By David Ponce
It’s pretty amazing the amount of data that can be extracted using nothing more than the camera on your smartphone. While there already are a number of applications that are able to give you your heart rate by doing nothing more than resting a finger lightly on the camera, a new application under development could also measure heart rhythm, respiration rate and blood oxygen saturation. A team led by Ki Chon, professor and head of biomedical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) have engineered algorithms that “analyze video clips recorded while the patient’s fingertip is pressed against the lens of the phone’s camera. As the camera’s light penetrates the skin, it reflects off of pulsing blood in the finger; the application is able to correlate subtle shifts in the color of the reflected light with changes in the patient’s vital signs. ”
Of course this wouldn’t be news if they hadn’t checked to see if the results gathered from the application correlate with those taken with traditional instruments: they do. Professor Chong believes it will also be possible to detect atrial fibrillation (AF), which is the most common form of cardiac arrhythmia. And while the tests were conducted with a Motorola Droid phone, Chong hopes to have his application ported to several makes of smart devices. While not available yet, it is in the final stages of development.
“Imagine a technician in a nursing home who is able to go into a patient’s room, place the patient’s finger on the camera of a tablet, and in that one step capture all their vital signs,” Chon said. “We believe there are many applications for this technology, to help patients monitor themselves, and to help clinicians care for their patients.”