Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Blood simple. Can smartphone imaging double-duty as a medical sensor? It looks that way.

Via ThirdAge.com >>

I always find it clever when app developers find new uses for existing sensors. Shopkick, for example, takes advantage of the fact that a device's microphone can pick up sounds that humans can't necessarily hear. So rather than depending on NFC or location-tracking for check-ins, Shopkick uses sound beacons. An RSS (really simply solution).

Over the past few weeks I've come across a couple of projects that rely on a device's camera to take blood measurements in the finger to report such things as heart rates, blood oxygen, and possibly stress levels. According to some reports and reviews, this can be done with an impressive degree of accuracy. And all on a device at a subsidized prices of around $99 that you carry around with your almost 24x7.

Instant Heart Rate from a company called Azumio is an app for Android and iOS (it works best on the iPhone rather than iPod Touch as the flash provides a strong light source for accurate measurements) which quickly provides the user with his/her heart rate. It could be used after walks or runs to find recovery times. Results can be stored and monitored over time.

This is how it works, from the app's own on-device manual: "The application tracks color changes occurring on the surface of your fingertip. With every heartbeat, the color of your skin's surface changes due to an inrush of new, fresh blood. Instant Heart Rate tracks these changes and calculates your heart rate. It functions similarly to a medical pulse oximeter."

Azumio recently received $2.5 million in venture funding. Clearly this is being taken seriously.

A team at the Biomedical Engineering lab at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts is working on a similar project (and likely inspired by Azumio). The team is developing algorithms that can be run across videos taken of blood flow in the fingertip to report vital signs. According to WPI, the Android phone they are working with can report results as accurate as traditional medical equipment.

Hopefully there won't be any bad blood between your smartphone and you going forward.


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