Windows Smartphone Used As Med Probe, Military Use

Dennis Faas's picture

Researchers have developed a system that adapts a Windows-based smartphone to act as an ultrasound scanner. The device could be revolutionary in developing nations and might also have military uses.

The system is based on existing portable ultrasound wands, which scan using soundwaves to produce an image of the inside of a body. The technique is best known for scanning images of fetuses, but has a wide range of medical uses.

The problem with the existing system is that the wands then had to be plugged into an Internet-connected computer via a USB cable in order to share the results instantly. Without doing this, there was no way for a medical professional to give an instant diagnosis and recommend treatment unless they were on location.

Because of these problems, an estimated 70% of the world's population does not currently have access to ultrasound scanning. It's particularly difficult in areas with unreliable power sources or where computers are not affordable.

Project Buoyed by $100,000 Grant from MS

Using a $100,000 grant from Microsoft, the researchers, from the Washington University in St Louis, have developed a way to build the scanner directly into a smartphone.

While the basic concept of doing this was relatively simple, the researchers say they had to use their computer science expertise to make everything in the process run as efficiently as possible. That was needed to cope with both the physical limitations of a smartphone and the huge amounts of data involved in an ultrasound image.

The smartphones could be used for several situations. The most obvious is in developing nations where there often simply isn't enough reliable power for a full-sized ultrasound scanner. The researchers note that in many such countries, 90% of people are within range of a cellphone tower, and suggest people could be trained to use the scanners and send results to doctors in larger towns or cities. (Source:

Speedy Diagnoses Ideal for Military Use

The device could also be used in rural areas of developed nations, particularly by emergency staff who could take a scan at the scene and upload it to the medical facility so that some diagnosis can be carried out before the patient arrives.

It might also be useful in combat situations; researchers suggest soldiers could use the device to help get advice on whether an injured colleague should be treated on the scene or taken to a field hospital. (Source:

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