Health Information Exchange Featured Article

July 10, 2013

Google Glass App Developed to Save Lives after Cardiac Arrest

Google Glass has drawn a lot of fire recently from privacy rights advocates for its facial recognition technology and ability to collect and respond to data it captures in the wearer's visual field. Its ability to capture data passively makes it more of a privacy concern than someone holding up a smartphone indefinitely with the camera recording.

CPRGLASS, an app recently developed for Glass, probably won't assuage fears of privacy invasion. However, its lifesaving capability makes great use of the device's technology, and some might argue, offer a legitimate use of the device.

Dr. Christian Assad developed the app, which walks the user through the process of CPR and simultaneously notifies emergency personnel. Assad provides the following scenario as an example of how CPRGLASS would be used:

When a Glass user observes a person collapsing, they can activate CPRGLASS by simply saying, "OK GLASS, CPRGLASS."

This will cause the following instructions to appear: ABC (Assess Airway, Breathing and Circulation).

The user could say, "OK Glass, no pulse" to initiate a CPR algorithm.

Another method to start the CPR algorithm would be to use video technology developed by a team led by Hao-Yu Wu from MIT. The technology has the ability to detect a pulse in a person when a camera is recording them.

This technology would free the CPRGLASS user from having to find a pulse after CPR compressions are initiated. CPRGLASS would be able to determine if the compressions are adequate or if the patient has regained a pulse and compressions are no longer necessary.

The CPR algorithm is as follows:

1) The disco-music classic “Staying Alive” music guides the user to perform compressions at a rate of 100 per minute.

2) A gyroscope tracks when compressions begin and counts the number of compressions. It can also give the user feedback about whether or not the compressions are adequate.

3) Initiates a call to 911 with the GPS coordinates of the victim.

4) Attempts to locate the nearest automated external defibrillator. AED locations are provided beforehand by croudsourcing.

5) Sends a text message to the nearest hospital with CPR information.

While the application has impressive features, it does raise some questions.

Is relying on crowdsourced AED location information a good idea? Lots of crowdsourced information online has inaccuracies. Well-meaning people providing locations could be off a little bit in the information. That slight inaccuracy is unacceptable when lives are at stake. An arrangement with AED manufacturers or distributors to obtain locations would be more accurate and safe.

Is sending a text to the nearest hospital (as in step 5, above) the right approach? Ambulances do not always transport a victim to the nearest hospital. A server-based application at the 911 dispatch office would be a good centralized location to receive the text where it could then be forwarded to the appropriate site.

Nonetheless, Dr. Assad is onto something that could be a very effective app that makes excellent use of Glass technology. Privacy advocates will argue that the remote chance of encountering a person in cardiac arrest does not justify the privacy invasion of Glass the other 99.99 percent of the time. The legal and societal ramifications of devices like Glass are just starting to surface and will take a long time to iron out.

Edited by Rory J. Thompson