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Surprising Science

The Coming Wireless Health Revolution

Cell phones are being used in many ways today that transcend their original intended function. Big Think Delphi Fellow Aydogan Ozacan is applying this technology to breakthroughs in medicine. 

This idea was suggested by Big Think Delphi Fellow Aydogan Ozacan, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at UCLA. 

Cell phones have long been touted as a tool for political and economic freedom, particularly in parts of the developing world. Entrepreneurs have found many innovative uses for mobile phone technology that go well beyond the intended uses of the devices to meet western needs. For instance, there is the often-cited example of African fishermen using cell phones to check daily fish market prices to determine where to cash in their bounty, which prompted Developments magazine to re-write this famous proverb:

Give a man a fish, and you will feed him for a day.

Teach him how to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime.

But give him a mobile phone, and you’re really talking!

What’s the Big Idea?

Aydogan Ozacan, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at UCLA has ambitious ideas for using cell phones to help solve global health challenges, or what he calls “wireless health.”

Ozacan points to the fact that around 90 percent of the people over the entire world live in locations where there is wireless coverage. Therefore, Ozacan believes cellphone-related infrastructure can be used for “much faster diagnosis and treatment of diseases.” 

In the following video, Ozacan describes how the health of AIDS or malaria patients can be analyzed “through the images we can capture of cells.” While the application of a cell phone in this process may appear to be a simple act, Ozacan notes the idea behind this represents “years of work.”



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