Photo/IllutrationKiyofumi Kano, president of Aqua System Co., tries the Bacteria Self-Checker, also called the mil-kin, in Maebashi. (Manabu Ueda)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

MAEBASHI--Paired with a small and simple device, a smartphone can quickly be transformed into a powerful microscope and be an effective tool in preventing food poisoning.

Aqua System Co., an electrolyzed water producing equipment dealer here, developed a system to show enlarged images of bacilli and microorganisms, using a smartphone camera.

While the Bacteria Self-Checker, also called the mil-kin, has proved to be a big hit, behind the success of the unique device is likely its user-friendliness allowing anyone to easily use their smartphone as a microscope.

Measuring only 15 centimeters tall, 18 cm wide and 11 cm long, the 450-gram product does not require users to download a special app. All they need to do is start their smartphone’s camera and put the phone on the mil-kin.

When specimens sampled with a cotton swab or liquid containing bacilli and other microorganisms collected with a pipette are placed on the lens, lit up by light-emitting diodes, the samples are shown magnified 1,000 times on the smartphone screen.

While one has to peer into an ordinary microscope to view objects, the mil-kin, priced at 99,800 yen ($913), excluding tax, and powered by two AA batteries, allows more than one person to observe the specimen on the smartphone screen simultaneously.

The mil-kin enables any objects measuring at least 1 micrometer to be enlarged, photographed or filmed to be saved in the smartphone. The focus is automatically adjusted with the smartphone’s auto focus feature, making the mil-kin more user-friendly.

Aqua System, which sells and installs equipment to make electrolyzed water designed to be used by food and other companies for sterilization and hygiene maintenance, developed the mil-kin to show its customers how polluted their facilities could be.

As a prepared slide is not needed, the mil-kin can be safely used even at food manufacturing plants.

After the mil-kin was marketed in June last year, Aqua System has received many inquiries from food firms, plant operators, dentists and other health-care workers. The mil-kin has been sold to a total of 1,300 companies to date, according to Aqua System officials.

Takashi Miyashita, an official of Kewpie Corp.’s food safety science center, said the mil-kin is used to help keep plants and staff clean and check whether the products and materials are affected by bacilli.

“Most employees cannot understand how polluted materials could be, unless they visually check bacilli,” Miyashita said. “After observing them through the mil-kin, employees become conscious of hygiene.”

Kiyofumi Kano, 47, president of Aqua System, said the mil-kin is useful in showing the importance of keeping facilities clean.

“No plant operator wants to cause food poisoning,” Kano said. “Use of this (mil-kin) will help persuade staff to take thorough preventive measures.”

The mil-kin won the top prize in Gunma Prefecture’s good design award in the last fiscal year. Currently, Aqua System is looking to sell 10,000 units a year with an eye toward exports to other Asian countries.