Researchers in upstate New York have created an app that will allow users to test their cholesterol levels through a blood sample that’s analyzed directly through their smartphone.
“What’s been really transformative over the last few years is that now everyone is carrying around with them this incredibly powerful computer that they use all the time, are very familiar with, and have already paid for,” says David Erickson, professor of mechanical engineering at Cornell University, and one of the developers of the app.
He says their system takes advantage of the sophisticated camera technology and processing ability present in smartphones.
It uses an accessory that looks much like a smartphone credit card reader to capture an image of a test strip which has a drop of the user’s blood on it.
The app then calculates the results and tells the user what their cholesterol levels are, and whether they’re in the normal range. And this all happens within about 60 seconds.
Erickson says their system will make it faster, easier and cheaper for people to track their cholesterol and make appropriate adjustments to stay healthy.
“I think the real advantage is going to be in more rapid feedback to people. So right now you get your blood work done, let’s say you get your cholesterol levels done maybe once a year, that kind of feedback loop is not particularly useful,” he says.
“If you’re able to test more frequently you can really understand what’s happening to you more rapidly and adjust your diet and other things more rapidly. It’s a better health feedback loop.”
Erickson says it’s currently expensive for people to perform a range of simple tests like this one at home, mainly because the equipment needed to read a test strip is complex. But, the ubiquitous nature of smart devices is changing that, he says.
“The accessory that we can fit over the smartphone is substantially cheaper than having to engineer a whole device with electronics and imaging and illumination and everything.”
“Now everybody owns the reader, so if I can just use your smartphone to perform these tests I can make it a lot cheaper for you, a lot easier, a lot quicker, and a lot more familiar.”
Erickson and his team are working to expand the range of tests their smartphone app and accessory can perform.
It’s not available just yet, but he says it should be available to the public in the next year.