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Can Cloud Computing save lives?

CV on ‎07-19-2011 09:02 AM

I’m reading many articles and blog entries on cloud computing, and they’re all about increased agility & responsiveness or cost reduction. This is probably because most cloud use cases evolve from the current day to day use of infrastructure technology. But there are brand new applications of cloud that not often get attention. I’d like to share two of those today. They both involve saving lives, which was the first reason they got my attention.


Drug Counterfeiting

Late last year, actually on Saint Nicolas day (December 6th, when presents are given to children in the north of Europe), a press release pointed out HP and African Social Enterprise mPedigree Network teamed up to fight counterfeit drugs in Africa. The use of counterfeited drugs in Africa causes at least 700.000 deaths per year according to the World Health Authorities. So, this is not a small problem.


But what has cloud to do with these sad numbers. Well, mPedigree, HP, pharmaceutical companies and local telcos teamed up to address counterfeited malaria drugs in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya by providing patients with an easy way to verify whether the drug they buy in the pharmacy is genuine or not. How does this work?


Building on HP’s IP and experience in anti-counterfeiting measures, we put an end-to-end system in place allowing the identification of genuine products. The drug manufactures print a serialized code (each package has a different code) on the package in a “scratch zone” and identifies the code in a central database located in the cloud. When the patient buys the drug, he can scratch the zone to reveal the code, type the code on his mobile phone and send an SMS to a special free number. The code will then be verified with the ones in the database and if found, a message confirming the product is genuine will be sent to the patient. This provides the partners with information on where the drug is used, where counterfeiting is prevalent and can serve as a first step in understanding where in the supply chain the counterfeited drug is entered. We started with two elements in mind, first that mobile phones are spreading fast in Africa, although very simple ones, hence the SMS approach. Second that the only person in the supply chain that can be fully trusted in the final consumer, the patient. So he/she will enter the correct number and give us the information we need.


Monitoring Blood Pressure

A couple weeks ago, I found an article titled “A Wristwatch that Monitors Blood Pressure”. Very different project, different region and different problem. However, one common element, saving lives. Although high blood pressure can be monitored, and treated effectively, with a number of drugs, a quarter of the people with the condition don't even know they have it, according to the American Heart Association. Of those who know they have high blood pressure, only two-thirds get treatment, and fewer than half have it under control. So, how was this issue approached?


Taking advantage of a new wireless monitor , the size and look of a wristwatch, built by Singapore company Healthstats, data is transmitted from the device to the user’s cell phone and then in the cloud, where clinicians can review it. Patients and their doctors can view 24-hour graphs of blood pressure, and the system can sound alerts when it detects abnormalities in pressure or other measures.


Health data is captured near real-time and transmitted to a mobile smart-phone over Bluetooth. The mobile application running on the smart-phone relays the raw health statistic data over the mobile 3G/GPRS network to the data aggregator residing on the communication service provider infrastructure. Users with access to the online web portal are able to view the health report on the go. The user can be a mHealth subscriber or a designated doctor authorized to provide medical advice and consultancy to the patient.

Clinical trials are currently underway in Singapore to define the accuracy of the measuring device when people are moving around and how the device affects patient and physician behavior. A hundred patients, some healthy and some with a high risk of chronic illness or a history of strokes, will use the device during 8 weeks. Every morning they will receive a summary of the findings via SMS and a call center will look at data around the clock and intervene if needed. Researchers will then determine whether the monitor helped people with hypertension better control it and whether it could detect abnormal blood pressure in people who were seemingly healthy.


Two projects with a common objective, two projects using cloud based information technology to share data across a community of users and stake holders. Cloud allows the information to be stored securely and only make it available to allowed recipients. The cloud platform also includes analytics and visualization tools to support the decision making process.


This raises a question, should we use cloud mainly to deliver existing functionality faster, cheaper and more reliably or should we address new issues all together. The answer is probably in the middle. It’s refreshing however that cloud allows new approaches to address major issues we have as a society. This is probably the revolutionary element of cloud, the fact it allows people to be connected anywhere, any time and any way. It also re-emphasis the convergence of cloud and connectivity.

About the Author


RONALDO PEPI on ‎01-23-2012 08:14 AM

Hi there!

I´d like to know if the new wireless monitor wristwatch was delivered as a product and where can I find this fantastic tool for my health.

Thanks in advance!

Ronaldo Pepi

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