Sensing tool could measure your lung function over phone call

SpiroCall spirometer

A new health sensing tool has been developed by scientists that can accurately measure lung function over a simple call made using any phone. The tool, called SpiroCall, targets people who have asthma, cystic fibrosis, COPD or other chronic lung diseases, and have no way to measure how well their lungs are functioning.

With SpiroCall, according to one of the scientists behind the project – Shwetak Patel of University of Washington, users would call a designated number, blow into the phone and immediately test their lungs function.

SpiroCall transmits the collected audio using a standard phone channel and doesn’t require a smartphone to work.

The team combined multiple regression algorithms to provide reliable lung function estimates despite degraded audio quality. Also, they developed a 3D printed whistle that can be used in conjunction with SpiroCall to change pitch when the patient exhales.

The best part is that this technology seems to be working, with initial tests showing that the data correlated quite well to professional spirometers, coming in within 6.2% of the “official” numbers.

Sounds promising, especially for emerging markets of the world where a smartphone may be considered a luxury. A more precise clinical trial will have to follow though, before any doctor could prescribe SpiroCall to patients. We’ll see how that goes, and in the meantime – here’s a University of Washington video showing off the SpiroCall.