A new electronic tag could soon help fight the spread of TB across South Africa

A new electronic tag, pioneered in South Africa, could help to track the spread of TB across the country and could ultimately be used to combat the disease.

A new electronic tag, developed at IBM’s Research Lab at the Wits Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct, could go a long way to tracking and ultimately combating the spread of TB (tuberculosis) across South Africa.
Developed by IMB engineer Toby Kurien and researcher Darlington Mapiye, Fin24 reports that the electronic tag – a tracking device – will keep record of when an individual who has the disease comes into contact with an uninfected person.
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The tag, which is still in its research phase, will soon enter a trial stage in Johannesburg which will be followed by further testing at another of IBM’s research labs in Kenya.
Fin24 reports that the tag uploads information to IBM’s supercomputer, Watson, which makes use of a cloud service through more than 50 APIs.
Kurien offered that the tag is designed to track infection, rather than patients themselves. The electronic tag doesn’t include a GPS or recording mechanism, and can only track proximity with other similar devices.
“œWe had to look at what we could do to collect data about patients and how we can track infection… The solution was to create a cheap sensor that could track when someone who has the disease comes into contact with a person who is not infected,” Kurien stated.
Mapiye offered that the device could help researchers and medical practitioners understand how the disease spreads and – ultimately – could help establish methods to limit its virility.
“œWith the kind of data that is collected by the tags we are able to optimise what strategies are put in place and better understand how people come into contact with one another to contract the disease.
Speaking on the potential stigma of wearing such a device, Mapiye stated that “œWe are doing research into different areas and what people are already wearing. We are trying to make the device as invisible as possible by turning them into bracelets or watches”. 
The tag would be distributed among both infected and uninfected persons on a voluntary basis.
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What are your thoughts on Kurien and Mapiye’s electronic tag? How else could we track and research the spread of TB in South Africa? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Follow Bryan Smith on Twitter: @bryansmithSA
Source: Fin24