Sensors in mobile phones offer new public-health opportunities

California-based not-for-profit InSTEDD (Innovative Support to Emergencies, Diseases and Disasters) is testing open-source software to share, aggregate and analyze data sent via text message from health workers in Cambodia to help report disease information in real time. This service, called GeoChat, shows the sender's location on an interactive map that's embedded with conversation threads. Users at a control center can click on the map to send messages back to the field, so remote workers know the true extent of any situation, The Economist reports as part of its quarterly technology update.

A computer scientist at MIT is taking this strategy one step further, developing applications to capture information passively, such as the activity level, or even the gait, of a phone user, since newer handsets already have built-in motion detectors to determine whether to set the screen to portrait or landscape orientation. The researcher's company is preparing to test the collection of locational data on tuberculosis patients in South Africa to help prevent transmission of the disease.

To learn more about some of these cutting-edge mobile technologies:
- check out the story in The Economist