Apple's decision to add spirometry data types could herald a new era of portable spirometers.

Apple’s decision to add spirometry data types could herald a new era of portable spirometers.

The addition of three spirometry data types to Apple’s iOS 8 HealthKit, announced ahead of Apple’s iPhone 6 launch event next Tuesday, may herald a new era of personal medical devices designed for monitoring asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and other respiratory conditions.

By offering recognition of data types that can be gathered from sleep monitors and portable spirometers, Apple’s HealthKit goes beyond common apps that track, calculate and store fitness- and nutrition-related data.

Spirometry, which measures your lung capacity as well as various functions, remains the gold standard in diagnosing and monitoring asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and pulmonary fibrosis.

In the release notes of iOS 8 Beta 5, Apple announced that “Spirometry data types are now available in HealthKit.” An iPhone alone cannot measure your lung functions or diagnose COPD, for example. But the availability of spirometry data types allows software and medical device developers to design apps and portable spirometers that pass the data to an iPhone for recognition.

So far three basic spirometry data types have been added to HealthKit:

  • HKQuantityTypeIdentifierForcedExpiratoryVolume1
  • HKQuantityTypeIdentifierForcedVitalCapacity
  • HKQuantityTypeIdentifierPeakExpiratoryFlowRate
MySpiroo, a portable spirometer developed in Poland by Piotr Bajtala and Dr. Lukasz Koltowski, plugs into an iPhone. (Image courtesy MySpiroo)

MySpiroo, a portable spirometer developed in Poland by Piotr Bajtala and Dr. Lukasz Koltowski, plugs into an iPhone. (Image courtesy MySpiroo)

In a move seen as a push to develop a platform for health-related software and hardware, Apple has recently hired a team of medical device experts, including Roy Raymann, a sleep researcher and founder of the Philips Sleep Experience Lab, and Divya Nag, dubbed “a rising star in the medical device community” and an expert in regulatory affairs.

Even before Apple’s recognition of spirometry as an important diagnostic and monitoring tool, developers around the world have been looking for ways to turn an iPhone into a pocket-sized spirometer.

The Respi Project, a graduate of the DreamIt Health accelerator at Johns Hopkins University, wants to help patients monitor lung conditions constantly from anywhere.

The Respi Project, a graduate of the DreamIt Health accelerator at Johns Hopkins University, wants to help patients monitor lung conditions constantly from anywhere.

As mentioned here previously, researchers at University of Washington’s Ubiquitous Computing Lab created SpiroSmart, a software that measures FEV1, FVC and PEF using only a user’s lip reverberation.

In Poland, Piotr Bajtala and Dr. Lukasz Koltowski are wrapping up their development of MySpiroo, a portable spirometer designed to relay its spirometry data to an iPhone through the earphone jack. MySpiroo so far can measure FEV, FVC, PEF, MVV, SVC, TLC, FRC, RV, ERV and more.

The Respi Project, a graduate of the DreamIt Health accelerator at Johns Hopkins University, has also designed a portable spirometer for iPhones with the goal of allowing patients to monitor their lungs from anywhere at any time.

These personal, portable spirometers do not replace consultations with and diagnoses by a physician. However, Apple’s recognition of spirometry as an important tool in managing and monitoring chronic lung conditions is likely to help empower patients living with asthma and COPD.