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July 22, 2008

Nokia’s mobile doctors of the future

HELSINKI, Finland – In a recent interview with top global news agency AFP, Leo Kärkkäinen, one of the chief visionaries at the Nokia Research Centre may have joked that “maybe some time in the future mobile phones will grow in a pot like plants or maybe you could print a new phone”,  but his tongue-in-cheek quip perfectly highlights the far-reaching breadth of research being explored behind the scenes.

One particularly interesting snippet in the article touched on ‘medical diagnosis systems’ and using the mobile handset as a medical tool.

Kärkkäinen went so far as to reveal that the Nokia Research Center is already carrying out trials on mobile phones that could help diagnose illnesses on the spot, helping areas in the world where a doctor or trained medical staff are not readily available.

While this clearly shows the NRC is pushing and broadening the scope of what a mobile handset can do, raising interesting questions such as would you entrust such important ‘life and death’ matters to a mobile device? It’s also worth considering whether such medically enabled handsets will be readily available to the untrained hand. Will users have to be medically qualified to operate them? Questions we’re keen to pose to the NRC team, and points that we’ll be following up on.

Of course this development is barely embryonic in terms of how far it’s been developed, and we still don’t know to what extent these device’s diagnoses powers (accuracy and reliability being the key issues) extend to. Nonetheless, to have such a device in the pocket in emergency situations could help massively in determining the course of action, and is unquestionably a seismic shift in terms of our vision for what mobile hardware could be capable of.

What do you think? Would you entrust your health to a mobile phone? And what wide implications would such a device have on the medical industry?

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Photo from Mykl Roventine