Imagine a future where your smartphone’s microphone can be used to automatically alert medical staff that you’re having a heart attack.
That’s the level of technology envisioned for a new app being created for the Pentagon to keep track of a soldier’s health on the battlefield.
The software will harvest data from cameras, light sensors, pedometers, fingerprint sensors, and other sensors to make its evaluations.
Funded by secretive weapons development agency Darpa, the military technology is likely to become publicly available in the not too distant future.
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Imagine a future where your smartphone’s microphone can be used to automatically alert medical staff that you’re having a heart attack. That’s the level of technology envisioned for a new app being created for the Pentagon (stock image)
Kryptowire, a cybersecurity firm based in Fairfax, Virginia was awarded a $5.1 million (£3.5 million) contract to create the app.
It’s part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) funded warfighter analytics using smartphones for health programme, also known as Wash.
The app will passively collect smartphone sensor measurements to provide real-time monitoring of a soldier’s health, as well as detecting biomarkers for early disease diagnosis.
It aims to allow intervention in medical issues, before a patient has to visit a doctor or nurse due to symptoms developing.
However the privacy implications of the app, being built for Android and iOS, are of concern to experts.
‘If you’re activating a microphone on someone’s phone, that is going to raise a lot of alarms, Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Washington Post.
‘People don’t want to feel like someone is listening in on their private life. That’s going to have to be subject to tight controls.’
Currently, understanding and assessing the readiness of a soldier to fight involves medical intervention.
Funded by secretive weapons development agency Darpa, The software will harvest data from cameras, light sensors, pedometers, fingerprint sensors, and other sensors to keep track of a soldier’s health on the battlefield (stock image)
This is often with the help of advanced equipment, such as electrocardiographs (EKGs) and other specialised medical devices.
However, these are often too expensive and cumbersome to employ continuously or without supervision during active service.
On the other hand, 92 per cent of adults in the United States own a smartphone, or other mobile device.
These could be used as the basis for continuous, passive health, and readiness assessment.
Wash seeks to use data collected from smartphone sensors to enable specially created algorithms to analyse their measurements.
The objective of Wash is to extract physiological signals, which may be weak and noisy, that are embedded in the data obtained through existing mobile device sensors.
WHAT IS DIGITAL PHENOTYPING?
Digital phenotyping experts track people’s social media habits (file photo)
A new analysis from the New York Times documents an emerging industry called digital pheotyping.
It refers to researchers’ attempts to better understand people’s health by looking at their cell phone usage habits.
Clues such as how frequently they look at their phone, their social media posting patters and the amount of times they click on their phone screen in a given day can help researchers learn about a person’s health.
They claim that these insights can help a person adjust their stress level if it is high, among other things.
But some tech experts question the good these researchers are doing.
University of Maryland law professor Frank Pasquale explained: ‘It’s like we’re in school forever and we’re being graded in all these ways forever by all the companies that have the most data about us.’