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Track Your Heart With Your Phone, Even If Your Phone's in Your Bag

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Artist's impression of how BioPhone will work.

The BioPhone project hopes to determine a person's heart and breathing rates from their smartphone's accelerometer.

Credit: Evah Fan

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers are working on a project called BioPhone, which derives a person's heart and breathing rates from a smartphone's accelerometer.

MIT Media Lab's Javier Hernandez Rivera, the lead author of a paper on the project, says the initiative is meant to capture this data during moments when a person is not moving much. He says the data could be used to determine if a person is stressed and provide ways to cope, such as breathing exercises or asking a loved one to call.

Researchers tested BioPhone by having 12 study participants sit, stand, and lie down before and after pedaling on an exercise bike with an Android smartphone in their pocket to capture data from the phone's accelerometer. During the tests they wore sensors for capturing heart and breathing rates to enable the data gathered from the smartphones to be compared with measurements already known to be reliable. On average, the heart rates estimated by analyzing the smartphone data were off by slightly more than one beat per minute, and breathing rate estimations were off by about a quarter of a breath per minute.

Hernandez says there are still challenges to overcome, such as how to measure heart and breathing rates reliably when the smartphone is in different spots.

From Technology Review
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