A SMARTPHONE adaptor developed in Scotland, which its makers claim could eliminate 80 per cent of the world’s blindness, has won a major international design award.

Peek, a portable eye examination kit, was presented with the INDEX: Design Award 2015 and a €100,000 (£73,000) prize in Copenhagen for its affordable device that could enable professional eye examinations anywhere in the world.

Judges selected the adaptor, called Peek Retina, for its portability, user-friendliness and its low cost, and said it was a significant part of a worldwide action plan that aims to reduce by a quarter avoidable visual impairment by 2019.

It has been developed through a collaboration between the University of Strathclyde, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the NHS’s Glasgow Centre for Ophthalmic Research.

Design team leader Dr Mario Giardini, of Strathclyde’s Faculty of Engineering, said: “Winning the INDEX award is a fantastic achievement for the team and provides us with the platform to further develop the adaptor and fulfil its full potential.

“Peek Retina will make a massive impact in low-income countries and demonstrates the impact quality research can have in tackling the global problems faced in society today.”

Kigge Hvid, chief executeve of INDEX: Design to Improve Life organisation, which founded the prize 10 years ago, added: “The jury found five winners who all brilliantly illustrate how design can be a decisive factor when addressing the world’s most pressing challenges like pollution, health issues, climate change, over population, poverty, food waste, and many more equally important.

“Peek Retina is a perfect example of this and promotes exactly the purpose of INDEX: Award.”

The team said that if all people with eye or vision problems were given immediate access to diagnosis and care, 80 per cent of the world’s blindness could be eliminated.

Transporting expensive, fragile equipment to remote areas where no facilities exist to perform eye exams, is a substantial part of the problem. The Peek Retina adaptor will enable healthcare workers to perform quick and easy eye exams anywhere in the world, without expensive equipment or complex operational requirements.

It turns a smartphone into a comprehensive eye examination tool and has already been tested in the remotest of places, where it still returned high resolution images of eyes at a fraction of the cost.

Peek Retina slips over the in-built camera on a smartphone and is used with a dedicated app. All the user has to do is hold the phone close to someone’s eye and it will auto-focus to show the retina on screen.

The high image quality means professionals can view cataracts clearly enough for treatment to be classified and glaucoma signs detected, along with macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and signs of nerve disease. Other health problems such as severe high blood pressure and diabetes can also be identified.

The team has also simplified eye tests for adults and children, eliminating the need for healthcare workers to carry charts. Tests are based on the display of the letter “E” which is simple for people to recognise. This means patients need not be familiar with the English language.

Retinal images and patient information can be securely stored and shared for off-site review.

The device can be used by hospital doctors to refer cases to an ophthalmologist, or by remotely-based health workers who can then send data to a treatment clinic hundreds of miles away. Images can be sent whenever the phone has a wi-fi connection.

Peek’s team said this means important diagnoses were still carried out by trained eye care specialists.