GoPhoton! project develops apps to illustrate the power of smartphone as a photonics tool

With state of the art communications, imaging and processing, the smartphone is one of the most advanced photonics devices ever made. GoPhoton!, a European project by the European Centres for Outreach in Photonics (ECOP) has developed smartphone apps which illustrate the power of the smartphone as a photonics tool. The apps are educational with a focus on how smartphones and photonics have applications in healthcare. The apps were developed in the National University of Ireland Galway, a GoPhoton! Partner, to celebrate the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 (IYL 2015).


The GoPhoton! Heart Rate app shows how a smartphone may be used to measure a person’s heart rate, with simple explanations about how light from the smartphones torch interacts with tissue and blood beneath your skin. Tiny changes, not visible to the naked eye but can be detected by the smartphones camera and processed to display the heart rate. Information such as this is extremely useful in developing countries, with their less extensive healthcare infrastructure, if they can measure health information with a relatively low cost multi-purpose device like a smartphone. It could also be for athletes for example, who always want to have the optimum heart rate during exercise, and do not want to carry specialized devices with them. Or maybe it can just be used as a pocked lie detector!

Another app, GoPhoton! Colours lets users see what the world looks like if we just look at the red, green or blue components of colour. The app also shows how differences between the red and green colour components can give us important information such as blood concentration in our skin, or maybe just tell us how embarrassed somebody is feeling!

Both apps are available to download from Google Play for Android devices.

About GoPhoton!

GoPhoton! is a European project by the European Centres for Outreach in Photonics (ECOP). It aims to bring photonics closer to society and to make Photonics a household word. The goal is to gain recognition and support for the amazing opportunities and growth-potential which photonics represents for society.

The highlights of the project are the “PhotonicsSplash” events which are happening across Europe during the International Year of Light 2015. During each PhotonicSplash, students, teachers, members of industry and research institutes as well as the general public will have the opportunity to learn about Photonics by attending many open day events. These will include exhibitions, talks, workshops and many other educational, entertaining and fun events based on the concept and applications of light. Each PhotonicSplash will last several days and will happen across Europe in each of the participating cities.

GoPhoton! is a European project by the European Centres for Outreach in Photonics (ECOP) and funded through the 7th framework programme of the European Commission.

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About IYL 2015

The International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies (IYL 2015) is a global initiative adopted by the United Nations (A/RES/68/221) to raise awareness of how optical technologies promote sustainable development and provide solutions to worldwide challenges in energy, education, agriculture, communications and health.  With UNESCO as lead agency, IYL 2015 programs will promote improved public and political understanding of the central role of light in the modern world while also celebrating noteworthy anniversaries in 2015—from the first studies of optics 1,000 years ago to discoveries in optical communications that power the Internet today.  The IYL Global Secretariat is located at the Abdus Salam International Centre of Theoretical Physics (ICTP).

The Founding Partners of IYL 2015 are the American Institute of Physics (AIP), the American Physical Society (APS), the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft (DPG), the European Physical Society (EPS), the Abdus Salam International Centre of Theoretical Physics (ICTP), the IEEE Photonics Society (IPS), the Institute of Physics (IOP), Light: Science and Applications, the International Network, 1001 Inventions, The Optical Society (OSA) and the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE). 

Patron Sponsors include Bosca, the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD), Royal Philips Lighting, Thorlabs and UL.


Sean O’Gorman
NUI Galway

Lydia Sanmartí-Vila
GoPhoton! Coordinator

John Dudley
Steering Committee Chair
International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015

Joe Niemela
Global Coordinator (IYL Secretariat)
International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015