An smartphone app is helping researchers track location and screen usage as independent variables in Myopia progression.

A new app called Plano helped to quantify participants’ screen time with handheld devices. Plano offers an innovative
way to track myopia screen time along with geographic location data.

Myopia is expected to affect half of the world’s population by 2050

Until now, there has not been a way to track myopia progression independent of genetic and environmental.

Myopia can worsen due to the prolonged and/or frequent use of screens coupled with a decreased amount of time spent outdoors, but there has not been an easy and cost-effective way of tracking incidence and severity data over time by geographic region and age.

Mohamed Dirani, Ph.D., and colleagues have developed a digital data capture method, the Plano app, that can be installed on hand-held devices (i.e., phones and tablets). Parents of the children provided self-reported data regarding socioeconomic status, myopia status, and spectacle prescription, and the app captures real-time data on device usage behavior. This helps determine the incidence of myopia, as well as behavioral patterns that might affect myopia severity over time. More than 21,000 children aged 2 to 16 years from Singapore, India, and Malaysia were included in the study. Rates of myopia were notably high among Singaporean children and increased significantly with age.

“One of the strategic objectives of Plano is to innovate the way we collect, store and secure global data on eye health to enable big-data analytics and use of artificial intelligence in the management of myopia in children worldwide,” said Dirani. “As advanced technologic platforms, such as Plano, become available, eye researchers and clinicians must take advantage of these innovative tools that can be used to conduct research, deliver health care, and inform health policy in more scalable, efficient and affordable ways.” According to Dirani, Plano is expected to be available worldwide by 2020.