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Apple patent describes using the front-facing camera, light & proximity sensors for health measurements

An Apple patent granted today describes how the front-facing camera, light sensor and proximity sensor found in existing iPhones could be used for health measurements.

The electronic device uses one or more of the camera and the proximity sensor to emit light into a body part of a user touching a surface of the electronic device and one or more of the camera, the ambient light sensor, and the proximity sensor to receive at least part of the emitted light reflected by the body part of the user. The electronic device computes health data of the user based upon sensor data regarding the received light.

It also considers using additional sensors mounted in the same area for further health measurements …

For example, it describes electrical contacts similar to those found on some more sophisticated bathroom scales to measure body fat. The same contacts could also be used to provide an electrocardiogram (ECG) reading, a technique that’s already been seen in at least one iPhone case.

The total health data that could be captured by the more sophisticated setup is impressive.

The health data may include one or more of a variety of different wellness, fitness, and/or other parameters relating to the health of a user such as: a blood pressure index, a blood hydration, a body fat content, an oxygen saturation, a pulse rate, a perfusion index, an electrocardiogram, a photoplethysmogram, and/or any other such health data.

What’s particularly interesting, though, is how much data could be captured using nothing more than the camera and light sensor: oxygen saturation, pulse rate, perfusion index and a photoplethysmogram (which can monitor breathing rate and detect circulatory conditions like hypovolemia).

While some measurements can be taken using the type of low-tech ambient light sensors used in existing iPhones, the patent does note that more sophisticated ones may be required for optimum use.

In various implementations, use of an indium gallium arsenide non-imaging photodiode may allow for detection of a larger spectrum of light than use of a silicon non-imaging photodiode. An indium gallium arsenide non-imaging photodiode may not be typically used as an ambient light sensor as such may be more expensive than a silicon non-imaging photodiode that may adequately be used to determine ambient light conditions by detecting a more limited spectrum of light.

As always with Apple patents, there’s no telling which ones the company will choose to actually implement in a real product – and it’s unclear how much room there would be for an electrical sensor in the ‘notch’ design of the iPhone 8 – but there’s no doubting Apple’s keen interest in the health field.

Via Patently Apple

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Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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