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Google acquired a company making disease detecting smartphone apps for poor communities


Google has been making moves to become a leader in human health tracking. The company’s latest acquisition of disease-detecting smartphone apps startup Senosis is pushing the tech giant even further in this direction.

Google hasn’t released a statement on the acquisition, but the deal is real according to a report by GeekWire.

Senosis was formed by University of Washington computer science professor and MacArthur genius grant winner Shwetak Patel. He set out to repurpose the advanced technology already available in today’s smartphones as a way to help people track their health. With a group of four other researchers, clinicians, and tech transfer experts, Senosis was born in Seattle.


The company is working on getting four apps approved.

The beauty is that none of the apps require any additional hardware than what’s already built into your smartphone. With Senosis, your phone can measure, diagnose, and help you manage your disease. That’s a nice change of pace from frequent doctors visits, especially in low-income communities that don’t always have access to good healthcare.

Image: Geekwire

SpiroSmart helps detect respiratory diseases using your phone’s microphone. By simply blowing into your microphone, the app can help measure if you’re suffering from asthma, cystic fibrosis, and other pulmonary diseases. It’s offshoot is a project called SpiroCall, which turns any phone into a spirometer with a phone call.

BiliCam is the app for detecting newborn jaundice. It uses your smartphone’s camera and flash to measure how much bilirubin, the orange bile pigment produced when your liver breaks down old red blood cells, is in your child’s blood. The app does this by examining wavelengths of light absorbed by the skin. It can help parents in developed countries scan for jaundice before spending tons of money on a hospital visit. And BiliCam could prove to be irreplaceable for traveling nurses in developing countries that don’t have access to other screening tools.

The final app is called HemaApp. This uses your smartphone’s camera to measure the hemoglobin in your blood. It can help detect anemia, malnutrition, and pulmonary diseases. HemaApp eliminates the need for expensive blood tests and worries of contamination in clinics with low sanitation.

When the apps are approved, they can be downloaded on a pay-per-use basis, meaning there’s not monthly or yearly subscription. Just download, and pay when you actually need it. While these apps could prove to be extremely helpful and cost-saving, it’s important to remember to consult an actual professional in health emergencies.


These health tracking apps should be on the fast track to public use with Google now behind them. Look out for an official announcement and more details from Google, and get ready to start saving money and getting answers quicker when you really need them.

Molly Sequin