Turn Your Phone into a Thermometer: FeverPhone's Breakthrough Tech

FeverPhone's groundbreaking approach: Using smartphone sensors and machine learning to detect fevers with clinical precision.

Turn Your Phone into a Thermometer: FeverPhone's Breakthrough Tech

Wednesday October 25, 2023,

2 min Read

As the global pandemic has shown, an accurate measure of body temperature can be crucial for detecting viral infections early on. Now, researchers from the University of Washington have developed an innovative solution for those without a traditional thermometer: the FeverPhone.

The Concept Behind FeverPhone

The FeverPhone is a unique app designed to turn your everyday smartphone into a clinically accurate thermometer without requiring any additional hardware. It taps into the existing hardware of smartphones, particularly the touchscreen and battery temperature sensors, to estimate core body temperature. It's an idea that, if widely adopted, could be especially beneficial in regions where medical resources are scarce.

How Does FeverPhone Work?

Most smartphones come equipped with thermistors, tiny sensors that monitor the temperature of the battery. These sensors can be repurposed by the FeverPhone app to measure the heat transfer between the phone and the user's body. By combining this data with the readings from the touchscreen, the app can gauge the user's body temperature.

Under the hood, FeverPhone employs machine learning algorithms. In tests conducted using various phone models, a sous-vide machine was used to simulate a warm forehead with a bag of water. This data helped calibrate the app, accounting for factors like different phone accessories and how hard users press on the screen.

Clinical Trials and Accuracy

To assess its efficacy, a clinical trial was conducted involving 37 participants. The average error in temperature measurements was found to be only 0.41°F (0.23°C), a level of accuracy comparable to many consumer-grade thermometers. This promising result has caught the attention of medical professionals, hinting at the app's potential to aid in swift public health responses during disease outbreaks.

Limitations and What Lies Ahead

Despite the initial positive results, the researchers recognise that their study has limitations. More extensive tests across a broader range of phone models are needed. The study's lead author, Joseph Breda, mentioned ongoing research into expanding FeverPhone's capabilities, including its potential use with smartwatches. Since watches are smaller, they might yield quicker temperature readings.

While we're surrounded by advancements in wearable technology, like the Apple Watch, which offers some temperature monitoring features, they are not yet medically accurate for on-demand readings. FeverPhone stands out as a promising tool in the push towards making temperature measurement more accessible and user-friendly.