Jan. 9, 2012
by Mark Ollig
As we boldly go into 2012, a futuristic medical device from a popular science fiction television series may soon be coming along with us.
This device will certainly change how we diagnose illnesses, and monitor our health.
On the original television series “Star Trek,” set in the 23rd century, the physician used a “medical tricorder” scanning device to diagnose a sick or injured person’s physical ailments in order to treat their condition.
This medical tricorder was waved over – but did not come into direct physical contact –with the person being scanned.
The medical tricorder was also used to obtain information about one’s overall general health.
Scanadu, a private company founded one year ago, is on the brink of bringing this type of futuristic technology to those of us living in the 21st century.
The company is working on a non-contact, non-invasive, medical diagnostic tool for consumer use.
This technology will provide instant health information, allowing individuals to learn more about their own current health condition, in addition to being provided with an instant diagnosis and suggested treatments for physical ailments.
This new medical device is called the Scanadu Tricorder.
The company said in a press release their first product will be a sensor app (application) that “walks” a person through the steps needed for obtaining vital information in order to advise and diagnose a medical condition.
The app sensor integrates wirelessly with a person’s smartphone.
Scanadu states this new medical device will fall under FDA jurisdiction, and that they will be working closely with the FDA to get the Tricorder to the marketplace.
There are six doctor’s serving on Scanadu’s Medical Advisory Board.
Scanadu founder, Walter de Brouwer (a fan of “Star Trek”) said “whatever this product is, in order to be completely adapted by the entire world, it must be non-invasive, non-sampling, not [physically] contacting the body, and not counting on cooperation from the patient. This is the real Tricorder. It will change everything.”
He also said being able to immediately diagnose the person right in front of you, and instantly see what is happening, would reduce a lot of anxiety in our lives.
The Scanadu Tricorder website showed a fictional re-enactment video of two parents taking care of their child Alex, who was ill and had a rash on his chest.
One parent held the small Tricorder device in one hand and waved it over the rash on Alex.
The Tricorder sent the image of the rash to the smart phone the parent was holding in the other hand.
This image was then wirelessly transmitted to the cloud, via the smart phone, and was analyzed along with Alex’s symptoms.
The image of the rash and Alex’s symptoms were then matched with a known condition.
Once this information was obtained, the results and course of action were displayed on the smartphone.
The results provided said the condition was diagnosed as Roseola rash, a common virus in children, and that this type of rash normally appears in children three to five days after a high fever.
The recommended action shown on the smartphone’s display screen said to “rest at home, [as the] Roseola rash usually disappears after three days.”
In this case, getting the correct analysis and diagnosis saved the parents the time and expense of having to take Alex to the doctor – and relieved them of their worry.
If the results for Alex had determined a serious medical condition, the family’s physician would have been notified and been provided with the information obtained by the Tricorder.
Of course, this was only a demonstration video of what the Tricorder will ultimately be capable of.
According to Scanadu, “a fully-functioning Tricorder will help change user behavior in the short term. We plan to help parents move from anxiety to action about the health of their kids.”
“The first Tricorder will be affordable for most families. It is anticipated that there will be some split between payers (i.e. insurance companies) and users (parents, families),” Scanadu stated in a press release.
Allied Business Intelligence Research Inc. (ABI) reports, “The market for wearable wireless medical devices will reach more than 100 million units annually by 2016.”
In the near future, medical wireless devices will be commonly worn by people to monitor their overall physical fitness, and general well-being.
ABI also said “These devices, ranging from heart rate monitors for measuring an individual’s performance during sports, to wearable blood glucose meters, will all enable greater detail in tracking, monitoring, and care – often through connections provided by mobile phones.”
The Scanadu Tricorder will be compatible with a variety of cellular network technologies and will use Bluetooth short distance transmission standards.
We are now witnessing the birth of a whole new generation of body-worn medical sensors that may become as popular to use as a home thermometer.
To see the video of the medical Scanadu Tricorder in action, check out http://www.scanadu.com.
The video with Walter de Brouwer can be seen at http://tinyurl.com/7zafsph.
About Mark Ollig
Telecommunications and all things tech has been a well-traveled road for me. I enjoy learning what is new in technology and sharing it with others who enjoy reading my particular slant on it via this blog. I am also a freelance columnist for my hometown's print and digital newspaper.