Having a computer that is studded with sensors and has a notion of where it is as well as a network connection is revolutionary. In some cases very expensive medical tests are now possible at much lower costs and more frequent - or even continuous - monitoring of the body is possible.
SpiroSmart is under development at the University of Washington's Ubicomp Lab. The idea is to test lung function using a smartphone. The results are impressive (no - it isn't something available on the AppStore - yet)
SpiroSmart is a mobile phone based platform that allows for the analysis of common lung function measures (FEV1, FVC, PEF). By analyzing lip reverberation we are capable of monitoring pulmonary ailments such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cystic fibrosis. To increase compliance, our target monitoring platform is the mobile phone, a sufficiently small device that is always with the patient. Additionally, we are investigating methods to make the lung testing procedure part of a simple, yet engaging, game on the phone.
Home spirometry is gaining acceptance in the medical community because of its ability to detect pulmonary exacerbations and improve outcomes of chronic lung ailments. However, cost and usability are significant barriers to its widespread adoption. SpiroSmart is a low-cost mobile phone application that performs spirometry sensing using the built-in microphone. We evaluated SpiroSmart on 52 subjects, showing that the mean error when compared to a clinical spirometer is 5.1% for common measures of lung function. Finally, we show that pulmonologists can use SpiroSmart to diagnose varying degrees of obstructive lung ailments.
Very neat, but what if your smartphone doesn't have the right sensors?
A few of the current crop of smartphones have BT4.0LE connectivity. This will allow very low power short range connectivity to other devices and, given about a billion smartphones will have this in two years, the incremental cost of adding this connectivity will be extremely low (hardware will probably be under a dollar). This will allow you to connect with any number of objects around you as you are within - say - fifteen or twenty feet of them and the connections will be very easy to establish.
Sensors that aren't in your phone can be monitored and recorded and you will be able to program and control devices. Cheap memory means you won't need a constant data connection for many tasks. This has the potential to bring great change ... people have been thinking about this for years and there are a half dozen communication standards that can do the job. Nothing is absolutely perfect for all tasks and nothing has really caught on to ignite this to date. But being perfect for all tasks is not as important as just being available and cheap. Having this built into a billion phones will make all the difference.