The smartphone with an ‘electronic nose’ for smelling diseases

Scientists have developed a smartphone accessory that could analyse the user’s breath for early signs of life-threatening diseases.

The SNIFFPHONE project is being developed by Professor Hossam Haick of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology as a non-invasive method of disease detection.

Read more: You can now donate to cancer research via contactless payment

The device, which has already received a grant from the European Commission, will build on Professor Haick’s previous work with breathalyser screening technology. Micro and nano sensors will examine the user’s breath before transferring the details to a smartphone for more detailed analysis.

Prof. Haick has been developing his “ electronic nose” technology since he joined the Technion society in 2006 and recently received an additional €6 million (£4.5 million) in funding to continue his work. The “nose” is able to identify if an individual has a higher chance of contracting certain diseases and can then refer them for treatment immediately or at a later date.

Professor Haick will head up a research consortium containing a number of other high-profile companies and individuals, including Siemens and technology institutes from Austria, Finland and Germany.

"The SNIFFPHONE is a winning solution. It will be made tinier and cheaper than disease detection solutions currently, consume little power, and most importantly, it will enable immediate and early diagnosis that is both accurate and non-invasive," explained Prof. Haick. "Early diagnosis can save lives, particularly in life-threatening diseases such as cancer."

Previously, large machinery was required alongside a breath-analysing microphone in order to detect if patients were suffering from diseases such as stomach ulcers or cancer.

According to Haick’s team, the technology has a 90 per cent accuracy rate and could allow patients to receive a diagnosis far faster than would be possible via traditional channels.

Ultimately, Prof. Haick believes his SNIFFPHONE device could save someone’s life.

Read more: Intel creates big data platform to fight Parkinson’s disease

“[It] could facilitate faster therapeutic intervention, replacing expensive and time-consuming clinical follow-up that would eventually lead to the same intervention.”