Say ‘ahh’ to let your smartphone check for Parkinson’s disease
Smartphones are designed to be curious. Having already learned about your friendships, your family and the pattern of your daily routine, designers are now interested in your health and fitness.
A new crop of apps and wearable devices continuously measure and analyse vital signs such as movement and heart rate, claiming to count calories, optimise sleep quality and guide diet. While cynics might be tempted to dismiss these products as glorified pedometers for lycra-clad smartphone addicts, new research shows that the hardware inside existing consumer devices can already reliably detect degenerative, life-changing disorders, including Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s currently affects between seven to 10m people worldwide, and there is no cure. The disease can be diagnosed from a number of characteristic symptoms, including muscle tremor, changes in speech and difficulty of movement. However, diagnosis is challenging and usually involves regular visits to the doctor. It is estimated that one in five people with Parkinson’s are never diagnosed. Even if diagnosed, it can be difficult to accurately assess the how efficient treatment is in managing the disease.