Hands-on with the Star Trek tricorder

09-Sep / 0 COMMENTS

12Rockets, PSTech’s in-house mobile design and development studio, builds mobile apps for high caliber startups from Silicon Valley and beyond. One of their most recent projects involved developing the mobile app for Scanadu’s entry for the Tricorder XPRIZE. If the name Tricorder sounds familiar to you, that’s because the competition is to build a real-life, fully functional version of the medical device made famous by the TV show Star Trek at a price point (they’re aiming for the $200 range) that’s accessible to the average household.
We sat down with Andrija Milovanovic and Stevan Kovacevic of 12Rockets to find out all about what working on the project was like.


Q: Could you briefly describe Scanadu’s XPRIZE entry?
SK: Scanadu’s XPRIZE entry is a universal medical diagnosis application, able to connect to various devices and create a medical report based on the recorded symptoms and data gathered by the device. The goal of the competition is to create a real life medical Tricorder, similar to the one in the Star Trek universe.
Q: How was 12Rockets involved?
SK: 12Rockets was responsible for the development of the Android application including implementing the proposed design, running the symptom evaluation algorithm, connecting to the necessary medical devices and uploading all diagnostics data to the server. Additionally, 12Rockets was responsible for very elaborate testing in order to ensure we were delivering the best possible product.
AM: We developed an Android application that received information from the various medical devices provided by Scanadu and their partner Intelesens over BLE. The application is then responsible for processing the data, visualizing the data, storing the data in the database and then uploading it to the cloud.
Q: What was the most interesting aspect of the project?
SK: The most interesting part was the project itself because it really felt like we were revolutionizing existing medical exam practices. Our impression was that we were responsible for something that can completely change the way we take care of ourselves and our families. That was what we all signed up for when we chose this profession – to use technological advances to improve the world we live in.
AM: From a technology standpoint, the most interesting and also one of the most difficult aspects of the project was handling the connection with all of the devices and the related issues with the reliability of BLE connections given that one of the project requirements is constant data logging and processing. We knew that the competition would take place in a hostile Bluetooth environment as all of our competitors would also be using Bluetooth devices, but we didn’t know how the end user would behave – would they use their phone constantly, would they use it while walking around, etc. For me, this challenge was what made the project interesting.
Q: What was the most difficult part of the project and, if relevant, how was it overcame?
SK: The most difficult part of the project was having one of the tightest and most dynamic project schedules we have experienced thus far. The project specification itself changed quite a few times during the development process making it difficult to maintain focus on the goal itself. We solved the problem by giving our 120%, a lot of sleepless nights and constantly thinking about the greater good.
AM: On the day we needed to submit the application to the competition, the last day we could change anything, the requirements were changed and we basically had one hour to implement a feature – not fix a bug, but implement a feature! We all know that software development projects are often vague and not communicated very well especially when working with startups, but this was a special scenario. I think Stevan still has nightmares about it.
Q: What have you learned from working on the Scanadu app?
SK: We’ve learned that the future is just around the corner and almost everything we’ve watched and read in science fiction movies and books is far from impossible. Stuff we thought was just a product of someone’s vivid imagination might be in the making as we speak. All you need is a couple of hard working technology enthusiasts motivated to change the world.

For more from 12Rockets on their projects and anything else related to mobile, check out their blog, the 12Rockets Journal.