Access to healthcare is essential to everyone on the planet, whether you’re a #girlboss in San Francisco or a senior living in a rural town in Bangladesh, but that access is often radically different for the two. However, researchers at the University of Washington are working hard to bridge that gap with the release of SpiroCall, a health-sensing tool that can measure a person’s lung function through any phone’s microphone, ANYWHERE in the world. They’ve been testing the device in the US and developing countries for four years, and the findings of their study are set to be released this month in a paper presented at the Association for Computing Machinery’s CHI 2016 conference in San Jose, CA.


By simply blowing into any phone’s microphone, SpiroCall can measure someone’s lung function within 6.2 percent of clinical spirometer test results (a common in-person test for determining someone’s lung health), which is well within the medical community’s standards of accuracy. For patients struggling with asthma, cystic fibrosis, lung cancer or any other chronic lung diseases, SpiroCall has the potential to be a life-saving device, especially for patients living in rural or depressed areas who have limited-to-no access to smartphones, let alone hospitals and doctor’s offices.

“We wanted to be able to measure lung function on any type of phone you might encounter around the world — smartphones, dumb phones, landlines and pay phones,” explains lead researcher, Shwetak Patel. “With SpiroCall, you can call a 1-800 number, blow into the phone and use the telephone network to test your lung function.” It’s pretty incredible that even a 10-year-old flip phone works with SpiroCall.


As chronic lung diseases are inherently long-term and often debilitating, the team made sure that SpiroCall works with even the most tenuous connections in the most remote, rural areas, testing throughout India and Bangladesh. Lead author of the paper, Mayank Goel, explains that “there’s a real need to have a device that allows patients to accurately monitor their condition at home without having to constantly visit a medical clinic, which in some places requires hours or days of travel.”

The team is currently testing the best methods of relaying the test results to the patients and making continued improvements on data collection. We’re so impressed by this tool, and the researchers’ effort to help improve lung health around the world.

Have you come across any extraordinarily cool health-related breakthroughs lately? Tweet us @BritandCo and let us know!

(Photos via Getty)