Smartphone Cameras And Flashes Can Help Conveniently Monitor Blood Oxygen Level In The Future: Study

Smartphone Cameras Can Detect Blood Oxygen Levels In The Future


  • Researchers have proven that smartphones’ cameras can measure blood oxygen saturation.
  • Researchers from the University of Washington and the University of California San Diego carried out the proof-of-principle study.

Researchers have found that the camera and flash module of a smartphone can be used to monitor blood oxygen saturation levels as low as 70%. Even while the research is in its early stages, the study opens the door to a future when people would be able to check their blood oxygen saturation levels using widely accessible smartphones.

Researchers from the Universities of Washington and California, San Diego published their proof-of-principle study in the npj Digital Medicine journal. In order to patent the technology, the researchers have submitted an application.

Participants in the study placed their fingers above a Google Nexus 6P smartphone’s camera and flash module to assess their blood oxygen levels. Fresh blood flows through the part of the finger that is illuminated by the flash with each heartbeat. The camera records a video in order to determine how much of the red, green, and blue light coming from the glass is absorbed by the blood.

A deep-learning algorithm was trained using data from some of the participants to determine blood oxygen levels from the values. After that, they used the other participants to validate the model. The device not only correctly predicted blood oxygen levels, but it also did so when the research team lowered the subjects’ blood oxygen levels by giving them a controlled mixture of nitrogen and oxygen.

The use of smartphones to measure SpO2 levels has been the subject of numerous prior research, and there are also apps that make the same claims. However, the objective of the new study was to validate these readings over the whole range of clinically relevant SpO2 values.

The co-lead author Jason Hoffman told, “There were a few on the app store early in 2020, but some were removed due to concerns about their accuracy in the mid-2020s. There may still be apps available, but none are approved for medical use, and they are mainly marketed as fitness apps, rather than health apps. These can be dangerous if users do not understand the potential inaccuracy, and thus we believe our study paves a path forward to potentially improve the accuracy in the future.”

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The researchers are certain that even though the technology and setup have only been tested with one smartphone model so far, they will eventually work with a wider range of devices. Hoffman added, “We are optimistic that this technique will work on any modern smartphone with a camera and flash that are co-located, but we haven’t tested enough phone models to validate any hardware limitations, so this is speculation. “

Additionally, the technology must be tested on various devices before it can be used more widely because the researchers had to alter the smartphone’s configuration before using it to take measurements.

 Hoffman further added, “If we want to become the first FDA-cleared test for SpO2 on an unmodified smartphone, we’d need to perform a larger study to validate on a larger population, and then send our data to the FDA for evaluation and approval. We’d estimate this whole process would take 18-24 months after the commencement of the new study, though we don’t have concrete plans to perform this study at this time.”

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Azeem Ali
Azeem has been a professional player and has covered many games online. He has been working as a technical writer since the past 7 years and has written articles on many domains in technology including mobile Apps, Websites, Operating Systems and Softwares throughout his career. He is a B. Tech Graduate and love to spend his time on the internet researching for new thing when not working. View More Posts