Don’t get me wrong, I get just as excited as the next person when it comes to cool connected cars or gaming devices, but I must say what truly gets me excited about M2M is when examples come out about its role in potentially saving lives.

Case in point: Syed Hashsham, a professor at Michigan State University who has invented a device that can do some early identification of diseases that attack crops and plants. Called the Gene-Z device, his performs genetic analysis of plants using typical smartphone technology. This might seem trivial to some, but think about the millions of dollars lost each year due to crop damage that if only had some early detection could have been saved.

What’s great too about such an invention is just how it streamlines the process. Here is how I understand the process of identifying plant pathogens typically works: people collect field samples, send them to a laboratory, and then play the waiting game, anticipating results. Now, using the Gene-Z device, researchers can take a swab for pathogens and transfer the sample to a chip that can be inserted into the device.

In a demonstration earlier this month, Hashsham demonstrated how this can be accomplished using an iPod Touch or Android-based tablet to identify the pathogen, its genotype, all in the matter of minutes.

During the demonstration, MSU researchers showed the effectiveness of Gene-Z by using it to detect a new disease that has been ravaging cucumber crops in the United States. That type of early detection could have ripple effects across the food industry.

Now are ready to be truly excited? Hashsham says they have already successfully proven Gene-Z’s capacity for quantifying cancer markers, and that this application can help speed the analysis of pathogens in plants, water, and food. Just think of the lives something like this would save.

The professor adds that Gene-Z is ready to be manufactured and that his team is working with MSU Technologies to bring the product to market. To that I say, this product cannot come to market soon enough!

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