Study Shows Many Aspects of People's Lives by Inspecting Smartphone Germs

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Nov 17, 2016 08:43 PM EST

There are more than 65,000 smartphone applications available today for managing diabetes as developers rush to bring new health-related services to consumer devices, says Eric Dishman, an Intel Fellow and general manager of health strategy and solutions. Intel Free Press story: Is Healthcare the Next Space Race? American healthcare system risks losing competitive edge. (Photo : Wikimedia/Intel Free Press)

Smartphones are one of the top items that are always in the hands of people or resting on the sides of their faces. Whether they are typing out something, holding their phone, answering a call or basically doing anything with it, it has to be within their reach.

And although this may be a super harmful way of handling an inanimate object which radiates harmful rays, there are advantages to this. A study has been carried out with Pieter Dorrestein, professor at the University of California authorizing it.

Pieter and his colleagues analyzed the molecules and germs which cover a smartphone's surface. Surprisingly, the team had a really good insight on the smartphone's owner and which type of life he/she is living.

Minor details such as which beauty products the individual uses or diet plans, hygiene, general health and medications were revealed after the germ inspection. Dorrestein states that this could help in many things like criminal profiling, medical clinical trials and environmental exposure studies.

Pieter went further and explained the amazing advantages of this germ inspection study:

"You can imagine a scenario where a crime scene investigator comes across a personal object -- like a phone, pen or key -- without fingerprints or DNA, or with prints or DNA not found in the database. They would have nothing to go on to determine who that belongs to."

Amina Bouslimani is the study first author and she is the assistant project scientist in this study research at Dorrestein's laboratory. She says:

"By analyzing the molecules they've left behind on their phones, we could tell if a person is likely female, uses high-end cosmetics, dyes her hair, drinks coffee, prefers beer over wine, likes spicy food, is being treated for depression, wears sunscreen and bug spray -- and therefore likely spends a lot of time outdoors -- all kinds of things,"

But as awesome as these results are, Dorrestein says that this research has its limits. Although the results of the inspection stretched over an expanse of topics, they did not exactly confirm the identity of the individual with a fixed match like a fingerprint.

The researchers continue to inspect more items like wallets and keys from around 80 people for a different branch of this study. 

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