How A New Sensor Could Turn Your Smartphone Into A Molecular Scanner

January 31st, 2017 Posted by News

A Japanese city has introduced a novel way to keep track of senior citizens with dementia who are prone to getting lost – tagging their fingers and toes with scan-able barcodes. A company in Iruma, north of Tokyo, developed tiny nail stickers, each of which carries a unique identity number to help concerned families find missing loved ones, according to the city’s social welfare office.

In 2017, an estimated 222.9 million people in the US will have smartphones, worldwide that number is expected to surpass two billion. Through apps and wearables, we’re using those smartphones to help us track our health, fitness, sleep patterns, ovulation, heart rate, water intake, etc.

But, what if we could use our mobile devices to scan and then instantly analyse the molecular make-up of the food we eat or the health of soil for crops or an on-the-spot analysis of a tissue sample by a doctor or nurse regardless of where they are?

NeoSpectra Sensor

The NeoSpectra Sensor

Si-Ware Systems has developed a small, near infrared spectral sensor that can analyse materials in real-time without sending samples to a lab. It’s small enough to be built into a smartphone for an on-the-spot analysis of anything you can scan with a mobile device. The company says it has applications for both the consumer and industrial markets. The sensor could be used in food safety and analysis, evaluating the health of soils, oil and gas composition as well as determine the purity of pharmaceutical drugs.

Currently, the device is being tested in the agriculture, petrochemical and healthcare markets. Because of its small size, smaller than a finger joint, it can be incorporated into consumer electronics products. Spectroscopy and material analysis has been missing from consumer applications because of size, cost and form restraints.

In the same way that inertial sensors, accelerometers and gyros became small enough and low-cost enough for consumer electronic products, enabling a host of applications for motion sensing, NeoSpectra Micro can give performance material analysis to the consumer electronics world,” said Scott Smyser, executive vice president, Si-Ware Systems.

Last December 2016, a collaborative team of researchers from Stockholm and Uppsala University in Sweden and UCLA in California, turned a smartphone into a microscope. In a paper published in Nature Communications, the team created a mobile-phone-based bio-molecular analysis and diagnostics prototype that could analyse the mutations in a cell’s DNA. This type of analysis at the point-of-care opens up new opportunities for digital molecular analysis and telemedicine.

Thanks to Jennifer Hicks at Forbes for the article content.

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