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Ready to swallow a digital camera?

The little digital camera going through your gastrointestinal tract. Image credit: NHS

A pill camera is no news (watch the clip, now almost 10 years old) to the point that its use in medical diagnostic has got a name: capsule endoscopy.

What is new is that the NHS (medical service in the UK) now has adopted this diagnostic tool for screening people that have symptoms indicating a possible GI cancer.

This tiny pill contains a micro computer, a digital camera and a transmission equipment. Image credit: NHS

11,000 people in the UK are going to swallow (several already have) a digital camera with a radio transmitter that takes two pictures every second and transmit them to a receiving station worn at the belt. If for just a moment you feel that it only takes 2 pictures per second, think twice. Over the 8 hours that it is in your gut it will take over 50,000 photos! The camera is producing so many photos that a specific software is required for their analyses. Once some “suspicious spots” are detected the related photos are presented to the doctor.

In these ten years of existence the “pill” camera  has become smaller (11mm x 26mm, weight 4 grams) – see photo on the side- and much better, in addition to having become way cheaper. This “way cheaper” is relative since the cost of the pill camera is just one component: the current cost of the procedure is around 500$ (this includes the cost of he external equipment and the analyses of the data through a specific software).

It is foreseeable that the role of software, and specifically of image recognition, machine learning and AI for autonomous diagnoses (to be confirmed by a doctor), is expected to increase in the coming years, since these dignostic tools are generating a volume of data that goes beyond the capability of humans.

This will be in synch with the trend of increasing the role of proactive healthcare and the role of the home as the first diagnostic point.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.