CES 2019: Scientists have developed a blood pressure monitoring app to replace the 100-year-old cuff
Startup Biospectal could help 1.6 billion people suffering from hypertension by using a smartphone and an app to check for high blood pressure.
Shelby BrownEditor II
Shelby Brown (she/her/hers) is an editor for CNET's services team. She covers tips and tricks for apps, operating systems and devices, as well as mobile gaming and Apple Arcade news. Shelby also oversees Tech Tips coverage. Before joining CNET, she covered app news for Download.com and served as a freelancer for Louisville.com.
She received the Renau Writing Scholarship in 2016 from the University of Louisville's communication department.
Designers of a new app want to make monitoring your blood pressure more accessible, practical and comfortable, without you having to visit a doctor or use a machine in the store pharmacy.
Swiss startup Biospectal and its app, of the same name, wants to combat the global epidemic of hypertension. According to the company's CEO Eliott Jones, more than 1.6 billion people suffer from hypertension. The condition affects half the US adult population.
Biospectal is debuting the technology to the world this week at
2019, but we spoke to Jones ahead of CES to learn how it pulled it off.
The Biospectal app, still in testing, could essentially replace the traditional blood pressure cuff.
"The blood pressure cuff is over 100 years old," Jones told CNET's Download.com. "It's impractical, uncomfortable and hard to use."
Jones said taking your blood pressure in the app is as easy as placing your finger on your phone's camera lens.
"What we're trying to do is develop the ability to deliver the hypertension management through your smartphone in a software application that is instantly distributable around the world," Jones said.
Unlike some other digital health apps, the Biospectal app doesn't require any hardware aside from your smartphone to take a measurement.
When you take a measurement, Biospectal captures the state of your blood pressure with software algorithms. The program takes the video signal from the smartphone, reads the flow of blood and turns it into a pulse wave.
The app not only measures the velocity and amplitude of the wave but also measures the shape of the wave. After you take a measurement, the data can be shared with your healthcare provider or family members to help manage the condition.
"Hypertension is basically the largest chronic condition in the world," Jones said. "We are focusing on that in terms of not just solving that for the high income countries, but also the developing world."
An ongoing part of Biospectal's mission is to be accessible across economic levels, conditions and environments. Because hypertension is an asymptomatic condition -- most people rarely show outward symptoms -- it goes widely untreated. That makes it difficult to treat, especially in the developing world where there are fewer doctors and blood pressure cuffs.
Jones said that his team's app produces results as accurate as a physical blood pressure cuff. He said his team plans to continue data gathering and algorithm tuning this year. Four countries are running studies on the app and it will be ready for consumers "soon."
It's promising that Biospectal is being developed by scientists and medical professionals, but we have not tested this app and cannot verify its accuracy or effectiveness yet.