A Contextual Coaching Spirometer for the Masses

Shawn Nikkila, Gaurav Patel, Hari Sundaram, Aisling Kelliher, and Ashutosh Sabharwal. 2012. Wind runners: designing a game to encourage medical adherence for children with asthma. In CHI ’12 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI EA ’12). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 2411-2416.

Siddharth Gupta, Peter Chang, Nonso Anyigbo, and Ashutosh Sabharwal. 2011. mobileSpiro: accurate mobile spirometry for self-management of asthma. In Proceedings of the First ACM Workshop on Mobile Systems, Applications, and Services for Healthcare (mHealthSys ’11). ACM, New York, NY, USA, , Article 1 , 6 pages.

TEAM MEMBERS (over multiple years and all collaborations): 

Gaurav Patel, Research Engineer ECE

Dr. Ashutosh Sabharwal, Professor ECE

Peter Chang, CS Senior

Nonso Anyigbo, ECE Senior

Hasitha Dharmasiri, ECE Senior

Siddharth Gupta, ECE Senior

Shawn Nikkila, CS Undergraduate Alumnus

Dr. Kalpalatha Guntupalli, Professor of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine

Dr. Amit D. Parulekar, M.D.Assistant Professor of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine

Dr. P. S. Reddy, Founder and chairman, Mediciti Hospital and Share Foundation, Hyderabad

Dr. Jammy Rajesh, Associate Project Director, SHARE India Research Institute, Hyderabad

THE PROBLEM Most current spirometers require an expert technician to ensure correct spirometry. MobileSpiro is the first clinical grade portable spirometer that brings spirometry to masses, by allowing either field nurse or patients themselves to conduct an accurate spirometry.

OUR SOLUTION We have developed a portable spirometer called ‘mobileSpiro’ which is a combination of hardware sensor and Android App with smart algorithms on a smartphone/tablet. The hardware sensor is a very accurate flow meter, and meets the tough standards set by ATS and ISO for clinical grade spirometry. The key innovation lies in the mobileSpiro app that (a) detects common errors in conducting spirometry maneuvers with over 94% accuracy (see publication), (b) provides contextual coaching and live feedback to the patient, and (c) automatically validates the quality of the test performed.


  • Summer 2011 – V0 : Built first working version (V0) of spirometer, with a big PCB using a pressure transducer for flow measurement. After the first version was complete, we began to give demos to our medical partners in Baylor College of Medicine.
  • Fall 2011 : mobileSpiro wins best demo at mHealthSys 2011. Our mobileSpiro was also finalist for the best paper award.
  • Summer 2012 – V1 : V1 prototype with pressure transducer is finally ready and formal collaboration with BCM for clinical trials formalized. However, we decided change type of sensor to turbine from pressure sensor. Turbine sensor offers benefits like no need for repeated calibration and robust performance in the field. Furthermore mouthpieces are easily replaceable.
  • Fall 2013 – V2 : V2 prototype with turbine is completed, and we began benchmarking against clinical spirometers, which serve as our gold standard. Recognizing the lack of repeatability in human trials, we acquired a Pulmonary Waveform Generator (PWG) to ensure that mobileSpiro can be calibrated to meet ISO and ATS standards.
  • Summer 2013 : We finally meet (and actually beat) tough accuracy criteria set by ATS and ISO.
  • September 2013 : IRB, formal collaboration with institutes in India to do clinical trials.
  • Dec 2013 – V3 : We made a hardware change and added a camera module for the compliance to know who was taking the test, for patient ID camera on top of spirometer.


Our passionate mobileSpiro team went out of their comfort zone to learn about mechanical modeling, 3D CAD design etc. First version of mobileSpiro was calibrated using large windtunnel (picture below) that is typically used to model aerodynamic forces. We realized that is not an accurate method of calibrating spirometers, fun experience nonetheless. That’s Peter Chang and Nonso Anyigbo in the picture below.


mobileSpiro team member Gaurav Patel visited SHARE research institute, Hyderabad, India and trained four community health-workers to use mobileSpiro. (image below)