Friday, April 13, 2012

M2M communications saving thousands of infants in Africa

AFRICA: Machine-to-machine (M2M) communications technology is saving tens of thousands of infants from mother-to-child HIV infection in Africa.

Based in the UK, Sequoia Technology, an M2M company, along with its longtime technology partner Telit Wireless Solutions, developed a way for rural medical clinics in Africa to wirelessly receive HIV test results of expectant mothers within days of testing, a first for many rural villages. This has allowed mothers with HIV-positive results to begin anti-retroviral drugs much earlier in their pregnancies, reducing the chances of transferring the virus to their newborns from 40 percent to less than 1 percent. Nearly half of babies born in Mozambique with HIV die in the first two years of life.

Funded by the Clinton Foundation and Mozambique’s Ministry of Health, the HIV Early Infant Diagnosis Project saved an estimated 20,000 babies from infection in just the first six months of its launch. The successful and unique program is now being expanded to nine other African nations including Kenya, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Uganda and others.

Sequoia Technology developed a small, inexpensive printer incorporating SMS (short message service) wireless protocol used for mobile phone text messaging. Utilizing the GC864-Quad V2 wireless modules from Telit Wireless Solutions, the SMS printers are connected to a complex GSM cellular gateway that allows lab results to be wirelessly and securely sent to printers installed at the rural clinics. The GC864 modules are one of the smallest GSM/GPRS quad-band modules with industrial connectors in the market.

“There’s very little infrastructure in Africa – most of these clinics cannot be reached by car, have no mail service and no landlines,” said Nick Lidington, MD, Sequoia Technology. “The challenge was to use the only mode of communication you can reliably say is everywhere in Africa – the cellular network.”

“The printer kit and gateway software we developed has received interest from health ministers throughout the continent,” Lidington said. “It can be applied to obtaining lab results for other diseases as well, such as malaria and tuberculosis, so life-saving treatments can begin much sooner.”

Lidington added that the advanced monitoring software included with the system can be a powerful tool for health ministers to track where illnesses are appearing and apply medical resources accordingly.

Nearly 400 clinics in Mozambique are now outfitted with the 12-volt printers for their low cost, simple operation and security.

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