Smartphone apps hold relevance for India

Smartphones are poised to get only smarter and new apps are significant for markets like India, such as a software and smartphone accessory developed at MIT that can perform eye tests.

Last winter, during a family function in Jaipur, we had a great time when a relative used an iPhone app to tell everyone's age. The app would play a sound which only those under a certain age could hear it. 

Although for us, it was more an exercise for fun, apps like this have huge relevance in a country like India, where a large number of people do not even know their actual age. Such apps can be improvised to determine a person's (estimated) age (provided their hearing is not impaired) while registrations for Aadhaar, or the National Population Register (NPR) scheme, are underway.

In the developing world, there is a lot of social good which can be done through smartphones. For instance, Sproxil, a multinational company, uses cell phones to help consumers spot counterfeit drugs in the developing world.

Sproxil's Mobile Product Authentication tool allows consumers to verify product genuineness within seconds through a text message. In August this year, Sproxil and Bharti Airtel announced a partnership to combat the counterfeit drug market in Africa. 

Sproxil's service works by placing a scratch-off label on products. When consumers purchase a product, they scratch off the label to reveal a unique, random code. The code is then sent via SMS to a country-specific toll-free short code, and the consumer receives a reply almost instantly indicating whether the product is genuine or not.

This tool holds a lot of promise in India too, where counterfeit drugs is quite a menace. According to a World Health Organization report, almost 20 percent medicines sold in India are fake. One hopes Sproxil has plans to launch this service in India too.

A newspaper report today carried an interesting article about an app developed by a team headed by India-born researcher, Ramesh Raskar, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Raskar and his team have developed a software as well as a smartphone accessory that can perform eye tests and save you a trip to the optometrist.

The device, called NETRA (Near Eye Tool for refractive Assessment), can be clipped to a mobile phone with a suitable hi-resolution LCD display. It can then detect whether you need glasses or not. The test, according to the news report, takes less than a minute to complete.

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