Arnaud Legout (Inria): ElectroSmart, powered by the labex UCN@Sophia


 "What is lacking the most is an efficient and reliable way to measure the RF-EMF of a large population for a long period of time. This is where we can help."

2016, November 16

The Labex is proud to be part of the Inria-LEAT ElectroSmart project, a new app that allows the general audience to measure his exposition to electromagnetic waves. Thanks to Arnaud Legout (Inria), who has agreed to share a few words about it.


> How did the ElectroSmart project begin?

The project started in early 2014 with my concern about the lack of understanding of the impact of the radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) surrounding us. I have been surprised by the large number of international projects dedicated to the impact of RF-EMF on health (EMF-NET, Interphone, GERoNiMO, Mobi-kids), and by the lack of definitive answers despite close to 20 years of international research effort. The IARC, a WHO agency specialized on cancer, classified RF-EMF as possible carcinogenic to humans (groupe 2B), which was poorly understood by the general audience. Indeed, this classification means that "a positive association has been observed between exposure to the agent and cancer for which a causal interpretation is considered by the Working Group to be credible, but chance, bias or confounding could not be ruled out with reasonable confidence". For short, they did not have enough data to conclude and what is lacking the most is an efficient and reliable way to measure the RF-EMF of a large population for a long period of time. This is where we can help.

Today, beyond this initial motivation, we are also working with cellular operators (in particular Monaco Telecom) to see how we can improve the operator coverage while reducing the radiated power. As we cannot get rid of RF-EMF that are at the core of all our communication protocols, we want to help reduce the emitted RF-EMF where and when it is not needed so that our overall exposition is reduced.

> What is the goal of your app? How does it work?

We designed a general audience Android application called ElectroSmart publicly available on Google Play whose goal is to show to a person without a technical background what is exposing her the most. The application is measuring the received signals on all the available antenna of a smartphone in the background. The application has been optimized to consume almost no battery and provided a friendly and intuitive user interface.


> What were the required scientific/technical/financial resources?

This projet requires a large spectrum of competencies, this is the reason why I started a collaboration on this project with the LEAT (Fabien Ferrero and Leonardo Lizzi) that are specialized on RF-EMF. Combined with our competencies at Inria on system design, measurements, and data science, we have an unique combination of competencies localized on the same site at the SophiaTech campus.
This project was initially started by an Inria ADT* that funded an engineer for two years to create the first prototype of the ElectroSmart Android application.

> What was the input of the Labex UCN@Sophia?

The Labex UCN@Sophia has been instrumental in this project. First it enabled a close relationship between Inria and LEAT that was not usual. This is clearly a strong contribution that makes possible more ambitious projects requiring multiple competencies, such as ElectroSmart. Second, the Labex funded an engineer for two years that started early 2016 to work on the development of the Android application and on scientific experiments to calibrate our measurements.

> What's next?

We released the first publicly available version of the ElectroSmart application this September. We have currently around 500 active users. We are targeting 10 000 users next year and 100 000 users the year after. We are currently making the first scientific exploitation or our results and we are targeting one top international publication within the next year. Finally, we are working with Monaco Telecom and municipalities to deploy ElectroSmart in cities to build an accurate and realtime map of the exposition in order to optimize the use of the emitted RF-EMF.  We are still looking for excellent candidates (engineer, Ph.D. students, postdoc) and funding to put this project on the highest orbit.

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*Action de Développement Technologique