With the second wave of the COVID 19 pandemic upon us, we live in a time where pulse oximeters and other devices capable of reading SpO2 levels have found a spot in our household first-aid boxes. In case you haven’t invested in a pulse oximeter just yet, you might have just saved yourself a few thousand rupees. A Kolkata-based company has now launched an app that claims to measure oxygen saturation and pulse rates in humans, without the need for a wearable add-on. Called CarePlix Vitals, the app employs a combination of artificial intelligence and PPG (photoplethysmography) – which happens to be tech that uses light sources as a photodetector.
As per a News18 report, CarePlix Vitals uses a smartphone’s rear camera and flashlight which can be placed on the tip of a finger to get a clear read. While pulse oximeters use an infrared beam to get the reading, CarePlix makes do with a flashlight which is present on the back of most smartphones. The minds behind CarePlix Vitals – CareNow Healthcare – told The Indian Express, “If you see the wearables and oximeters have infrared light sensors in them but for the phone, we just have the flashlight. Once we cover the rear camera and flashlight with the finger and start the scan for around 40 seconds, we are doing nothing but calculating the difference of light intensity, and based on the difference we plot the PPG graph.”
The AI bit kicks in to help determine if the finger has been placed right. What’s impressive bit here is that early tests show that reading is “96% accurate with heartbeats while 98% accuracy in case of oxygen saturation” during trials held internally which included a sample size of 1200 individuals. CareNow Healthcare states that the trial was conducted by a specialized team in Seth Sukhlal Karnani Memorial Hospital Kolkata. The company website does note though that new users could run into “problems with log in or registration” due to unprecedented traffic. Although getting your hands on a well-trusted pulse oximeter should still be a priority, a number of states are still in the midst of a lockdown. In that case, CarePlix Vitals could be a decent stop-gap arrangement for immediate use at home.