Parents worried about children hurting their eyesight from hours spent staring at smartphone screens can now download an app to try and address the problem.

The app, named plano, can be used to keep track of a child’s smart device use and usage habits.

Parents can monitor the frequency and length of time spent on the devices, the apps their children are using, and the distance at which they hold the device.

With the increasing uptake and accessibility of smart devices, myopia is becoming a significant reason for myopia. And with the era of smartphones here to stay, it is likely that myopia rates and other associated health problems will increase accordingly.

Managing director of plano, Dr. Mo Dirani thus decided upon scientific ways that can be used to combat this health issue but was still skeptical about partnerships with an external consultant to help appeal to consumers.

However, AntzWorkz approach using AntzGatzTM complimented the work at plano as it was designed to be parallel to scientific and technical developments. Using this approach, solutions were identified i.e. setting limits or monitoring the child’s device use. Cutting-edge technology and behavioural science principles were also incorporated into features to build a healthy parent-child relationship.

Despite soft-launching plano with minimal marketing efforts, word about plano soon spread and this is further evidenced by 30,000 downloads in less than three months. At the same time, more than 50 corporate partners also signed up as vendors for the in-app plano shop.

In an interview, Dr. Mo Dirani summed up that in hindsight, insights were an investment that yielded significant returns on investments.

In the battle against myopia, plano is the mobile app here to give parents an edge. Features on the app include helping parents track how children use mobile devices, how long they use the device for, what distance from the eyes they hold their devices among others. Early detection of myopia is also critical and the app helps to screen for the onset of myopia, alerting parents if it detects that the child’s vision has deteriorated and providing reports on the child’s eye health.

Dr. Mo Dirani, plano’s founder and chief executive officer, said: “Early detection and correction is important, as myopia can start to affect children from as young as two to four years old.” and further stating that “the younger the child is, the easier it is to correct his habits and prevent high myopia in the future.”

The app’s development is timely as experts predict that more than half of the world’s population will be myopia by 2050. Associate Professor Audrey Chia, Head and Senior Consultant, Paediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus Department, Singapore National Eye Centre stresses that parents should “limit the time their children spend on handheld devices, discourage long hours of game playing and video watching, remind their children to take eyebreaks, and encourage them to go outdoors and play” – values of which plano were built upon!

With three times more electronic devices than there are humans in Singapore, identifying a solution to the problem was necessary for plano founder and chief executive Dr. Mo Dirani.

Plano also has potential to be a myopia screening tool and ensures that information and data collected are secure. Initially released in Singapore at the end of 2017, since then, more than 10,000 people have downloaded the app. This builds onto the vision of seeing the app being rolled alongside the national eye screening programme in Singapore.

Increased smart device use has inevitably led to a higher dependency on smart devices, resulting in less time spent engaging in physical and outdoor activities. Overtime, or even in the short term, these habits can result in risk factors associated with myopia, such distance of device from one’s eyes or bad body posture.

To target this phenomenon, plano was thus conceptualized to incorporate screening tools for early detection of those in danger of myopia with the use of big data. This data is thus used to refine intervention measures and prevention strategies for eye health in the future as well.

Plano founder and CEO, Dr. Mo Dirani shared that, “plano is a ‘smart solution’ to better manage device usage behaviour” that many other countries would find useful.

If current trends continue, 5 billion people—half the world’s population—will have myopia by 2050. And while you may not think of near-sightedness as a serious public-health threat, the growing scope of the problem is estimated to cost US$328 billion already, and 1 billion of those affected by 2050 will have a serious form that can lead to blindness.

In hopes of staving off the crisis, IPG Mediabrands APAC today announced a regional pro bono collaboration with Plano, a company that’s taking a science- and tech-based approach to fighting myopia. IPG Mediabrands will help Plano expand in the region and worldwide with strategic partnerships, media, expertise, and awareness-driving CSR initiatives.

The company’s timing in announcing the partnership seems impeccable, given news Friday that China plans to limit the number of online video games out of concern over myopia levels.

But where China’s solution sounds draconian, Plano takes a more educational and interventional approach. Launched last year through a Singapore government-supported incubator and with support from Singapore’s NHIC (National Health Innovation Centre), Plano has developed an eponymous app that aims to manage excessive and inappropriate device usage by children. The app is available in Singapore, India, and as of today, Malaysia.

“Plano works in the background of phones and tablets to empower behaviour change as well as to provide real-life intervention to ensure devices are held correctly, at the right distance, using the right posture,” Dr. Mo Dirani, Plano’s founder and MD, told Campaign Asia-Pacific. “And then we also, through embedded algorithms, recommend referral for optometry care.”

Plano, a myopia screening tool and parental management application has recently partnered with the Health Promotion Board (HPB) to reduce the onset and progression of childhood myopia.

Besides the annual vision screening in schools under HPB, parents are now to be encouraged to use plano app to cultivate good eye care habits as well and this partnership serves to expand the reach and impact of HPB’s health promotion programmes. Before this, plano was also developed under the supervision of the Singapore Eye Research Institute-Singapore National Eye Centre’s (SERI-SENC) Ophthalmic Technologies Incubator Programme and is supported by the National Health Innovation Centre (NHIC).

Features of plano include monitoring distance from device to eyes, prompts to adjust the user’s posture and reward-based incentives to redeem monetary discounts to encourage better device management. Artificial intelligence is also used to ensure children adhere to regular eye checks, and the app itself provides eye check recommendations and tips.

With the HPB partnership, plano will have a greater reach to school children as well as to raise awareness efforts to better manage myopia.

With the increasing uptake and accessibility of smart devices, myopia is becoming a significant reason for myopia. And with the era of smartphones here to stay, it is likely that myopia rates and other associated health problems will increase accordingly.

Managing director of plano, Dr. Mo Dirani thus decided upon scientific ways that can be used to combat this health issue but was still skeptical about partnerships with an external consultant to help appeal to consumers.

However, AntzWorkz approach using AntzGatzTM complimented the work at plano as it was designed to be parallel to scientific and technical developments. Using this approach, solutions were identified i.e. setting limits or monitoring the child’s device use. Cutting-edge technology and behavioural science principles were also incorporated into features to build a healthy parent-child relationship.

Despite soft-launching plano with minimal marketing efforts, word about plano soon spread and this is further evidenced by 30,000 downloads in less than three months. At the same time, more than 50 corporate partners also signed up as vendors for the in-app plano shop.

In an interview, Dr. Mo Dirani summed up that in hindsight, insights were an investment that yielded significant returns on investments.