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Surprising Science

The Future of Medicine? Your Smartphone.

Companies are beginning to capitalize on the computing power of your smartphone to create new medical instruments—hardware and software—transforming the way we understand medicine.

What’s the Latest Development?

The way we receive health care is changing thanks to new medical instruments being developed for mobile devices. Routine medical tests, like measuring blood pressure and blood glucose levels, can already be performed using new hardware attachments for smartphones. The French company Withings has developed a blood pressure cuff that operates automatically, graphing blood pressure results over time. In December, AgaMatrix gained FDA approval to sell its smartphone attachment which measures blood glucose levels.

What’s the Big Idea?

Dr. Eric Topol, one of the relatively few physicians who advocates for the development of smartphone medical technology, says that people will soon, “start running common medical tests, skipping office visits and sharing their data with people other than their physicians.” The ultimate goal of mobile medical technologists is to replicate the full-body diagnostic ‘tricorder’ from the ‘Star Trek’ TV show. The smartphone chip maker Qualcomm has offered a $10 million prize for such a device through the X-Prize Foundation.

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