House Call: Five Smartphone Accessories That Help Monitor Your Health
Smartphones are kind of like the Swiss
Army knives of the tech world. They
make calls. They allow you to send and
receive email, browse the Web, watch
videos … the list goes on. But did you
know they can also take your blood
pressure and tell you when you’ve had
too much to drink?
A growing number of third-party
companies are making add-ons for
smartphones to help monitor your
health. These go beyond the fitness-
focused wearable tech devices that are
so popular today, like the Jawbone Up
and Fitbit Flex, with more specialized
analysis. Katie Boehret took a look at a
couple of these devices — the HeartMath
Inner Balance Sensor and Tinké — in
her column here. But there are others,
Below, you’ll find five accessories built
to work with your smartphone or tablet
and keep tabs on your health. Most are
designed for iOS, but there’s one
Android-friendly gadget in the bunch.
Also, it should go without saying that
these aren’t meant to replace regular
doctor’s visits, and if you’re having a
medical emergency, you should contact
a professional. But they can be useful
tools for preventative care and
monitoring existing conditions.AliveCor Heart Monitor
The AliveCor Heart Monitor is a $199
case that features built-in electrodes for
reading and recording single-channel
electrocardiogram (ECG) measurements.
(ECG tests measure the electrical activity
of your heart, and can help monitor and
detect any issues with the heart.)
Once you snap the case onto your iPhone
4, 4S or 5, and download the free
mobile app, you can begin the test by
placing your fingertips over the sensors
for 10 seconds. The app then displays
the reading, as well as your heart rate,
right on the screen. AliveCor will also
securely store that data in the cloud, so
you can analyze the data and share with
One important thing to note about the
AliveCor Heart Monitor is that it must
be prescribed by a doctor.
Withings Smart Blood Pressure
You may know Withings for its smart
scales, but the company also makes a
Smart Blood Pressure Monitor for the
iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. The
accessory features a blood pressure cuff
that attaches to your iOS device via 30-
pin connector (those with Lightning
connectors will need an adapter), and
there’s an accompanying app.
Once you’ve place the band around your
arm, it can measure systolic and
diastolic pressure and heart rate. The
app automatically saves the data, so you
can access your history at any time or
share with doctors via email.
You can also create multiple profiles for
each member of your family, and the
app provides advice and an FAQ section
about blood pressure. The Smart Blood
Pressure Monitor costs $130.
iBGStar Blood Glucose Monitoring
For those with diabetes, the iBGStar
Blood Glucose Monitoring System allows
users to check blood glucose levels and
manage data right from their mobile
device. Similar to the Smart Blood
Pressure Monitor, the accessory attaches
to iOS devices via the 30-pin connector
or Lightning adapter. It comes with a
lancet device and test strips.
After inserting the strip into the bottom
of the accessory, you can then apply
your blood sample, and the built-in
meter will calculate test results. All
data is logged in the app, and
information can be shared via email.
The iBGStar with 10 test strips costs
around $72; the price goes up to $100 if
you want 50 test strips.
The Scanadu Scout isn’t about
diagnosing problems on the spot.
Rather, it’s about collecting data over
time, so that people can keep track of
changes in their health and identify
when things are abnormal for them and
not based on medical averages. For
“Star Trek” fans, think tricorder.
Created by a Silicon Valley startup, the
Scanadu Scout is a small puck that you
place on your forehead for 10 seconds,
and the sensors inside measure your
heart rate, skin/body temperature,
oxygen saturation levels, respiratory
rate, blood pressure, ECG and emotional
All of this data is then sent to the
smartphone app (iOS or Android) via
Bluetooth, where you can analyze and
track the information.
The Scanadu Scout isn’t available yet.
The company raised funds to go into
production through Indiegogo , and has
met its goal. There are still 18 days left
in the campaign, so you can purchase
one for $199 (up from the original $150
price), with an expected delivery date of
March 2014. The company also has plans
for a urine test kit called the Scanaflo.
BACtrack Mobile Breathalyzer
Should you have had that last glass of
wine? The BACtrack Mobile
Breathalyzer can tell you. Blow into this
mobile breathalyzer, and it will send
your estimated blood alcohol content
(BAC) level to your iPhone via
Bluetooth, so you know whether it’s safe
or not to get behind the wheel. The app
can even estimate when your blood
alcohol level will return to zero percent.
There are also tools for tracking what
and how much you drank in a day, and
you can choose to keep all of the results
private or share them with friends via
Facebook, Twitter or text message (err,
for bragging rights, I guess?).
The BACtrack Mobile Breathalyzer costs
$150, and is available now.