Everyone who owns a smartphone has to acknowledge these pocket-sized devices have gotten a lot more powerful over the years. With billions of smartphones out there, one would almost wonder why they are not being used to do “good”. Manu Prakash, a well-known Stanford professor, thinks the microphone found in most smartphones can be used to cure malaria. An interesting idea, although things will not evolve in that direction so quickly.
Using The Hardware of the Crowd
Under the Abuzz banner, Manu Prakash has come up with yet another revolutionary idea. His latest project revolves around finding a cure for malaria, which still remains one of the most lethal diseases faced by our society in 2017. This project serves as a crowdsourced surveillance project to track and identify mosquitoes carrying diseases. To do so, Prakash aims to use the microphone found in most modern smartphones.
Every different type of mosquito makes a different sound when it beats its wings. Right now, Prakash and his team at Stanford are collecting as many data samples of this sound frequency as they possibly can. In doing so, the team aims to hone in on the location of several dozen species of mosquito carrying human pathogens. These specific types of winged creature are the ones responsible for spreading malaria on a large scale.
The goal is to rely on the “hardware of the crowd”, by asking citizen scientists to collect sound samples. They will record audio of mosquito buzzes and upload the data to a server controlled by the team. Once the information is received, the team will try to match the frequency to one of the species they are actively looking for. Anyone who owns a smartphone or even a modern feature-phone should be able to record the sound sample with relative ease.
In doing so, Prakash is using the hardware at the disposal of citizens worldwide for a cause that can impact the lives of millions. The building of real-time mosquito maps will certainly help scientists in eliminating the diseases carried by these winged creatures. Although this process will take many years – if not decades – to complete, it is by far a quicker and seemingly better to achieve this goal compared to other solutions.
Contrary to what most people may think, a mosquito carrying human pathogens is one of the most lethal living creatures in the world. It is due time we find a proper cure for malaria and stop the spreading of this disease whenever possible. Relying on the crowd to send over data samples is of the utmost importance in this regard. Whether or not this venture will be successful in the end remains anybody’s guess for the time being.
In the end, it is not surprising to learn scientists want some form of access to additional computing resources. Using smartphones and feature phones is the right way to go, assuming people all over the world are willing to help in this fight against malaria. It is an interesting take on things and one that may shake up the scientific world as a whole.
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