iPhone 2.0 to Power Medical Applications

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Apple has introduced a new version of the iPhone that can now access high-speed 3G wireless data networks, and has built-in GPS.

If you thought Apple's iPhone was just for playing music, browsing the Web, and sending text messages, you might be missing out. Starting in early July, the iPhone will be capable of running applications developed by medical-minded companies such as Modality and MIMvista.

Just to separate out the news a bit, there were two major announcements made by Apple this week at its WordWide Developer's Conference in San Francisco. The first concerns hardware, the second concerns software.

First, the hardware. Apple introduced a new version of the iPhone that has two new features compared to the original: It can now access high-speed 3G wireless data networks, and has built-in GPS. By adding a 3G radio, this means the iPhone can browse the Web much faster than it used to. It will rely on AT&T's speedier high-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA) network for data transactions and will also be able to roam on these faster networks if you take the new iPhone to Europe, South America, or Australia for your summer vacation. GPS will give the new iPhone access to a wide range of location-based services, such as point-to-point mapping with turn-by-turn directions.

The more important news, however, really concerns the software. The new iPhone will come with firmware version 2.0 (existing iPhone owners will be able to upgrade to firmware version 2.0 for free beginning in early July). This new firmware will open up the iPhone to literally thousands of applications from third-party developers. The applications will be available from the iPhone Application Store, which will also launch in July. It will work similar to Apple's iTunes software did with the iPod, but instead of downloading songs, iPhone users will be able to download applications. Some will be free, others will cost money.

As part of Apple CEO Steve Jobs' keynote address, he detailed a wide range of applications that will work on the iPhone, including an eBay app, games, and two medical applications. One of the medical applications was from Modality. The Modality application is for medical students and lets them view body parts and see where everything is. It is a nice, interactive tool that could serve better than studying diagrams in a textbook. The second medical application was from MIMvista, and allows doctors to view and interact with CT scans and PET scans. Doctors can rotate the images and view them from various angles. Using the iPhone's multi-touch tenchology, doctors can pinch and double tap to manipulate what they see on the screen. There's even on-screen measurement lines you can draw to see, say, how big a tumor is. It disappears when you shake the phone (using its internal accelerometer).

Applications such as these are just the tip of the iceberg. Now that the platform has been widely demonstrated and the application store--a place for end users to buy apps--is near to being a reality, developers will port their existing applications to the iPhone in greater numbers. This will only enhance the device's power in the medical setting and beyond.

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