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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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Usage of Smartphones for Eye Check-up May Lead to Misdiagnosis

However, when the images were calibrated, the differences between lighting levels and camera types were significantly minimalised - with differences between smartphones reduced by approximately 30 per cent

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Using smartphones to capture photographs of patients’ eyes for check-up may lead to misdiagnosis as camera colour sensors vary and as a result, images of the same eye may appear different depending on the model of smartphone used, warn researchers.

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, suggests that calibration of phone cameras is vital to capture accurate data.

Eye examinations to look for redness in the eye can indicate a variety of conditions including conjunctivitis, dry-eye disease and tear-gland dysfunction.

Clinicians increasingly use smartphones in conjunction with ophthalmic imaging equipment, such as the eyepiece of a slit lamp, because of their portability, ease of use and relatively low cost.

The connectivity also allows for upload to the Cloud, which is useful for telemedicine – the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients using telecommunications technology – and Artificial Intelligence applications that store thousands of images from different institutions.

However, the autofocus algorithms and hardware specifications of cameras may be different for different manufacturers which means different cameras can produce different results for the same scene.

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“It is important that clinicians bear this in mind,” said lead study author Carles Otero from Anglia Ruskin University in England.

For the study, the researchers took 192 images of eyes using three smartphone cameras, two different lighting levels and two zoom levels.

The images were duplicated and one set was white balanced and colour corrected (calibrated) and the other left unaltered.

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The researchers took photographs in autofocus mode with the iPhone 6s, the Google Nexus 6p and the Bq Aquaris U Lite, and found that the iPhone results were significantly different from the other two devices, when computing relative redness of each eye, and when compared to a clinician’s diagnosis.

However, when the images were calibrated, the differences between lighting levels and camera types were significantly minimalised – with differences between smartphones reduced by approximately 30 per cent.

“Our results show that while the clinician’s subjective evaluation was not affected by different cameras, lighting conditions or optical magnifications, calibration of a smartphone’s camera is essential when extracting objective data from images,” Otero said. (IANS)