Masimo offers iPhone-enabled pulse ox to climbers, pilots

By: Jonah Comstock | Dec 17, 2012        

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Masimo, a medical device maker founded in 1989, has released a commercially-available iOS-enabled pulse oximeter called the iSpO2. Pulse oximeters, which have long been a core product of Masimo, measure blood oxygen level and pulse rate by shining light through the fingertip and measuring the absorption of different wavelengths.

The product is not FDA cleared and doesn’t have a CE Mark, because the company says it’s intended for sports and aviation use. Both climbers and pilots could use the device to quickly check for symptoms of hypoxia or altitude sickness, both of which are associated with lower blood oxygenation. SoCalTech.com reported that the company is seeking regulatory clearance and plans to release a medical version in the future.

The iSpO2 clips to the user’s fingertip and connects to an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch via a 30-pin connector, displaying the reading on the Apple device screen. The company doesn’t mention support for the iPhone 5, which lacks a 30-pin connector. UPDATE: Masimo wrote to MobiHealthNews that the iSpO2 does work with the iPhone5 via the Lightning adapter.

In addition to blood oxygenation, the device measures pulse rate and perfusion index (the strength of the arterial pulse), using the same pulse oximetry technology as Masimo’s medical products. The app can store that data, chart it over time, and email it to friends.

The iSpO2 is Masimo’s first consumer product. It’s available for purchase in the Amazon store for $249.

MobiHealthNews wrote about Tinké, an iPhone-enabled pulse oximetry device, in January. Tinké, by Zensorium, is now available for purchase, although the website doesn’t specifically use the terminology “pulse oximeter” and their product doesn’t appear to be FDA-cleared either. It sells for $119. Medical device maker Nonin makes a wireless pulse oximeter that is Bluetooth-enabled, but it doesn’t specifically connect with iOS devices and it isn’t marketed directly to consumers.

Azumio’s Instant Heart Rate uses the iPhone camera to take a user’s pulse. Although the app doesn’t track blood oxygenization, the App Store description formerly claimed to use “the same technique used by medical pulse oximeters.” When MobiHealthNews wrote about the app in September, some commenters questioned that claim. The description now reads “leveraging a similar technique as used in pulse oximeters.”