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Innovative use of cell phones saves lives

Published:Wednesday | April 11, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Getting AIDS test results from labs to remote villages once took weeks in Mozambique, with the information sent by courier along the impoverished country's terrible roads. The delay could mean death.

Now, communications engineers have adapted office printers and cell-phone technology to wirelessly and immediately relay test results. Britain's Sequoia Technology Group and Telit Wireless said yesterday the printers are being rolled out elsewhere in Africa after initial success in Mozambique, where the project has been running for a year.

Phillip Collins of Telit said in an interview that his company's technology is more often used for monitoring electricity meters than saving lives. It took on the printer project at the Clinton Found-ation's request.

Tim Clayton of Sequoia said he has visited Mozambican clinics where printers have been installed, and learned about the push to ensure AIDS does not kill children.

"It's pretty significant impact when you see it first-hand," Clayton said in an interview.

It's another innovative use of cell-phone technology, which Collins called the "single most common means of long-range technology being used today" around the world. In Africa, cell-phone technology is used to transfer money from customer to vendor, and wildlife researchers have put no-frills cell phones in weatherproof cases on collars around elephants' necks to track the animals' movements.