Research Picks Extra – February 2016

Better breast ultrasound

Medical ultrasound scanning of breast tissue can reveal cysts and other unwanted masses in the breast. And, the technique is becoming more prominent in diagnostics. However, ultrasound image suffer from noise which lowers the quality of scan images. Researchers in India have identified the optimal approach to reducing “speckles” in ultrasound images that could improve diagnostics and reduce false positives. The approach they have found avoids the over-smoothening and loss of edges and sharp detail that affects most noise-reduction techniques. The selected technique, a frequency domain filtering technique that uses a wavelet filter with first level decomposition and eliminated HH band [Wav(HH/1)] was optimal for speckle noise reduction in 37 sample breast ultrasound images. The technique was corroborated by expert examination of the images and thus suggests this filtering technique might be useful as part of a semi-automated mass screening of ultrasound images.

Singh, B.K., Verma, K. and Thoke, A.S. (2016) ‘Investigations on edge preservation and smoothening of frequency domain filters for speckle removal in breast ultrasound images’, Int. J. Biomedical Engineering and Technology, Vol. 20, No. 2, pp.97–115.


Hybrid textbooks

The electronic or digital era has ushered in many alternatives to printed books. However, it is unlikely to replace them entirely any time soon. Instead, researchers in Japan suggest, in the contemporary learning environment where tablet computers and other mobile devices are common, there may emerge a hybrid system. One such system might be the paper-top interface (PTI) note-taking system developed by the team. The PTI is a fusion of digital textbooks and traditional learning tools. The PTI system projects a digital textbook onto a paper notebook using a pico projector and enables students to annotate the textbook using a pencil and an eraser, the team reports. The approach compares well with traditional note-taking, the team has found, moreover, the new interactions it offers seems to increase learning motivation and effectiveness.

Mitsuhara, H. and Shishibori, M. (2015) ‘Hybrid textbook: fusion of digital textbooks and traditional learning tools’, Int. J. Intelligent Systems Technologies and Applications, Vol. 14, Nos. 3/4, pp.237–255.


Wiring up Africa’s wireless sensors

Wireless sensor networks (WSN) are becoming ubiquitous across industry and academia, allowing unobtrusive, low-power, remote access to data from a range of environments and phenomena across the globe, such as weather, pollution, water levels and much more. However, in certain parts of the world, particularly the developing world, there is in urgent need to connect WSNs more effectively to their remote controllers and monitoring stations. Researchers from South Africa have developed a cost-effective gateway based on an ARM9 microprocessor to link a WSN to the internet through the cell phone network or an Ethernet connection. The technology runs on a bespoke application written in Visual C# executed by Windows Embedded CE. Preliminary trials show that, “The gateway may be configured remotely and provides the WSN with persistent data storage and frequent data uploads to a file server via the internet.”

de Villiers, G., van der Byl, A. and Wilkinson, R.H. (2016) ‘Developing a WSN internet gateway for an African context’, Int. J. Sensor Networks, Vol. 20, No. 1, pp.1–8.


Southern traders

The dynamism of emerging economies and many developing countries in recent years has sparked a shift in economic power from west to east and north to south, report economists from India. Indeed, the “rise of the South” has become a stimulus for expanding South-South economic links, most notably in trade, but also in foreign direct investment (FDI), aid and remittances. Increasing trade between India and Africa is one such example. In 1990, trade amounted to the equivalent of about US$1billion. By 2014 that figure was almost US$30 billion. “India’s engagement is likely to contribute to economic growth in Africa. It gives African countries access to new capital for investment, cheap imports, new export markets and contributes to price increases on raw materials exported by African countries,” the researchers conclude.

Vadra, R. (2016) ‘Creeping tiger: India’s presence in Africa’, African J. Economic and Sustainable Development, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp.55–65.

Author: David Bradley

Award-winning, freelance science writer based in Cambridge, England.