A Fujitsu research lab has developed software that can accurately measure a subject's pulse using the small digital cameras attached to smartphones and tablets.
The company said that the technology is based on the fact that the brightness of an individual's face changes slightly as their heart beats, due to their blood flow. Hemoglobin, which carries oxygen around the body, absorbs green light, so analysing the change in colour of parts of the face reveals their heart rate.
As most image sensors capture pixel information in red, blue and green, they have the ability to detect hemoglobin built in. Fujitsu's technology keeps track of specific regions of the face over time to take pulse measurements.
"The pulse monitor is software based, so it can be added to any smartphone, tablet or PC," wrote Fujitsu spokesman Joseph Dean in an email.
The company says the software can take a person's pulse in as little as five seconds. It also automatically screens for instances when the individual is still and facing the camera to increase accuracy.
Fujitsu aims to commercialise the technology within the next 12 months. It will first be released in Japan, and the company is considering launching it internationally as well but has no solid plans.
Dean said the company is still undecided whether it will release the software only on Fujitsu devices or on those made by other manufacturers as well.
The company said possible applications include the ability to unobtrusively measure someone's pulse throughout the day, using the cameras built into their phone, computer, and smart TV. This could then be used to track long-term health patterns over time.
Fujitsu is strong in biometrics, with palm recognition technology that has been built into security systems and bank ATMs. The company is trying to launch a suite of cloud-based services that monitor and analyse users' personal health.