Smart speakers can analyze a baby’s breathing and monitor for infant sleep apnea
- Researchers use white noise to measure a baby’s breathing
- The project was created at University of Washington
- The app was successfully tested in the neonatal ICU of a Washington hospital
Researchers at the University of Washington have devised a new app for smart speakers like Amazon’s Echo to help parents monitor their baby’s breathing.
Called BreathJunior, the experimental app will be able to measure the rate of a baby’s breathing and detect symptoms of sleep apnea.
The team initially conducted a test of the device with five babies in the neonatal intensive care unit at a hospital in Washington.
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BreathJunior (pictured above) is an experimental app that monitors a baby’s breathing using a smart speaker
According to a report from MIT Tech Review, the team plans to eventually release the app as a commercial product via the company Sound Life Sciences.
But first, they’ll present the results of the trial at the upcoming MobiCom, a yearly conference on mobile computing in Los Cabos, Mexico.
The app is designed around emitting and recording white noise.
The soundwaves from the white noise are sent out from the speaker, and then recorded back from the room by the smart speaker’s microphone.
This app is able to filter out the original signal from the white noise from what is reflected back.
The minute differences between the original white noise signal and the version of it reflected back from the room are then analyzed to determine the baby’s location and diaphragm movements.
In June, University of Washington researchers also developed a smart speaker app to detect if someone might be having a heart attack.
The app listened for specific kinds of erratic breathing or gurgling noises and was 97 percent accurate within a 20-foot radius.
BreathJunior (pictured above) has so far been tested with five babies at the neonatal intensive care unit at a Washington hospital
Amazon has also expanded Alexa’s capabilities as a home security device.
In May, the online retailer released a new update for Alexa devices that would enable them to monitor sounds that might indicate a break-in, or a smoke or carbon monoxide alarm going off.
Smart speakers like Amazon Echo Plus (pictured above) can be used in a number of different health and safety monitoring ways
‘Guard will only detect these sounds when set to Away mode,’ the firm explained in a breakdown of the feature.
‘Similar to the wake word, the device detects these sounds by identifying acoustic patterns that match the sounds you select.
‘Guard does not store or send audio to the cloud unless the device detects a selected sound,’ Amazon added.
Alexa Guard initially rolled out through an invite-only beta test.
It’s now available for all users starting today and is free to download – no Prime subscription or paid plan is needed to activate the tool.
WHY ARE PEOPLE CONCERNED OVER PRIVACY WITH AMAZON’S ALEXA DEVICES?
Amazon devices have previously been activated when they’re not wanted – meaning the devices could be listening.
Millions are reluctant to invite the devices and their powerful microphones into their homes out of concern that their conversations are being heard.
Amazon devices rely on microphones listening out for a key word, which can be triggered by accident and without their owner’s realisation.
The camera on the £119.99 ($129) Echo Spot, which doubles up as a ‘smart alarm’, will also probably be facing directly at the user’s bed.
The device has such sophisticated microphones it can hear people talking from across the room – even if music is playing.
Last month a hack by British security researcher Mark Barnes saw 2015 and 2016 versions of the Echo turned into a live microphone.
Fraudsters could then use this live audio feed to collect sensitive information from the device.