PADs: a platform for crowdsourced chemical analysis
Some development problems, like the flood of counterfeit drugs washing over SE Asia and Africa, are nearly invisible. Human senses cannot detect the chemicals in a drug tablet, and the analytical instruments and trained personnel that can, are just not available. Crowdsourcing could solve this problem. We are developing a platform technology to enable ordinary people to carry out sophisticated chemical analysis with a camera-enabled cell phone. Tests are conducted on paper analytical devices (PADs) that contain all necessary reagents, do not require power, and can be read by taking a picture with the cell phone and sending it to a web site. Image analysis software evaluates the test outcome for the user and simultaneously builds a spatial and temporal database of results. The test results directly benefit the immediate users and also provide detailed, up to date feedback for policy makers attempting to deal with counterfeit drugs, environmental contaminants, agricultural soil and water quality, and drinking water purity. Advantages for dissemination include rapid test development and deployment, scalability, and leapfrogging over conventional bottlenecks in chemical analysis.