WASHINGTON: Indian-origin researchers have developed a new health sensing tool that
can accurately measure lung function over a simple phone call made with
any phone -- not just smartphone -- from anywhere in the world.
findings could be of special help for people in the developing world --
who have asthma, cystic fibrosis or other chronic lung diseases -- know
how well their lungs are functioning without visiting a doctor or a
clinic, which in some places can take days of travel.
to be able to measure lung function on any type of phone you might
encounter around the world -- smartphones, dumb phones, landlines, pay
phones," said Shwetak Patel, professor at the University of Washington.
The new tool is called SpiroCall.
SpiroCall, you can call a 1-800 number, blow into the phone and use the
telephone network to test your lung function," Patel said.
patients take a deep breath in and exhale as hard and fast as they can
until they can't exhale any more. The phone's microphone senses sound
and pressure from that exhalation and sends the data to a central
server, which uses machine learning algorithms to convert the data into
standard measurements of lung function.
"People have to manage
chronic lung diseases for their entire lives," lead author Mayank Goel,
computer science and engineering doctoral student at University of
"So there's a real need to have a device that
allows patients to accurately monitor their condition at home without
having to constantly visit a medical clinic, which in some places
requires hours or days of travel," Goel noted.
SpiroCall is an
advancement over SpiroSmart which the researchers introduced in 2012 to
let people monitor their lung function by blowing into their
Over the last four years, the team has collected
data from more than 4,000 patients who have visited clinics in Seattle
and Tacoma as well as in India and Bangladesh, where clinicians have
measured lung function using both SpiroSmart and a commercial
In surveying patients from India and Bangladesh,
though, the team realised that a significant percentage did not own
smartphones and would be unable to use SpiroSmart in their own homes --
which was a key goal of the project.
The team realised that the only sensor they were using was a microphone, which all phones have.
the researchers decided to develop a system that would work with any
phone anywhere in the world by having the patient use a call-in service.
the tool meets the medical community’s standards for accuracy will be
described in a paper to be presented in May at the Association for
Computing Machinery's CHI 2016 conference in San Jose, California.