The Future of Eye Exams

In recent years, a series of portable medical devices has been revolutionizing healthcare and medical treatments in rural, developing countries. The latest innovation that’s generating buzz? Your smartphone.

A team of doctors from London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital have developed a solution to help crack down on eye disease in rural areas of countries like Kenya. Through a simple smartphone app and low-cost adaptor, Peek enables professional eye examinations to be conducted anywhere in the world.

According to Peek’s creator, Dr. Andrew Bastawrous, 39 million people are blind, but 80 percent of this blindness could be avoided if people in rural regions had access to proper eye care. It’s often easy to treat with something as simple as a pair of glasses or cataract surgery, but too often afflicted people are beyond the reach of a basic eye exam.

The Peek system is as easy as taking a photo – the adaptor slips neatly over the built-in camera on a smartphone, and when used with the Peek app, can perform a series of eye exams with the click of a button. This eliminates the need to lug around traditional ophthalmoscopes and other pieces of bulky equipment that also require a stable power supply – something hard to come by in the developing world.

Eye Exam


Through these high-quality images that are comparable to pictures taken with traditional equipment, eye examiners can view cataracts closely enough to detect signs of glaucoma, macular degeneration and signs of nerve disease.

As researchers continue to develop low-cost, innovative medical tools like this, it is important to think about durability and functionality of the materials used in the device itself. When testing eyes, a clear, scratch-free lens is necessary to ensure the accuracy of the diagnosis. Additionally, these devices will be used in rural locations where the chance of scratching or breaking a lens is high.

Many smartphone manufacturers have already made the switch to sapphire camera lenses in order to improve durability and performance. These lenses are virtually scratch-resistant and will not show wear and tear the same way a traditional glass lenses will.

In fact, sapphire is already being widely used in the medical field, specifically in surgical tools, implants and in a variety of windows for medical equipment such as endoscopes and laser windows. We truly believe that sapphire could play a large role in the success of these eye exams and would encourage doctors planning to utilize a tool like this to consider what their camera lens is made of.

The LED Revolution: Bringing Light to a Country Near You

Nowadays, LEDs are ubiquitous. Whether we’re talking about a football stadium, a street light, or nightlight, LEDs are used virtually anywhere lighting is needed.

What most people don’t know is that LEDs are also at the forefront of an “illumination revolution” in developing countries throughout the world.

While we live in a technologically driven society, we may not realize that access to safe and reliable electricity remains one of the key challengers plaguing more than 1.5 billion people in developing countries around the world.

Where do LEDs fit in?

According to International Finance Corporation, 2.1 million LED-solar products have been sold in countries that lack access to electrical grids.

In Africa — A growing portion of the more than 1 billion people living without reliable sources of electricity now have access to lights, thanks in part to LED technology. Nearly 5 percent of Africans without access to electricity — or some 28.5 million people — now use solar-powered LED lights.


A women in Senegal charges her cellphone using a port in her solar-powered LED lantern.

In IndiaPollinate Energy has one simple mission: improve the lives of India’s urban poor by providing access to sustainable technologies, including solar lights and improved stoves for cooking.

With the help of LEDs and kerosene-free cooking equipment, local Indian communities can save money, experience reduced indoor smoke and enjoy better lights in homes and businesses.

Pollinate has already helped more than 25,000 people in Bangalore switch to solar LED lighting in their homes.

So how are LEDs changing the equation?

Eight to 10 years ago, the high cost of LEDs made them unrealistic for use in applications like this. But the efficiency of LEDs is rising, and prices are dropping, finally allowing LEDs to become a viable option.

The shift is taking place thanks to sapphire — the foundation for more than 95 percent of high brightness white LEDs. Large diameter sapphire wafers and patterned sapphire substrates contribute to greater efficiency and lower costs for LED lighting.