The Apple iPhone is many things including a camera, music player and proficient health and fitness monitor. Now, and a new report shows that more features such as convenient home blood pressure measurement, could be on the way soon. But the difference is that this new method won’t require an extra doohickey or gizmo to be attached to your phone.
Apple Watch users know that their smart timepiece can measure heart rate by shining a light at the wrist beneath the watch and deducing how fast your heart is beating from the subtle color changes in the skin.
Now, a team from the University of Toronto, in conjunction with the Affiliated Hospital of Hangzhou Normal University in China have been measuring the blood pressure of over a thousand people just from videos filmed on iPhones using special software. Crucially, no extra hardware was used, as has previously been the case, and since it only involves taking a video selfie that lasts a minute or two, it’s very simple to administer.
All of which means the iPhone could become a vital blood pressure monitor with no extra gadget attached.
This story was reported at Quartz, which explained:
Essentially, light emitted from smartphone cameras bounces off proteins near the surface of the skin at different rates. One of these is hemoglobin, a protein in our blood that shuttles around oxygen. By measuring minute changes in hemoglobin—to the tune of 900 pictures taken over 30 seconds—it’s possible to get a reading of blood pressure.
Based on those measurements, [the] team trained a machine learning algorithm that produced blood pressure readings that were accurate roughly 95% of the time.
On average, the transdermal optical imaging system predicted systolic blood pressure with almost 95% accuracy and diastolic blood pressure with pulse pressure at nearly 96% accuracy.
But there’s a catch: over 95% of participants out of a group of 1,328 were of East Asian or European descent, so there’s no certainty that the software will be able to work for people of darker skin colors – it will take a lot more testing of African American and Latin communities to get a better idea.
That’s a problem, but it doesn’t change the fact that this approach is highly promising and could be potentially a very big change.
The team have produced one app already, called Anura which is available on iPhone and Android. It detects heart rate and stress levels, but not blood pressure.
With Apple making health and fitness increasingly central to both Apple Watch and iPhone, this seems another step down an amazing road, potentially making blood pressure monitoring something that is convenient and easy to do, with nothing more than a smartphone.
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