You've heard about apps that can control your TV, or even activate your home heating system. But could a smartphone diagnose serious illnesses just by analysing your breath? A new ‘Sniffphone' might soon make this reality, and could allow doctors to diagnose conditions such as cancer without using blood tests or X-rays.
The new technology is still in its early stages, but an Israeli company has already secured a grant to make this possible. So, how does it work? Well, your smartphone could work in a similar way to a breathalyser, and will be able to analyse different chemicals in your breath. The add-on would connect to your smartphone, and identify people who are at risk of certain diseases, such as lung cancer. The technology could make sure that illnesses and ailments are diagnosed early, and could potentially save lives.
Nano-sensors and micro-sensors will analyse gases in your breath, before sending the information to a smartphone app, and then onto a laboratory. The app will use cloud technology to speed up the process. Professor Hossam Haick, from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, is behind the new technology, and hopes that the ‘Sniffphone' will be more effective than disease detection devices that are currently in use. The smartphone will be consume little in the way of power, and will be able to identify illnesses in a non-invasive way.
According to its creator, the NaNose system will identify the gases that are emitted by cancer cells, and could detect the presence of both benign and malignant tumours. Based on research undertaken by his team, Haick says that the system has a 90 percent accuracy rate. The possibilities of this new technology are endless, and could be used in developing countries that lack modern detection equipment for certain illnesses.
Haick suggests that the smartphone technology could be particularly useful when detecting lung cancer – currently one of the most common cancers. As lung cancer is difficult to detect, the NaNose system could speed up the process, and reduce the costs of expensive equipment such as CT scans and imaging devices.
The project is currently being funded by the European Commission, who have given Haick and his team a six million Euro grant. Some of the developers of the new system include research institutes and universities from countries such as Latvia, Ireland, Germany, Austria, and Finland, as well as the biology research firm Cellix.