Ambulances save lives, unless they're stuck in city traffic unable to get through. But that's where the

plays its part. In Israel the United Hatzalah and its thousands of local volunteer emergency medical technicians can deploy instantly on their motorcycles to help stabilise patients until the ambulance can arrive.

The bikes are equipped with an on-board trauma kit, oxygen canister, defibrillator, and other supplies. The medics themselves have a smartphone equipped with GPS so they receive notifications of emergencies and can respond quickly. Their average response time is 3 minutes. That's an all round smart response.


SAFETY IN NUMBERS: Vaccines have played a huge role around the world in preventing disease and saving lives. But vaccines are generally liquid and have to be carefully cooled, stored and transported, which may be a significant problem in many developing countries. What's more, keeping needles clean and safe is also a challenge. Australian researchers have developed a skin patch that delivers dry vaccine to a layer just beneath the skin, rather than into the muscle as current vaccines are. Rather than using a single large needle, thousands of tiny projections in the patch release the vaccine just below the skin.

And the take up and response in that part of the body are so good that only one hundredth of the traditional dose is required. You may feel a thousand small stings.

VEIN HOPE: If you need an intravenous drip a nurse must find a vein to insert it into, and that's not always simple. The Eyes-On Glasses System makes veins easy to see. The smart glasses use near-infrared light to highlight deoxygenated hemoglobin in a patient's veins.

Stereoscopic cameras project images of the veins onto the see-through glass screens, can record videos and stills, and send data via Bluetooth, WiFi or 3G. The glasses include dual built-in speakers for video conferencing, and run off a belt-mounted power supply and computer. That sounds like a must-have for any hospital.

LISTEN TO THE VOICES: Put some headphones on and hear a male voice saying No in one ear and a female voice saying Yes in the other. Now focus on just one voice. Your brain produces a distinct electrical brainwave pattern when you pay attention like that. US scientists hope they can use that distinctive pattern to allow locked-in people to communicate with the outside world. Tests with both healthy volunteers and people with advanced Lou Gehrig's disease suggested an accuracy of around 76%. A system like this could be used in conjunction with eye movements to help communication. Any additional techniques must be so helpful.

PHONES IN SIGHT: Peek turns a smartphone into a portable eye testing machine. Around the world millions of people are blind who needn't be:
their blindness is easily avoidable. But costly equipment and trained personnel are hard to come by in many places. With PEEK a healthcare worker can walk or ride a bike to even remote locations with all the gear in a solar powered backpack. The eye exam is recorded on the phone, including photos of the retina. That data can be sent to experts anywhere in the world, while a map shows locations of all those needing treatment, so a co-ordinated plan can be developed. The phone can then guide workers to individual patients to take them to a clinic for treatment. Vision is a great gift.

STEADY NOW: People whose hands shake, perhaps because of Parkinson's, may have trouble keeping food on a spoon. The Liftware Spoon uses active cancellation smarts to stabilise things. Sensors embedded in the spoon detect motion and distinguish between unintended tremors and intentional movements such as lifting the spoon to the mouth. Motors in the handle move the spoon and cancel tremor both horizontally and vertically. No more cornflakes on the floor.

Tech Universe is taking some time off over the summer. Thanks for reading and we'll see you in January 2014.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz