How Novarum DX Builds Mobile Laboratories with Xamarin

Novarum DX builds diagnostic tests to detect diseases, such as HIV and Ebola, and hazards, such as infected water supplies. The company wanted to be able to put its image processing technology in the hands of those who need it the most, the frontline medical responders. If they could transform field workers’ smartphone cameras into medical devices, it would allow even non-medical staff to quickly test for infection and contamination. Novarum DX used the Xamarin platform to leverage their image processing technology alongside that of a smartphone camera. The result is mobile reader apps that turn mobile phones into handheld laboratories, empowering them to easily determine test results. It turned out that the life-saving technology was in our pockets all along, Novarum DX just needed the ability to transform it. 

What was Novarum DX Trying to Achieve?

Lateral flow tests are no new thing; they indicate the presence of substances in a fluid by showing lines on a testing strip. The most commonly known example is that of an at-home pregnancy test. However, the more complicated the test in question, the more difficult it is to accurately read the results. And, not only are the more advanced tests challenging to read, doing so can be incredibly time-consuming. 

Novarum DX was set up to find a way to simplify the process of reading lateral smart tests. The tests have a huge range of applications, from detecting dangerous chemicals in water supplies to diagnosing Ebola. While many of the tests were compact, portable and provided rapid results, time and accuracy was often lost at the point of interpretation. For more complex tests, results need to be defined with laboratory expertise.

Novarum DX wanted to change how these tests were interpreted, unlocking their full potential to provide rapid results at the point of care. The idea was to combine result interpretation with in-built smartphone cameras, something most of us have in our pockets. But, unlike the competition, they wanted to be able to achieve it without the need for any additional hardware. If they could deliver, they would be able to connect patients, doctors, field workers and lab researchers to specialist practices across the globe. 

Why the Solution Had to be Native

Novarum DX knew that they needed a cross-platform solution for their diagnostic apps to work, and they also wanted to reduce the amount of time developing the user interface. However, when reviewing the different platforms available, they soon realised that the most important thing of all was for the reader apps to have native access to the camera and native computing performance. With some of the other solutions they considered, there wasn’t enough powerful access to the device hardware or native performance. Xamarin, on the other hand, delivered the native performance that Novarum DX needed to drive the image processing technology. 

Xamarin was the obvious choice for the creation of the Novarum Reader, it streamlined the development process and ensured the native result the company needed. Instead of needing two separate teams to develop for iOS and Android, the company was able to reuse around 80 per cent of code between platforms. The key to the Novarum Reader is combining the native camera technology with image processing techniques. The result is apps that can accurately give readings, be it pass or fail results or quantitative outputs, simply by using a smartphone camera, delivering high-performance for any user and all with very little training. 

The Benefits of Developing the Novarum Reader with Xamarin

Until the development of the Novarum Reader, medical device development was anything but fast. Novarum DX’s initial apps took years to produce with technical barriers slowing down progress as well as the challenges of meeting regulatory requirements and getting FDA market clearance. Xamarin has made a huge difference to the development timeline, meaning that customers can have the life-saving technology they need in their hands sooner. 

The key benefits of developing the Novarum Reader with Xamarin include:

  • Faster – development time was reduced from over two years to just six weeks.

  • Native – the apps are native on each platform, enabling them to manage high fidelity image processing and deliver accurate results.

  • Digital – there is no longer a need for results to be mailed to labs or to wait for new supplies. 

  • Reusable – around 80% of the code that is used in the reader can be reused cross-platform. 

From starting the company with just two employees in 2016, the company quickly grew to have eleven team members, including five mobile developers. Their customers want their apps to run on Android, iOS and Windows Phone, and the Xamarin tools allow them to achieve this without slowing down development or sacrificing functionality. Since developing mobile reader apps with Xamarin, the company has taken on tens of projects from medical device companies. The platform approach that Xamarin offers enables them to speed up development and deliver results faster. 

Could Novarum Help Your Business?

Novarum DX used Xamarin to make their concept possible. They are able to produce apps that enable field workers to easily read the results of lateral flow tests with accuracy. The Ebola app that they have  worked on, for example, makes a huge difference, ensuring doctors and nurses can make the right call every time at the point of care. And with the data collected, resources can be deployed, and the global response to the disease can be improved. 

If your business needs to provide quantitative data cross-platform, put power in the hands of users across different teams, offices or countries, and increase its market share, then Xamarin can help. We all have hugely powerful machines sitting in our pockets, but to benefit your business needs to unlock that power. By creating apps with Xamarin, you can do just that.

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About the author

Drew Alexander is the Co-CEO of Xam Consulting.

Design-led problem solving delivering digital solutions.

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