Google buys smartphone health monitoring startup Senosis

Google has reportedly purchased Seattle-based startup Senosis Health to bolster its digital health offerings.

Senosis was created by University of Washington computer scientist Shwetak Patel and four of his colleagues with the aim of turning smartphones into health monitoring devices.

Three of the startup’s apps are currently under review by the FDA: SpiroSmart, which uses smartphone microphones to measure lung function; HemaApp, which uses the smartphone camera flash to screen for blood conditions non-invasively; and OsteoApp, which screens for osteoporosis by emitting a pulse that causes bones to ‘ring’ and then measuring the frequency using the smartphone microphone.

“Those sensors that are already on the mobile phone can be repurposed in interesting new ways, where you can actually use those for diagnosing certain kinds of diseases,” Patel told GeekWire which broke the story.

The purchase will see the Senosis team – made up of around a dozen employees – will likely remain in Seattle forming the backbone of an upcoming digital health project.

The amount paid for the firm is unknown and neither Google nor Patel has confirmed the purchase.

Interestingly, no link has been made to Verily – Google’s dedicated life sciences arm. Logically, Senosis would be absorbed in some capacity into Verily as the subsidiary continues to investigate new health technologies.

It would certainly fit into its cutting-edge health technology aspirations which include an in-development contact lens for diabetes, hardware to help people with Parkinson’s eat, and bioelectronic medicine.

It also has Project Baseline – an ambitious attempt to comprehensively map human health – and the Study Watch – a wearable device that automatically collects data from trial participants.

Google moving into smartphone technology as a healthcare modality would follow in the footsteps of one of its biggest competitors, Apple. The firm is reportedly in the process of evolving the iPhone into a ‘one-stop shop’ for health monitoring, including filing a patent that would let the iPhone make basic health measurements like body fat percentage and pulse rate.

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