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Portuguese Tech Firm Uncorks a Smartphone Made Using Cork

Portugal is the world’s largest cork producer and the phone also marks the latest effort to diversify its use beyond wine bottle stoppers

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Tito Cardoso, CEO of Ikimobile, stands inside the Ikimobile factory in Coruche, Portugal, June 21, 2018.
Tito Cardoso, CEO of Ikimobile, stands inside the Ikimobile factory in Coruche, Portugal, June 21, 2018. (VOA)

A Portuguese tech firm is uncorking an Android smartphone whose case is made from cork, a natural and renewable material native to the Iberian country.

The Ikimobile phone is one of the first to use materials other than plastic, metal and glass and represents a boost for the country’s technology sector, which has made strides in software development but less in hardware manufacturing.

A Made in Portugal version of the phone is set to launch this year as Ikimobile completes a plant to transfer most of its production from China.

“Ikimobile wants to put Portugal on the path to the future and technologies by emphasizing this Portuguese product,” chief executive Tito Cardoso told Reuters at Ikimobile’s plant in the cork-growing area of Coruche, 80 km (50 miles) west of Lisbon.

“We believe the product offers something different, something that people can feel good about using,” he said. Cork is harvested only every nine years without hurting the oak trees and is fully recyclable.

Portugal is the world’s largest cork producer and the phone also marks the latest effort to diversify its use beyond wine bottle stoppers.

A technician shows a piece of cork used for a smartphone produced at the Ikimobile factory in Coruche, Portugal, June 21, 2018.
A technician shows a piece of cork used for a smartphone produced at the Ikimobile factory in Coruche, Portugal, June 21, 2018. (VOA)

Portuguese cork exports have lately regained their peaks of 15 years ago as cork stoppers clawed back market share from plastic and metal. Portugal also exports other cork products such as flooring, clothing and wind turbine blades.

A layer of cork covers the phone’s back providing thermal, acoustic and anti-shock insulation. The cork comes in colors ranging from black to light brown and has certified antibacterial properties and protects against battery radiation.

Cardoso said Ikimobile is working with north Portugal’s Minho University to make the phone even “greener” and hopes to replace a plastic body base with natural materials soon.The material, agglomerated using only natural resins, required years of research and testing for the use in phones.

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The plant should churn out 1.2 million phones a year — a drop in the ocean compared to last year’s worldwide smartphone market shipments of almost 1.5 billion.

Most cell phones are produced in Asia but local manufacture helps take advantage of the availability of cork and the “Made in Portugal” brand appeals to consumers in Europe, Angola, Brazil and Canada, Cardoso said.

In 2017, it sold 400,000 phones assembled in China in 2017, including simple feature phones. It hopes to surpass that amount with local production this year. Top-of-the-line cork models, costing 160-360 euros ($187-$420), make up 40 percent of sales.(VOA)

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UN: Geneva Can Improve the Health of Citizens Using Digital Technology

Chief WHO scientist Soumya Swaminathan said increased availability and use of digital technology offers new opportunities to improve people's health

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health, citizens, digital technology
FILE - A doctor uses a smartphone to take a photo of a child with facial deformity before surgery at the Vietnam Cuba hospital in Hanoi, Vietnam. VOA

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued its first guidelines on digital health intervention.

The U.N. agency said governments can improve the health of their citizens by using digital technology to make health systems more efficient and responsive to their patients. The United Nations said 51 percent of the world’s population has access to broadband internet service.

Chief WHO scientist Soumya Swaminathan said increased availability and use of digital technology offers new opportunities to improve people’s health.

health
Chief WHO scientist Soumya Swaminathan said increased availability and use of digital technology offers new opportunities to improve people’s health. Pixabay

She told VOA the technology enables people, even in the remotest settings, to leapfrog into the development of a more effective, inclusive health system. With the use of mobile phones, computers and laptops, she said it is possible to bypass the intervening stages many countries have had to go through.

“So, a health worker in Congo can directly start using a mobile phone if the government is able to provide one to the health worker and get away from filling 30 paper registers, which occupy about one-third of front-line health workers time,” she added.

New recommendations

The new guidelines include 10 recommendations on how governments can use digital technology for maximum impact on their health systems.

health
The new guidelines include 10 recommendations on how governments can use digital technology for maximum impact on their health systems. Pixabay

A WHO scientist specializing in digital innovations and research, Garrett Mehl, said the recommendations deal with issues such as birth notification.

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“Knowing that a baby has been born is critical to knowing how to provide vaccinations; knowing that the mother needs different post-natal care visits,” he said. “But without knowing that there was a birth that has happened, it is difficult to trigger those events in the health system.”

The guidelines also address privacy concerns.They have recommendations for ensuring that sensitive data, such as issues of sexual and reproductive health, are protected and not put at risk. (VOA)