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Google Fit to allow health tracking by just using your smartphone camera

Soon you’ll be able to use the Google Fit app and your smartphone camera to monitor your heart rate and respiratory rate.

Just a few years ago it was a rarity to see someone with a Fitbit, Garmin or Apple Watch on their wrist. Now, it’s the other way around. A large proportion of people are using wearable devices to track their health and wellness around the clock.

But there are ways to do this without having something strapped to your wrist or around your chest. Smartphones have inside of them technology which can be used to track certain aspects of your health. Here we’re mainly talking about the microphone, camera and accelerometer – sensors that can be found in almost any of them.

Starting next month, Google Fit will allow you to take measurements of your heart rate and respiratory rate by just using your smartphone. Initially, the functionality will only work for Pixel phones. Soon after it will be extended to other Android devices.


How it works

Measuring respiratory rate

Google describes the procedure in a blog post. To take your respiratory rate, you’ll need to sit down comfortably. Position the smartphone camera in front of you in the direction of your head and torso. Most likely you’ll need to prop up the phone against something.

Essential reading: Best fitness trackers and health gadgets

Google Fit will walk you through correct positioning. Once that’s done, you’ll need to sit quietly to allow for an accurate read. The app measures your respiratory rate by detecting small changes on your chest. The end-result will be the estimated number of breaths per minute.

google fit to allow health tracking by just using your smartphone camera - Google Fit to allow health tracking by just using your smartphone camera

Measuring heart rate

It is even simpler to measure your heart rate. All you are required to do is to place your finger against the rear-facing camera lens. Once the reading is initiated, the camera flash will shine a light into your finger. The AI will then look for subtle changes in the color of your fingers to work out your heart rate. Google says they accounted for factors such as “lighting, skin tone, age and more in order to work for everyone.”

Of course, these methods are not meant for medical diagnosis. But they could come in useful in certain situations. They will also allow those without a wearable to get an estimate of some of their health markers. Using the app has the added benefit of the results being saved. This means by taking measurements regularly, you can follow trends over time.

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