How to Make a Smartphone Detect Anemia
A new way of detecting anemia, a condition caused by a lack of oxygen-carrying red blood cells, using a smartphone camera hints at how such devices might be used to provide early warning of an illness without the need for expensive equipment or a hospital visit.
Researchers at the University of Washington will present a simple anemia-tracking technique using a smartphone and a light source at a conference later this month. Their tests suggest the device’s accuracy rivals that of an off-the-shelf, FDA-approved anemia test. The technology was developed in the lab of Shwetak Patel, a professor in the university’s electrical engineering department (see “Innovators Under 35, 2009: Shwetak Patel”).
Anemia, which can be caused by malnutrition or parasitic infection, is incredibly common in poorer countries. The World Health Organization estimates that some two billion around the world are anemic. Symptoms including dizziness, weakness, and severe headaches. Those with certain chronic conditions, such as sickle cell anemia, need to be constantly monitored, usually with frequent blood tests.