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Summary:

Already thought your iPhone camera was pretty powerful? Just wait until you see it measure your resting heart rate by analyzing light reflected off your face through a new app from the Rock Health accelerator that turns the camera into a biosensor.

Screen Shot 2012-08-08 at 2.47.46 PM

There’s no question your iPhone camera does a pretty good job capturing photos on the go. But can it capture your heart rate? Cardiio, the new digital health app we covered earlier this year from the Rock Health accelerator program, is ready to release a mobile app that uses the iPhone camera sensor to detect your heart rate from the amount of light reflecting off your face.

It sounds too incredible to be true, but co-founders and spouses Yukkee and Ming-Zher Poh said the product has been peer-reviewed in scientific publications and produces results that come within 3 beats per minute of those from a clinical pulse oximeter, the medical standard Cardiio would compete with. A clinical pulse oximeter measures both heart rate and blood oxygen saturation levels through direct contact with the skin and an LED light source, Ming-Zher explained. The Cardiio app, in contrast, works remotely and uses ambient light around the user.

The company explains how the technology works on its site:

Every time your heart beats, more blood is pumped into your face. This slight increase in blood volume causes more light to be absorbed, and hence less light is reflected from your face. Using sophisticated software, your iPhone’s front camera can track these tiny changes in reflected light that are not visible to the human eye and calculate your heart beat!

Users can download the paid app for iPhone or iPad in the Apple iTunes App Store beginning on Thursday for $4.99. After a user downloads the app, they hold the iPhone or iPad up to their face in a well-lit area, hold steady for a few seconds, and receive their resting heart rate. Users can save the number to the app, tracking their progress over time and measuring the impact of stressful life events on their heart rate.

The app does not currently have FDA approval, meaning it couldn’t be used in hospitals or doctor’s offices, only by consumers in the health and wellness space, Ming-Zher said. But as the creators of a connected toothbrush learned, FDA involvement in health-related apps or products can be an unknown factor.

  1. Android had an app that did this a long time ago and its free

  2. Wayne Smallman Thursday, August 9, 2012

    As a stand-alone application, I’m not sure how much use it would be to someone like me, who is interested in that kind of data, but only within the context of a run, which I track via the Nike+ application on my iPhone.

    So it’d be interesting — and certainly more beneficial — to see Cardiio team up with Nike and give the runners more valuable, contextual data.

  3. Informative post. I would have mentioned the “Heart Rate” app, since it does almost the same thing (without the touch free part) and it’s cheaper! Cheerio!

  4. I have been using the Phillips app ‘viital Signs’ for at least six months now and it does just that, measure and tracks your pulse. It also measures respiration at the same time. I have found it to generally be as accurate as finger light sensing apps, but it does require good lighting for optimum results. So the Cardio app is certainly not new and at $4.99 (ouch!) against Phillips’s ‘Vital Signs’ being free, I cannot see the benefit here.

  5. I don’t see a link or the name of the app anywhere in the article. There is one mention of the app in the title of the article, and then links to everywhere except the app – to the peer review, to the article from earlier in the year etc. Hate this hate this. Using name searches on the app store could get me a similar sounding app and you didn’t even mention the name of the developer.

  6. UGH @ This article? Are you reviewing an app? Where is the link to the app? Where is the name of the develper in the article? /end of rant

  7. Robert Andrews Thursday, August 9, 2012

    Philips has had one of these for a while. I believe that less than I believe the several apps that claim to measure the rate of blood pumped through my finger with the camera and flash. Which is not much.

  8. Michael W. Perry Thursday, August 9, 2012

    It’s an interesting idea, although not new. Phillips Vital Signs Camera at 99 cents does the same thing. Both make an iPhone a bit like the medical Tricorder of the classic Star Trek.

    I prefer simplicity myself. I take my pulse at the wrist for 15 seconds by the watch and multiply by four. That’s a lot easier than pulling my iPhone out, starting up an app, and holding it up to my face.

    Where this concept might make sense would be as a separate instrument to monitor a baby sleeping in bed, tracking movement, respirations and pulse, particularly for babies at risk for SIDS. Babies and small children tend to pull off wired attachments.

  9. The application Heart Rate by CMG research is a free finger, camera, flash app, and on my iPhone4 comes within 3 bpm of both the pulse-ox and the EKG. Even better, the waveform shows AF quite clearly.

  10. There is already an app that does this called Heart Rate Cam for iOS. There’s also a free version.

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