It may not have exploded yet as some early adopters and analysts expected, but there’s no arguing with the rapid growth of the smartwatch and fitness tracker market, and both fundamentally different classes of wearable devices should rise further over the next few years.
Still, futuristic-looking intelligent timepieces like the Apple Watch or Samsung Gear S2 continue to be deemed too dependent on connected phones, while more basic, lower-cost Fitbits or Jawbones could soon face stiff competition from… mobile apps.
How might a piece of software replace hardware? Simple, by recording biological signals sent via a mundane accelerometer all contemporary handhelds come pre-loaded with. The sensor would work even if you’re not actually holding or looking at your smartphone, thus enabling a super-cheap, convenient and unintrusive way of monitoring essential vitals.
Basically, you’d get heart and breathing rate readings from a phone innocently sitting in your pocket or bag, or just by laying on the couch with the “BioPhone” nearby. Of course, the closer the gadget will come to your heart, the easier it’ll be to report accurate data.
If it all sounds a little too good to be true, that’s probably because it isn’t… yet, with MIT researchers still in fairly early stages of development, and various “challenges” left to overcome. Pre-release testing suggests the BioPhone project is coming along nicely, although heart rates estimated by analyzing just the smartphone data were off by over one beat per minute compared to “FDA-approved sensors”, and breathing rate figures missed the high-precision mark by “about” a quarter of a breath per minute. That’s not so bad, is it?