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Cheap Paper Microscope to Boost Fight Against Diseases

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

New UNOSSC banner Dev Cha 2013

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY 

To tackle diseases in the developing world, the most important first step is diagnosis. Without effective diagnosis, it is difficult to go to the next steps of either treatment or cure. While much attention is given to the high costs involved in treating and curing ailments, screening for diagnosis is also expensive, especially if it involves lots of people. Anything that can reduce the cost of diagnosis will free up resources to expand the number of people who can be checked, and help eradicate contagious diseases.

One innovation is an inexpensive microscope that could allow diagnosing diseases such as malaria to be done on a much larger scale. Called the Foldscope (foldscope.com), it is made from paper, comes in a variety of bright colors and resembles the cardboard, three-dimensional cut-and-keep models regularly found in children’s books and magazines.

Foldscope’s designs are developed on a computer and then printed. Foldscopes are made from thick paper, glue, a switch, a battery and a light-emitting diode (LED) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light-emitting_diode).

Inspired by the ancient Japanese paper-folding craft of Origami (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origami), Foldscope’s makers at the Prakash Lab at Stanford University (http://www.stanford.edu/~manup/) are trying to create “scientific tools that can scale up to match problems in global health and science education”, according to their website.

The Foldscope can be put together in less than 10 minutes (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rphTSmb-Ux4) using a pair of scissors, packing tape and tweezers.

Once assembled, a user places a standard glass microscope slide in the Foldscope, turns on the LED light and uses their thumbs to guide the lens to view the slide.

Each Foldscope can magnify up to 2000 times with a sub-micron resolution of 800 nm. The battery can last up to 50 hours on a single button-cell battery and requires no further external power. Its makers claim it can survive being stepped on or dropped from a three-storey building.
It can perform a wide variety of microscopy techniques.

Its makers hope to manufacture billions of Foldscopes a year by exploiting the cheapness of the material and the simplicity of construction.

A beta test called “Ten Thousand Microscopes” will enlist 10,000 people to test the Foldscope in the field. Participants will contribute to helping write a field manual for the Foldscope prior to mass manufacturing. The Foldscope costs just US $0.50 to make for the basic model and US $1 for a higher-magnification version.

Field tests are taking place in the United States, Uganda and India.

Foldscope is designed to be used where more sophisticated lab analysis is not possible or affordable. It can also be an educational tool to give students experience in hands-on microscopy, or build awareness in the general population of how infectious diseases are spread by unseen lifeforms.

Foldscope’s makers hope their creation will help diagnose common but devastating diseases including Plasmodium falciparum (malaria), Trypanosome cruzi (Chagas disease), Giradia lamblia (giardiasis), Leishmania donovani (leishmaniasis), Dirofilaria immitis (filariasis), Human Sickle Cell (sickle-cell anaemia), E. Coli and Bacillus and Pine strobilus.

The quantity of people that need to be checked for diseases is vast and means, in countries where incomes and resources are low, it just isn’t possible to undertake diagnostic services using conventional methods.

“There is definitely a huge gap between where we are and where we want to be,” Stanford School of Medicine Assistant Professor for Bioengineering Manu Prakash explained on the university’s website.

“When you do get it (malaria), there is this simple-minded thing ‘forget diagnostics, let’s just get that tablet’ – and that’s what happens in most of the world. But the problem is there is many different strains, there are many different medications, you could potentially make the problem even worse by not realizing that you have malaria. And at the same time, the people who get a severe case – they are not detected at all.

“What is that one thing that you could almost distribute for free that starts to match the specificity of what detection requires? For malaria, the standard is to be able to image, and sit on a microscope and essentially go through slides.

“What we found as a challenge, if you truly want to scale, you should be really testing more than a billion people every year: that’s a billion tests a year. Any platform that you can imagine needs to scale to those numbers to make an impact.

“One of these things that have been shown over and over again – if you can put (in place) an infrastructure to fight malaria that is scalable and sustainable, then you get retraction of malaria in different regions.”

Resources

1) World Health Organization: Facts on malaria from the WHO. Website: http://www.who.int/topics/malaria/en/

2) WHO: Ten Facts on Malaria: About 3.4 billion people – half of the world’s population – are at risk of malaria. In 2012, there were about 207 million malaria cases (with an uncertainty range of 135 million to 287 million) and an estimated 627,000 malaria deaths (with an uncertainty range of 473,000 to 789,000). Website: http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/malaria/en/

3) Instructables: How to build a US $10 stand to turn a smartphone into a digital microsope. Website: http://www.instructables.com/id/10-Smartphone-to-digital-microscope-conversion/

4) Microscope adapter app for smartphones:  iPhone, Android, Blackberry or any Smartphone, with an attachment and an app, can be turned into a microscope. Website: http://internetmedicine.com/iphone-microscope/

5) Stanford University: Stanford University, located between San Francisco and San Jose in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley, is one of the world’s leading teaching and research universities. Website: stanford.edu

6) MaRS: Located in Toronto, Canada, MaRS is where science, technology and social entrepreneurs get the help they need. Where all kinds of people meet to spark new ideas. And where a global reputation for innovation is being earned, one success story at a time. Website: marsdd.com

7) Universal smartphone to microscope and telescope adapter/mount: The SkyLight is a universal smartphone-to-microscope adapter. Website: http://www.amazon.com/Universal-Smart-Microscope-Telescope-Adapter/dp/B00GF3Q3CK


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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China Sets Sights on Dominating Global Smartphone Market

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

New UNOSSC banner Dev Cha 2013

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY 

The rise of smartphones – mobile phones capable of Internet access and able to run ‘apps’ or applications – is the latest wave of the global connectivity revolution. Mobile phones rapidly made their way around the world to become almost ubiquitous – the most successful take-up of a piece of communications technology in history – and now smartphones are set to do the same. The number of mobile phone subscriptions in the world surpassed 6 billion in 2012 (out of a population of 7 billion) and, according to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the number of mobile phones will exceed the world’s population by 2014.

Over the last five years, with the increasing popularity of smartphones, the focus of the mobile industry has shifted from voice and messaging to apps and data services.

Smartphones are complex pieces of technology and any country that can develop the capability to make them and innovate is set to make a lot of money.

The high export value potential of designing and making “computer equipment, office equipment, telecommunication equipment, electric circuit equipment, and valves and transistors” was flagged up as a priority for developing nations back in 2005 at a UN meeting looking for “New and Dynamic Sectors of World Trade” (UNCTAD).

At present, smartphones have a long way to go to surpass old-style mobile phones: by the end of 2016, according to Portio Research (portioresearch.com), the number of non-smartphones in the Asia-Pacific region alone will still be bigger than the entire worldwide number of all smartphones. Even so, it’s predicted that by 2016, there will be 555 million active smartphones in China alone, as well as half a billion smartphones in Europe by the end of 2014. By 2013, North America’s smartphones will make up 50 per cent of all mobile phones. All in all, a lucrative market.

The main factor holding back the rise of smartphones is price. Smartphones tend to cost more than a basic mobile phone. But as China gets more heavily involved in the smartphone marketplace with its own smartphone and mobile phone brands, low income consumers will find themselves with a wider choice of affordable and powerful smartphones, each one a mini-computer.

Out of the 10 largest global manufacturers of smartphones, four are Chinese: Lenovo, Yulong, Huawei and ZTE (Gartner).

Huawei (http://www.huawei.com/en/), the world’s biggest smartphone seller (according to research firm Canalys) (canalys.com), has started to move some of its design team to London in the United Kingdom, to better tailor its products for foreign markets. It has revenues each year of US $35 billion.

China’s mobile phone market is vast, accounting for a third of all smartphones sold in the world. Getting a foothold in this marketplace places a company in a very strong position to build the expertise and capital to push into the wider global marketplace. And that is what Chinese brands are starting to do. So far, Chinese exports of branded smartphones make up a fifth of those sold around the world (Canalys).

The big global competitors to date have been South Korea’s Samsung (samsung.com) and the American Apple brand (apple.com). Other large competitors are Canada’s troubled Blackberry and Finland’s Nokia.

To compete with them, popular and successful Chinese brands include Xiaomi (xiaomi.cn), which sells more mobile phones in China than does the American Apple brand, and ZTE (http://wwwen.zte.com.cn/en/).

For years, many of the top global brands have had their phones and the components manufactured in China. This meant Chinese manufacturers were assembling the phones but not benefiting from the high value that can be extracted from being the owner of the brand name and the originator of the innovation and holder of the copyrights and trademarks.

But now China’s Lenovo brand (http://www.lenovo.com/uk/en/), for example, has successfully pulled past U.S. electronics maker Hewlett-Packard (www.hp.com) to become the largest seller of personal computers in the world. It is also selling more mobile phones and tablet computers than personal computers.

Lenovo Chief Executive Yang Yuanqing espouses a two-part strategy to defend market share at home in China while going hard at overseas markets. Lenovo started with so-called emerging markets in Russia, India and Indonesia.

“We have very aggressive plans to explore overseas markets,” Lenovo’s mobile phone division head Liu Jun told China Daily. “We hope the overseas market will contribute more than half of Lenovo’s total smartphone revenue in the long run.”

Xiaomi founder Lei Jun is considered part of a new generation of dynamic Chinese technology leaders. His casual clothing and charismatic public presentations have had some equate him to the late Apple founder Steve Jobs. But Jun is not happy with selling smartphones and instead sees the company’s future in software and that the phones are just a tool to access the software. Xiaomi hopes to make even more money from selling games, running online marketplaces and offering social media.

The Chinese-made smartphone brand Coolpad (http://coolpadamericas.com/) – made by Yulong Computer Telecommunication Scientific Co. – is the third best-selling in the Chinese marketplace, surpassing Huawei and Apple and has global annual revenue of US $1.8 billion, according to Forbes magazine. Sino Market Research found 10.2 per cent of China’s smartphone users own a Coolpad, behind Korean brand Samsung and China’s Lenovo.

Coolpad has succeeded by investing heavily in research and development (R&D) and innovation to make the phones cheap but also powerful.

Innovations include technology that lets users have more than one phone number for the same phone by being able to connect to two different network technologies. The phones also include security and privacy protections that make them popular with businesspeople and government officials.

The Coolpad brand has also been frenetic in launching different models of the phones to appeal to its customers. In 2012, it launched 48 different models, selling for between US $50 and US $500.

Coolpad was launched in 2012 in the US as part of the company’s global expansion plans.

China has placed innovation at the core of its economic development policies. China increased its R&D spending in 2009 to US $25.7 billion, a 25.6 per cent rise over 2008, according to Du Zhanyuan, vice minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology. In 2011, China surpassed South Korea and Europe in total patents filed and was in a neck-and-neck race with Japan and the United States.

China now boasts twice as many Internet users as the United States, and is the main global maker of computers and consumer electronics, from toys to games consoles to digital everything.

China is also on course to become the world’s largest market for Internet commerce and computing.

The drive to change and transform China’s global economic role was promoted in 2011’s Beijing International Design Week (http://www.bjdw.org/en/), with its theme of transforming “Made in China to Designed in China.”

Resources

1) iHub Nairobi: iHub – Nairobi’s Innovation Hub for the technology community is an open space for the technologists, investors, tech companies and hackers in the area. This space is a tech community facility with a focus on young entrepreneurs, web and mobile phone programmers, designers and researchers. Website: http://www.ihub.co.ke/

2) Venture Capital for Africa: Venture Capital for Africa (www.vc4africa.biz) is the continent’s leading founder’s network, the largest and fastest growing community of  entrepreneurs and investors building promising companies in Africa. Website: https://vc4africa.biz/

Red Dot: The red dot logo stands for belonging to the best in design and business. The red dot is an internationally recognized quality label for excellent design that is aimed at all those who would like to improve their business activities with the help of design. Website: http://www.red-dot.de

C3: C3 offers product design and product engineering services in Shanghai, China. Their strong point is managing innovative design processes from scratch (market research) until production: a one shop service: Website: chinacreativecompany.com

North Korea Tech: North Korea Tech is dedicated to covering and collecting information regarding the state of information technology and related industry in North Korea. You can expect to find articles related to Internet connectivity in the country (yes, it does exist), North Korea’s use of technology, and the country’s centrally-controlled and heavily-censored mass media. Website: http://www.northkoreatech.org/

Published: September 2013

ISSN 2227-3905

Google Snippit December 2020.

Note on story: Very few outside of China in 2013 were talking about this topic, let alone the increasing market share of smartphone manufacturer Huawei. This was one of many stories to result from a research trip to China. For the keen-eyed, try and spot the Huawei logo in the accompanying photo taken in Tianjin.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021