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It Actually Works! An app that Turns Your Smartphone into an Accurate Thermometer

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By Jessy Sloan - - 5 Mins Read
A person using their smartphone
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A thermometer in your first aid kit is crucial for monitoring your body temperature, especially during a fever. Unfortunately, many overlook its significance and fail to keep one on hand. As a result, they may find themselves in a difficult situation when experiencing a fever and cannot take their temperature.


What if you were told that a group of researchers had developed a thermometer application that can accurately tell you your temperature, assuming you are running a fever?


Fever is one of the early signs of many illnesses. Even for the Covid-19 virus, having a severe fever is one of the signs that you might have contracted the virus. So getting smartphone apps that serve as thermometers and can accurately guess your temperature would be vital to reducing the spread of many diseases and viruses. 


One question that pops up is, "Why do people lack thermometers?"


There is no definitive answer to this question, as various situations could arise. Some individuals may not possess thermometers due to an oversight in their medical kit preparation. Conversely, others may avoid purchasing them due to their high cost, ranging from $15 to $300. Additionally, obtaining medical equipment such as thermometers can be difficult in underdeveloped regions.


Another question. How do we solve this problem? So a team led by researchers at the University of Washington has created a new app to turn a smartphone into a fully working thermometer.

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A person holding up a thermometer to check tempreture



This thermometer application is named FeverPhone, and it automatically changes the functionality of a smartphone to that of a thermometer without adding any hardware. With a phone's touchscreen and battery sensors, this application can gather data that a machine-learning model uses to estimate people's basic body temperature.


They have already used the app to test more than 30 people, and the results are amazing. Their findings were published in Proceedings of the ACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable, and Ubiquitous Technologies on the 28th of March this year. 

How It All Started 

Everything has a starting point, which applies to the developers who created this smartphone thermometer. Apparently, the lead author Joseph Breda, a UW doctoral student in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, was the one who got the idea of changing the functionality of a smartphone to that of a thermometer.


"In undergrad, I was doing research in a lab where we wanted to show that you could use the temperature sensor in a smartphone to measure air temperature," Breda explained. 


After using his idea to measure air temperature, they applied it to the health sector. "When I came to the UW, my adviser and I wondered how we could apply a similar technique for health. We decided to measure fever in an accessible way. The primary concern with temperature isn't that it's a difficult signal to measure; it's just that people don't have thermometers," Breda said. 

"In a wave of influenza, for instance, people running to the ER can take five days, or even a week sometimes. So if people were to share fever results with public health agencies through the app, similar to how we signed up for COVID exposure warnings, this earlier sign could help us intervene much sooner," Dr. Mastafa Springston, a co-author of the study, said.