MIT researchers aim to use smartphones to track health issues

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a mobile health tool that uses data collected from an individual’s smartphone to track potential health conditions, Bloomberg Businessweek/San Francisco Chronicle reports.
For a 2009 study led by MIT doctoral student Anmol Madan, researchers gave smartphones to MIT students and tracked who they communicated with, how often they communicated and where they traveled.

The study found that students who had contracted influenza moved around much less than those without the flu. Researchers also found that students with depression had fewer phone calls and interacted less with others.
After the study, Madan and his classmate Karan Singh started to market their mobile health technology, which uses machine-learning techniques to sort through the tens of thousands of data points that come from a smartphone each month.

The tool works by tracking an individual’s typical behavior patterns. When it detects a behavior deviation that could signal depression or other health issues, the tool could alert the individual’s family, friends or physician that an intervention might be necessary.
The researchers said the tool does not read the content of conversations or text messages, and limits the data that are submitted to external organizations like insurance companies.
In October 2011, raised $1.7 million in venture capital from True Ventures and Kapor Capital. Madan and Singh said they plan to use the funds to build a series of apps that health care providers, insurers and drug companies could offer to patients.

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