New health sensing tool measures lung function over a phone call, from anywhere in the world

SpiroCall enables patients to measure lung function over a phone call. It is designed to work with any type of phone around the world, not just smartphones.
Most people in the developing world who have asthma, cystic fibrosis or other chronic lung diseases have no way to measure how well their lungs are functioning outside of a clinic or doctor visit. But many do have access to a phone, though it may be a 10-year-old flip phone or a communal village landline instead of the latest app-driven smartphone.
That’s why University of Washington computer science and engineering and electrical engineering researchers have developed SpiroCall, a new health sensing tool that can accurately measure lung function over a simple phone call.
A paper to be presented shows that SpiroCall’s results came within 6.2 percent of results from clinical spirometers used in hospitals and doctor’s offices, meaning it meets the medical community’s standards for accuracy.
‘We wanted 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, Washington Research Foundation endowed professor of computer science & engineering and electrical engineering at the UW. ‘With SpiroCall, you can call a 1-800 number, blow into the phone and use the telephone network to test your lung function.’
In 2012, researchers from the UW’s UbiComp Lab introduced SpiroSmart – which lets people monitor their lung function by blowing into their smartphones.
The 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.

University of Washington