Dr Iluyemi, MoDise: LTE can “make a difference” for mHealth

Dr Adesina Iluyemi is co-founder and vice president of MoDise, a mobile diagnostic company focused on preventing diseases in the developing world. An mHeath and telemedicine expert, he is speaking at the LTE MENA conference taking place on the 29th-30th April, Westin Mina Seyali, Dubai, UAE. He speaks to Telecoms to explain how next generation mobile technology such as LTE is in unique position to make a crucial difference in this valuable field.

In the developing world, where funds for medical equipment are a scarce resource, it pays, literally, to be as innovative as possible with what you have. A prime example is the work of MoDise, which, as its co-founder Dr Adesina Iluyemi explains, has come up with a way for a camera equipped mobile phone to replace a microscope. Thus an affordable handset can replicate equipment that would otherwise cost between US$5,000 and US$10,000. As Iluyemi explains, this type of out-of-the-box thinking requires an investment in R&D that most companies aren’t prepared to spend. This is why he founded MoDise, to invest in new ideas and take them, “from the laboratory to the market”.

“That is just an example of a different type of application that is coming on the market,” Iluyemi says. “Turning the mobile phone into a medical diagnostic device. So, it could be a microscope, [or any other] kind of physical phenomenon (such as an ECG device) that could be analysed and recorded by mobile phone”.

This is clearly a fine example of mHealth innovation, but it’s not just handsets though that are important to the work of MoDise. Iluyemi says that the mobile network is critical, as the data the mobile phones collect has to be transmitted to make it useful. The network has to be speedy, but also reliable and secure. “When sending medical data, [you need] a time critical network, that is secured and guarantees high throughput.  [And] you want the integrity and privacy of data from point A to point B to be retained.”

It’s true however that these critical factors can be achieved with a 3G network. Therefore, is a 4G network something that can actually be of benefit to mHealth applications?  Iluyemi thinks so and specifically picks out video conferencing as a major application. “LTE technology could enable real-time video conferencing between a patient and a doctor. [There might be] a doctor in another area, doing a clinical call and in a clinic, the nurse can call on that doctor for a second opinion. And LTE would guarantee the bandwidth that is required for this. That is just one example of how LTE could make a difference.”

In a continent where Doctors are in short supply the ability to assist and make diagnoses from a remote location is an invaluable one that could save lives, and where the devil is in the detail it’s one that realistically can only be done with a high bandwidth link. While dedicated links could be established a standard commercial LTE network is the only way it can become affordable.

Iluyemi is confident that the economies of scale that wide LTE deployments will bring will eventually dramatically lower the cost of sending data. “A study carried out in Uganda in early 2005 found that there was a 1000 per cent reduction in the cost of transmitting the same amount of data when the operators moved from GSM to GPRS,” he says. “So that extra bandwidth of just 30Kbps more, actually led to a 1000 per cent reduction in the amount they paid for bandwidth.  So if you take GSM as a baseline, LTE promises [an improvement that’s] one million per cent better.”

However, while data costs could eventually come down, Iluyemi is concerned at the current high cost of LTE terminal devices. “One of the problems in Africa is that there is a lack of affordable devices to use the network, so right now the LTE devices are not coming to the market. And if they are available they are not affordable for many people to buy it or use it. Globacom in Nigeria has deployed LTE but nobody is using the network. And why? There are few LTE devices on the market and secondly, they are not affordable.”

Iluyemi says that hospitals are keen to work with operators that create a dedicated medical division, citing AT&T as an example of a model that works, and even suggests that being connected to a mobile network is a better solution for doctors than wifi. “Hospitals depend on a lot of communication within the building. Even in the NHS now our hospitals are replacing wifi with GSM based networks. There is seamless integration and doctors can use their mobile phone within the hospital instead of carrying multiple devices around.”

Iluyemi though makes it clear that development of a fast LTE networks will have a tangible effect on the medical community, especially in Africa where there is a chronic lack of standard fixed connectivity. “There’s no fixed-line or broadband going to homes or offices for coverage everywhere. So LTE could provide add relief from that.”

When operators are spending many millions of dollars upgrading their networks it’s important to appreciate that it’s not being done just so teenagers can watch videos of each discussing the latest pop sensations. In the right environment, LTE could literally become a life saver.

Dr Adesina Iluyemi, co-founder and vice president of MoDise is speaking at the LTE Middle East and North Africa conference taking place on the 29th-30th April, Westin Mina Seyali, Dubai, UAE. Go to the website now to register your interest.

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