2009: The year of mobile medical magic?

2009 is, by all accounts, going to be a bit of a rubbish year. Global recession, massive job losses, the renewed threat of terror, another year in League 1 for Leeds, and me turning thirty, the list goes on. Aside from an above average January (Obama replacing Bush and your loyal narrator commencing his W+K odyssey – two events of major international significance) I think it’s probably fair to say that we’re probably better off staying indoors all year with the curtains closed.

But it’s not all bleak, at least if you have a modicum of geekery about you and you’ve happened upon the latest World Economic Forum (you know, Bono‘s crew) report on the tech businesses to watch in 2009.

Every year, the WEF crown between 30 and 50 businesses ‘Tech Pioneers’, companies that offer “new technologies or business models that could advance the global economy and have a positive impact on people’s lives” (or so says Business Week at least).  The full list is well worth a read as it’s chock full of innovative goodness but there are two in particular that got me at least a little more excited about the year to come, one for its simple reapplication of an already often-used technology to help save lives, and the other because it’s unspeakably awesome.

#1 mPedigree

Counterfeit drugs are a major problem the world over, but the problem is especially acute in the developing world where a number of issues, both societal and organisational, make fake medicines a genuine everyday threat for users.  mPedigree has taken mobile recognition technology and used it to help alleviate this problem with a really simple, intuitive, and accessible application. Authentic drugs are sold with a unique code on the label which can only be revealed when a strip is scratched off (similar to those used on pay as you go ‘top-up cards’). This code is then sent by the user via SMS to universal shortcode run by mPedigree, who then receives an instantaneous response confirming whether or not the batch is genuine. Genius.

According to the report, this technology was “successfully piloted in Ghana from January 2008, (and mPedigree aims to) expand its platform to all 48sub-Saharan African countries, starting with Nigeria, over the next decade, and then into other developing countries in South Asia, South America, the Middle East and North Africa”.

#2 Proteus Biomedical

Moving us one step closer to the dream proposed in Inner Space (Dennis Quaid’s finest hour?), Proteus operate at the intersection of biology and technology by pioneering the ‘intelligent medicine’ space. The basic idea at the heart of the company is the stuff of classic science fiction – microchips in pills.

The microchips (which eventually distintegrate) monitor how the body reacts to the consumption of the medicine and transmit the data to a temporary patch on the patient’s skin, using the conductivity of the tissue to communicate rather than radio thus avoiding potential ‘snooping’ issues. The information is collected and sent via the user’s mobile phone to their doctor who can check patient progress, remotely assist with problems and diagnose potential issues rapidly. According to the company the system is especially useful for “long-distance monitoring of patients with cardiac problems”, as well as making sure that people with infectious diseases or mental illnesses take their drugs in the correct manner (which apparently around 50% of people on long-term prescriptions don’t).


Pic via

Cool huh?

If these and their ilk really make an impact in 09, maybe it won’t be such a bad year after all.


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One Response to “2009: The year of mobile medical magic?”

  1. Technology in 2009 « Not another Mindshare blog Says:

    […] revolution for some years now so it’s interesting to see where the next explosion will occur. Graeme Douglas highlights a couple that impress him, and for what it’s worth, my prediction is personal […]

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