Annals of Biomedical Engineering

, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 885–898 | Cite as

Respiratory Rate Estimation from the Built-in Cameras of Smartphones and Tablets

  • Yunyoung Nam
  • Jinseok Lee
  • Ki H. Chon


This paper presents a method for respiratory rate estimation using the camera of a smartphone, an MP3 player or a tablet. The iPhone 4S, iPad 2, iPod 5, and Galaxy S3 were used to estimate respiratory rates from the pulse signal derived from a finger placed on the camera lens of these devices. Prior to estimation of respiratory rates, we systematically investigated the optimal signal quality of these 4 devices by dividing the video camera’s resolution into 12 different pixel regions. We also investigated the optimal signal quality among the red, green and blue color bands for each of these 12 pixel regions for all four devices. It was found that the green color band provided the best signal quality for all 4 devices and that the left half VGA pixel region was found to be the best choice only for iPhone 4S. For the other three devices, smaller 50 × 50 pixel regions were found to provide better or equally good signal quality than the larger pixel regions. Using the green signal and the optimal pixel regions derived from the four devices, we then investigated the suitability of the smartphones, the iPod 5 and the tablet for respiratory rate estimation using three different computational methods: the autoregressive (AR) model, variable-frequency complex demodulation (VFCDM), and continuous wavelet transform (CWT) approaches. Specifically, these time-varying spectral techniques were used to identify the frequency and amplitude modulations as they contain respiratory rate information. To evaluate the performance of the three computational methods and the pixel regions for the optimal signal quality, data were collected from 10 healthy subjects. It was found that the VFCDM method provided good estimates of breathing rates that were in the normal range (12–24 breaths/min). Both CWT and VFCDM methods provided reasonably good estimates for breathing rates that were higher than 26 breaths/min but their accuracy degraded concomitantly with increased respiratory rates. Overall, the VFCDM method provided the best results for accuracy (smaller median error), consistency (smaller interquartile range of the median value), and computational efficiency (less than 0.5 s on 1 min of data using a MATLAB implementation) to extract breathing rates that varied from 12 to 36 breaths/min. The AR method provided the least accurate respiratory rate estimation among the three methods. This work illustrates that both heart rates and normal breathing rates can be accurately derived from a video signal obtained from smartphones, an MP3 player and tablets with or without a flashlight.


Respiratory rate estimation Autoregressive model Continuous wavelet transform Variable frequency complex demodulation method Smartphone Tablet 



This work was supported in part by the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC) under Grant No. W81XWH-12-1-0541.


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Copyright information

© Biomedical Engineering Society 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biomedical EngineeringWorcester Polytechnic InstituteWorcesterUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biomedical EngineeringWonkwang University School of MedicineIksanRepublic of Korea

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