Yesterday started like so many others, with me standing in the back of a noisy, sweltering bus that smelled of urine. But unlike previous mornings, this time I was able to use my phone to quantify my stress level as it mounted with each jarring pothole.
Armed with a new app called Stress Check on my iPhone, I could verify that the stress I was feeling was real--when I woke up my level was 1 percent, but on the bus it topped 100. And while a number of apps require an external attachment to take health measurements, Stress Check required just me and my phone.
Released a couple of weeks ago, Stress Check is one of several apps from Palo Alto, Calif. start-up Azumio, which recently received $2.5 million in series A funding. The company's first health-oriented app, Instant Heart Rate (also available for Android), has generated 8 million downloads since its release in January. The company has more apps in the pipeline.
If it's easy, and fun, to collect personal health data, more people will likely be inclined to do so--and take action, reasons Azumio co-founder Bojan Bostjancic, who stopped by CNET headquarters last week to demo the company's health apps.
Echoing the sentiments of an increasing number of players in the health app space, Bostjancic maintains that phones are the perfect platform for better connecting people to their health. They're ubiquitous; have sensors that can measure functions such as sleep patterns and fitness levels; can transmit information to medical professionals; and can even offer advice.
To use Stress Check, you hold your index finger over the iPhone's camera flash for two minutes, long enough for the app to measure the blood flowing through your finger for patterns that would indicate elevated stress hormones. It does so by using the light from the flash to gauge subtle changes in color on the skin's surface that reflect blood flow patterns.
I can't vouch for the app's accuracy, but it does at least appear to be capable of reading low and high stress responses, as indicated by the elevated reading during my bus ride.
Similarly, you hold your finger over the light from the camera for the Instant Heart Rate app. Unlike the stress test, just 10 seconds is needed for an accurate reading; mine was accurate when I compared it with a more traditional handheld device that Bostjancic brought along.
The company is focused on the consumer market, rather than diagnostics. "Increasing awareness of heart rate and stress levels among your social network of friends is extremely important," he said. "Studies show that the more people are socially connected, the less they are affected by chronic diseases."
My stress levels, for example, could have been uploaded to Facebook or blasted via Twitter. I don't know, though. That sounds too stressful.