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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 51-54

Innovative mobile application to identify narcotic and controlled pills in Saudi Arabia

1 College of Clinical Pharmacy, King Faisal University, Alhasa, Saudi Arabia
2 Department of Clinical Pharmacy, Faculty of Pharmacy, Northern Border University, Rafha, Saudi Arabia

Date of Web Publication23-Jun-2017

Correspondence Address:
Abdulkhaliq J Alsalman
Department of Clinical Pharmacy, Faculty of Pharmacy, Northern Border University, P. O. Box 840, Rafha 91911
Saudi Arabia
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2543-1854.208926

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Background: With the rapid increase of smartphone usage worldwide for health care and fitness, developing applications for identify different types of medicines are deemed necessary. Pills are difficult to be identified, especially if they are without their package or prescription. Objective: The objectives of the study were to design and develop a mobile application for identifying unrecognized narcotic and controlled pills. Methods: For initial designing, we used the drawing features in Microsoft Office software. For development, we began developing an innovative, novel iOS and Android application. To accomplish this stage, the application features an array of possible identification characteristics. This application has been developed by image processor using compatible application; as the application has been loaded with all the opioid pills pictures that are available in Saudi Arabia along with their details to identify these pills. Results: We successfully developed a new and innovative mobile application to identify narcotic and controlled pills called “controlled and narcotic pill identifier (CNPI)”. With this newly CNPI application, the target user is able to identify the pills simply by taking pictures of medication pills from both sides and/or answering a couple of questions about the pills such as shape, color, and imprint. The initial testing proved feasibility, acceptability, and practicability of the application. Conclusion: To our knowledge, this is the first mobile application developed for rapidly identifying the narcotic and controlled pills in different settings which is useful for clinicians and patients, as well as government officials.

Keywords: Application, controlled medications, identifier, narcotics, pills

How to cite this article:
Almusalami E, Alsalman AJ. Innovative mobile application to identify narcotic and controlled pills in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Crit Care J 2017;1:51-4

How to cite this URL:
Almusalami E, Alsalman AJ. Innovative mobile application to identify narcotic and controlled pills in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Crit Care J [serial online] 2017 [cited 2021 Feb 27];1:51-4. Available from: https://www.sccj-sa.org/text.asp?2017/1/1/51/208926

  Introduction Top

According to industry estimates, 500 million smartphone users worldwide had used a health-care application by 2015, and by 2018, 50% of the more than 3.4 billion smartphone and tablet users will have downloaded mobile health applications (http://www.research2guidance.com/500m-people-will-be-using-healthcare-mobile-applications-in-2015/).[1],[2] With the rapid increase of smartphone usage worldwide for health care, developing a mobile application for identifying different types of medications are deemed necessary.[3],[4],[5],[6],[7],[8] Pills are difficult to be identified, especially if they are without package. Different work areas may need device or application to quickly identify unrecognized pills, especially narcotic and controlled pills.[9],[10] Our objectives were to design and develop a mobile application, controlled and narcotic pill identifier (CNPI) for identifying unrecognized narcotic and controlled pills. We hypothesized the following: (1) CNPI technology system data developed are complete and accurate; (2) the result for using manual method is consistent with the result for using taking picture method; (3) CNPI technology system data are successfully transmitted across the web with encryption and privacy.

  Methods Top

We used multiphase mixed methods for the application. There were two phases, and for each phase, there was a particular result. Specifically, our process of developing our new application went through various stages of research to ensure adequate and accurate information related to application content or structure. We chose to have a multiphase mixed method design because it is the best design to address the aims for multiple phases (two) all using mixed methods:

  1. First phase was the initial designing; we used the drawing features in Microsoft Office software (Microsoft Word) to draw the preliminary design for the application
  2. Second phase was the actual development of CNBI mobile application, we began developing an innovative and novel application that is compatible in many different systems for identifying unrecognized narcotic and controlled pills. In the development phase, there were three stages involved until completely finished with the application.

  Results Top

The result for the first phase was designing the initial platform for the CNPI using the drawing features in Microsoft Office software [Figure 1].
Figure 1: Final design for CNPI application

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The result for the second phase was developing CNPI phone technology. This phase involved three stages as the following:

Stage 1

It involved three subsystems connected to each other.

Application was connected to the web service that was connected to the stored database; pictures, colors, shapes, written imprints, and names of the pills. Interaction occurs between application and web services to get the data. Database was built with Microsoft SQL server builder through database management website. Database management website (ASP.NET) was used to fill the database with the information and for the purpose of having the option of adding, deleting, and modifying through this management website. For security reason, we did not connect the application directly to the database.

Stage 2

It involved using platform environment.

This stage involved writing and constructing the application using cross-platform environment Xamarin, in which one can build one program and application will be published and compatible in five different technology systems; iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Windows 8.1, and Universal Windows application.

Stage 3

It involved performing two methods to be used for searching.

Manual entry

Users can search for the pill's name by choosing the shape, color, and typing the imprints written in the pill manually.

Taking pictures

Application processes the picture taken by camera through OpenCV library. By taking the pictures, the library will search and compare the taken pictures for the pill with already stored pictures template in database to find the matched picture and name.

  Discussion Top

In this paper, we presented the design and development process of the CNPI mobile application. With the CNPI mobile application, it became very convenient for all mobile users to identify narcotic and controlled pills.

To our knowledge, this is the first mobile application developed to identify the narcotic and controlled pills. The pill identifiers by drugs.com and rxlist.com have been previously published.[11],[12] However, these two programs identify the pills by typing the imprint codes for the pills but do not have the option to recognize the pills through taking pictures which is considered faster and more convenient for users.[13]

It is worth to highlight that the CNPI mobile application has two methods for identifying pills. One option is by manually querying the user to choose the shape and color of the inquired pill and then type the imprint code of the medications. These simple and straightforward steps reduce the probability of error or false findings. The second option requires the user to take photos for a pill from different sides for the purpose of identifying the investigated pills. The user here has both options to use. However, the choice of the method is governed by several factors. Those factors are availability of information, condition of the investigated pill, and the phone's camera resolution. For example, if the requested information is available, the user can use the option of manual entry. Moreover, the condition of the pill while taking the photos is a significant factor; as the pill has to be in a good condition in order for the CNPI application to be able to recognize the pill type and to give accurate identification.[14] Keeping in mind, the accuracy of the phone's camera will have a direct impact on the accuracy of the pill identification results. Using phones with low resolution can affect the accuracy of the result. Therefore, we suggested that certain camera specifications to be required as a minimum to guarantee the application accuracy. In addition, based on our preliminary testing, we have observed that the accuracy of this application was enhanced along with the phone technology enhancement, especially with image recognition software and other related software. With the new phone technology advancement, any smartphone will be adequate for CNPI application with guaranteed accuracy.[15] It is worth to highlight that the CNPI application will identify the pill through the option of taking photo by recognizing and processing the pill shape, dimension, and color as well as the imprint details. Keeping in mind, taking the photo could be from any angle with any background surface as the pill could be on the hand, table, and so on as well as any background color. Therefore, any person regardless of his age or photography skill will be able to use the CNPI application and still get accurate results.[16]

The most important advantage of this application is its accessibility as it will be accessible for all smartphone users. The second most important advantage is that the application does not require internet connection. In addition, using mobile applications is less time consuming and more efficient compared to searching the internet other or the other references used for such purpose. This application may have a drastic impact on the market and society due to its application and implications in many different sectors and by a variety of professionals as well as for its accuracy, convenience, and accessibility. The CNPI application can be used widely around the globe in clinics by physicians, pharmacists, schools, hospitals as well as for parents and government's officials.[17],[18],[19]

  Conclusion Top

This is the first innovative mobile application developed for rapidly and visually identifying the narcotic and controlled pills. The CNPI application has two easy and simple options for identifying the pill by taking pictures of the pill from both sides and/or answering a couple of simple questions about the pills such as shape, color, and imprint code. We strongly believe that the CNPI can be used widely around the world and it may be very helpful for different society levels and functions, and it can be used by the individuals, families, and health-care professionals as well as government officials. Further validation and feasibility testing will be conducted.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

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