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Tue Dec 23 01:23:07 SAST 2014

Phone app smokes out high kids

NASHIRA DAVIDS | 13 June, 2013 00:42
Smartphones
Image by: Lee Jae Won / REUTERS

Soon parents will know if their brood are high on drugs. They will see it in their children's eyes - with the help of a cellphone application.

The brainchild of Cape Town biotechnologist Ashley Uys, the Oculus ID will "possibly" be ready in two months.

Once the application is downloaded onto a smartphone, one would take a picture of the eye. Should the eye not react to the flash, the individual could potentially be under the influence of illicit drugs.

"The idea came from the evolution of cameras on phones. Because the resolution is higher, I looked at what you can do with the cameras and the flash," said Uys.

"If your eye is not reacting to the flash, you are impaired. It takes a picture before and it takes a picture after the flash goes off. Then it compares the size of the pupil.

"Certain drugs, such as tik or cocaine, enlarge your pupil. Others, such as heroin, make it really small."

This is a screening test. Uys's company, Medical Diagnostech, which develops medical test kits, can conduct confirmation tests by using a urine sample.

Its R4 "quick malaria test" catapulted Uys onto the international stage as a finalist in this year's Innovation Prize for Africa. He has also made it to the Forbes list of 30 Africans under the age of 30 who are "making the most dramatic impact across the continent".

Uys is developing a camera - that would use the same Oculus ID technology - for the police to conduct drug screening at roadblocks. He said it could also be used by the mining sector, which currently does breathalys er tests and random drug testing, to screen for drugs and as a clock ing system.

Uys worked with Santiware, a Cape Town product development company specialising in engineering and software development.

"We already have a demo on a phone after six weeks of part-time work. I think this is an amazing project," said Leen Remmelzwaal, a director of Santiware.

Cape Town's mayoral committee member for economic planning, Garreth Bloor, is excited about the project.

He said the technology would allow for early detection of drug addiction.

"The city welcomes these types of market-based solutions to issues of concern for families and educators," said Bloor.

According to the 2011/2012 SAPS crime statistics, there were 77069 reported cases of drug-related crimes in the Western Cape - the highest in the country.

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