No, This App Cannot Measure Blood Oxygen Levels With A Phone Camera

Health and cyber security experts BOOM spoke to expressed doubts over whether this app can measure oxygen levels by using the phone's flashlight and rear camera

A WhatsApp message claiming Pedometer 2018, a mobile app can measure the oxygen level in the blood by simply placing the index finger on the phone rear camera, is false.

The message is being shared with the app link with instructions on how to install the app from the Google Play Store. A pulse oximeter is a small, lightweight device used to monitor the amount of oxygen in the body. It is usually used by patients suffering from chronic lung conditions and respiratory problems.

It has suddenly gained attention for its ability to monitor one symptom related to COVID-19, which is low oxygen levels in the blood. Whereas pedometer which is incidentally the app name here is usually a portable device that counts each step a person takes by detecting the motion of the person.

The viral forward reads, "Those who haven't yet got an pulse Oximeter, and even others please install this app and measure oxygen level daily in this Covid time and if oxygen level falls below 90 please consult doctor immediately."

It further mentions how to use the app saying, "Press the index finger on the rear camera. Please cover full camera. Touch "Measure " Hold the finger until measurement is complete. Reading will display on the screen."


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BOOM received the viral forward on its WhatsApp helpline number (7700906111) inquiring about it.


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FACT-CHECK

BOOM spoke to health and cyber security experts who told us that the function the app claims to perform, which is using just a mobile phone to measure the oxygen level of a person is not possible with existing technology.

We also analysed the app by testing it, however, the app failed to catch a pulse and could not differentiate between an object or a human finger and displayed a false reading,

In the case of a pulse oximeter, one has to place their fingertip inside the device after which it sends two wavelengths of light through the finger to measure the pulse rate and how much oxygen is in your system. Once the oximeter finishes its assessment, the device screen displays the percent of oxygen in the blood.



False Readings

Pedometer 2018 app claims that it can take measurements without using a pulse oximeter and provides various options like checking blood pressure, oxygen, heart rate etc simply using the camera and flash.

The normal level of oxygen in the bloodstream ranges between 95% and 100%. On following the steps mentioned by the app by taking a reading by placing the index finger on the camera and pressing the screen after which the flashlight comes on, we got a normal reading of 95.

So we tested the app and found that it gives a reading whether or not you place your finger on the rear camera. Even on placing the camera towards a table and tried taking a reading and still got a normal reading of 98.


This showed that the app was not giving an accurate reading, additionally, several reviews of the app on the PlayStore also say the same.


Oximeter uses infrared technology which is not present in an ordinary phone: Dr. Jeenam Shah

Pedometer 2018 in its Optical measuring principle claims that using just the phone flashlight as a light source it can capture the pulse of the blood capillary.

However, BOOM contacted Dr. Jeenam Shah, consultant chest physician and interventional pulmonologist, Saifee, Wockhardt & Bhatia Hospital, who also called the app a fake. He stated that oxygen measuring devices like oximeter use infrared technology which is not present in an ordinary phone.

"There is no way that the phone can measure oxygen levels and heart rate using the flash, that is not possible," Shah told BOOM


This app is a hoax: Cyber Expert

BOOM reached out to Rahul Sasi, an Indian entrepreneur, security expert, and white-hat hacker who said that the app is a hoax and stated that using a mobile camera to detect a human pulse as the app states is difficult and will not yield reliable results.

"In case of detecting heart rate using a camera- it is theoretically possible and many commercial applications are available. Photoplethysmogram devices use light to illuminates the skin and measure changes in light absorption using a camera in order to derive patterns from blood circulation," said Sasi

He further added saying, "So theoretically speaking having a camera and light source could be used to detect human pulse and oxygen levels. But reproducing this on a mobile camera is super difficult and won't yield any reliable results. Even though I haven't evaluated the underlying code yet. I think the above app is a hoax."

No evidence that any smartphone technology is accurate for the measurement of blood oxygen saturation: CEBM analysis

Additionally, according to an analysis on smartphone apps for measuring oxygen saturation from the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, had concluded that they should not be used clinically as oximeters.

The analysis stated, "There is no evidence that any smartphone technology is accurate for the measurement of blood oxygen saturation for clinical use. Furthermore, the scientific basis of such technologies is questionable. Oxygen saturation levels obtained from such technologies should not be trusted in the clinical assessment of patients."

BOOM reached out to the developers of the app for a response, the article will be updated upon receiving a response.

Also Read: What Is A Pulse Oximeter And How Does It Help In COVID-19 Detection?


Updated On: 2020-07-31T15:20:01+05:30
Claim Review :  Pedometer 2018 app measures blood oxygen level by just placing the index finger on the phone camera
Claimed By :  Facebook Posts
Fact Check :  False
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