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The University of Alabama

UA Students Develop Beneficial Smartphone Applications

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Smartphone applications are continuously and rapidly being developed. While most apps are for entertainment purposes, there is a trend of app development for functional uses. Developers are looking to apps as a way to solve everyday problems. See a need, app a need.

The University of Alabama is no exception to this trend as students and professors are working together to develop beneficial apps. A few current student app projects are primarily health related, looking to improve living functionally with conditions of blindness, obesity and diabetes.

Digital Eyes Application for Windows Phone 7

An all-female team from UA’s department of computer science is creating a smartphone application named “Digital Eyes” for the visually impaired.

The purpose of “Digital Eyes” is to help those who are visually impaired or blind navigate inside buildings. Users are able to scan tags at the entrance of buildings using their phone’s camera. This initiates an interactive experience as information about rooms and other points of interest in the building is spoken aloud. Users can even set restrictions on their navigation, such as avoiding stairs.

The team consists of computer science majors:

  • Leah Boling, a senior from Nashville, Tenn.
  • Melissa Bowman, a senior from Hoover
  • Andrea Torske, a senior from Rowlett, Texas
  • Elizabeth Williams, a junior from Huntsville

Dr. Jeff Gray, associate professor of computer science, is the faculty adviser. The team collaborated with UA’s Office of Disability Services to test the app and ensure a relevant and meaningful product.

Diet Diary Application for Android

The World Health Organization estimates that one billion adults are overweight, and this number is expected to increase significantly in the upcoming years. In an effort to promote understanding and prevention of this issue, Kyle Redding, a senior majoring in computer science from Montgomery, is developing the Diet Diary Android Application.

Redding is working with Dr. Edward Sazonov, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, to develop a mobile calorie counter. This application will provide an easy way of tracking calorie consumption based on objective monitoring of food intake through wearable sensors and self-report of food consumption.

“Smartphone development has given me an understanding of what is required for software development with the end user in mind,” said Redding. “That means functionality cannot be the only thing in a developer’s mind; I must also think about how users will interact with my software.”

Users will receive real-time feedback as a way to discourage excessive food intake. The caloric information will also be reported to researchers to benefit biomedical research.

Diabetes Self-Management Application for iPod

Diabetes is a growing problem in America. Because the disease is primarily self-managed, patient knowledge is crucial. Student Michael Robson has worked for the past four semesters with Dr. Felecia Wood, associate professor in the Capstone College of Nursing, and Dr. Julia Hartman, former director of instructional technology for eTech in the College of Arts and Sciences, to find a solution that allows patients with diabetes to better manage their condition.

Robson, a senior majoring in computer science from Spanish Fort, and Wood have partnered with Rebecca Johnson, assistant coordinator of instructional technology for eTech in the College of Arts and Sciences, and are looking to solve this problem with a diabetes self-management application.

The diabetes self-management app, targeted toward rural adults with Type 2 diabetes, is intended to provide extensive knowledge of diabetes as a tool to promote self-management. It will measure and evaluate self-management concepts. The app will also provide a dictionary, an interactive informational quiz, a fitness assessment and general health reminders.

“Our long term goal is to have the app published in the app store and be able to show that it can effectively help people with diabetes manage their condition,” said Robson. “This research is important not only because an effective tool for diabetes management is needed, but also to demonstrate that an iPod app can be an efficient way to transmit healthcare information and to help people care for themselves.”

In 1837, The University of Alabama became one of the first five universities in the nation to offer engineering classes. Today, UA’s fully accredited College of Engineering has nearly 3,100 students and more than 100 faculty. In the last eight years, students in the College have been named USA Today All-USA College Academic Team members, Goldwater scholars, Hollings scholars and Portz scholars.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.

  • CONTACT: Mary Wymer, engineering public relations, 205/348-6444, mwymer@eng.ua.edu; Lauren Musselman, engineering student writer, at 205/348-3051