Bosch and Highmark use space tech to detect asthma

  • January 19, 2022
  • Steve Rogerson
From the left: Joseph Aracri, Kelly Shields and Samarjit Das.

Highmark Health and Bosch announced at CES in Las Vegas a research collaboration to explore the use of sensor technology to capture audio that is analysed using artificial intelligence to detect paediatric pulmonary conditions, such as asthma.

The Bosch SoundSee technology was launched to the International Space Station (ISS) in late 2019 and is being used aboard the station to assess system operations.

The research collaboration builds on a long-time practice in doctor-patient care. When doctors put a stethoscope on a patient’s chest, they can hear audio patterns that help them detect an abnormality.

Highmark Health and Bosch are applying the same principles of the stethoscope by using AI-enabled sensor technology to listen and detect audio cues that could help with patient diagnosis. Such AI capabilities have the potential to improve patient-centric, at-home care where audio AI-based diagnostic results can be reported to a doctor for analysis and recommended action.

By using high-fidelity microphones coupled with AI and machine learning for sound analysis, the research team will investigate if paediatric pulmonary conditions such as asthma can be detected using the noise emitted through various breathing patterns from patients.

Clinical studies will be conducted through the Allegheny Health Network (AHN) and are scheduled to begin this quarter. AHN paediatrician Joseph Aracri will conduct the first feasibility study in a small cohort of paediatric patients. During the patient’s visit to the paediatric clinic, the high-resolution microphone will capture sounds as the children speak and breathe. The sounds will then be processed and added as a feature into the AI and machine-learning techniques along with clinically relevant information and the child’s diagnosis.

“This unique collaboration between two industry leaders fits squarely with our mission of exploring technological innovations that can improve the health and wellness of our patients and members,” said Kelly Shields, senior research data scientist at Highmark Health. “Bosch’s global leadership in the development of pioneering industrial and consumer technologies and Highmark Health’s R&D expertise, along with AHN’s leading paediatric expertise, is an incredibly promising combination that we believe can help transform the diagnosis and treatment of asthma and other breathing disorders.”

Bosch’s SoundSee technology on-board the space station connects to Nasa’s free-flying Astrobee robot and performs AI-driven analytics on audio data from the station’s systems and equipment to develop autonomous sensing capabilities to gauge system performance and predict maintenance needs. The technology captures ambient noise through built-in microphones and uses artificial intelligence to extract operational characteristics of the machines and components from their emitted audio patterns to spot potential anomalies.

“It has always been the vision of Bosch that the SoundSee technology would have applications beyond space,” said Samarjit Das, leader of the intelligent IoT group at Bosch Research in Pittsburgh. “Our new research collaboration with Highmark Health and Allegheny Health Network is another important step in demonstrating the potential of this technology – and specifically artificial intelligence – to provide benefit to humankind.”

Bosch has secured multiple patents in using the SoundSee AI technology towards various consumer and industrial applications such as environmental audio event recognition and machine health monitoring.

Already Bosch’s experience and core competencies in sensor and microsystems technology, miniaturisation, algorithm development, and smart connectivity have yielded a product for monitoring asthma. The Vivatmo Me enables asthmatics to monitor their condition at home via a breath-gas analyser that allows patients to determine accurately levels of inflammation and document them in an app that can be shared with their doctor. Vivatmo Me has been available in Germany and Austria since March 2020 and Bosch plans to obtain approval in other markets, including the USA.

Highmark Health is a Pittsburgh -based enterprise that employs more than 37,000 people who serve millions of Americans across the country. Highmark and its subsidiaries and affiliates provide health insurance to more than six million members in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware and New York as well as dental insurance and related health products through a national network of diversified businesses.