Qualcomm is speeding up the process to make the fictional gizmo a reality with the Tricorder X Prize Competition.  Rewarding $10 million to the firm that develops the most qualified product to successfully diagnose 15 diseases ranging from diabetes to to sleep apnea, Qualcomm's competition has already drawn 230 entries from over thirty countries around the world.

Among the entries from the US include:

AgaMatrix - Although funded by French-based pharmaceutical company Sanofi, AgaMatrix hails from Salem, NH and originated the WaveSense technology that Sanofi uses for its iBGStar, which monitors glucose levels for diabetics.  The iBGStar plugs into your iPhone and stores data from a blood sample into an app that can be transferred to a physician's software.

MobiSante - Based in Redmond, Washington, MobiSante has already created the first FDA-sanctioned ultrasound device that plugs into a smartphone.  The projected cost is$7000, which new parents already know pales in comparison to a standard ultrasound price.  

AliveCor - This San Francisco-based start-up has already cleared FDA hurdles with an iPhone case containing two electrode sensors in it, enabling it to be an effective tool for electrocardiograms (ECG's).  Qualcomm has a tangible interest in this firm because its already sunk venture capital into it.

CellScope - An idea of David Fletcher's at UC Berkeley labs in 2006, CellScope focuses on optical attachments to a smartphone and has recently designed a mobile otoscope (that thing the doctor has been torturing your ear with since you were a toddler).  CellScope is already on a trial basis with the Atlanta Pediatric Device Consortium and may be ready for the public as early as this upcoming year, with a price tag of around $200.

Scanadu - The California firm has already developed a wireless sensor called the Scout.  When pressed against a patient's temple, it lists a variety of biological functions like heart rate, blood pressure, blood oxygenation, and temperature.  As if that weren't impressive enough, they're also in the works to release Scana-Flu, which collects cartridges of samples gargled by patients and analyzes them.  Scanadu hopes to combine the sample analysis of Scana-flu with the sensor tech of Scout.

With over $1 billion invested by venture firms in digital medical technology in the first nine months of 2012 alone, these are products you and I will definitely be seeing not just in our lifetimes, but in the next few years as well.  Most in the field expect the health community to resist any new tech that takes authority out of the professionals' hands and places it in that of the patients, but with a staggering shortage of health experts for a growing global population on the horizon, areas where the system can save time and money can use ideas, even (maybe especially) those from science fiction.

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company

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