Here’s how an Apple ‘breath sensor’ could help your doctor keep you healthy

Apple Breathe Sensor

The next type of health sensor on a future Apple Device could use your breath to determine your overall well-being — and even detect disease.


Wearable sensors that can analyze a user’s breath have come a long way in recent years. According to a review article in the journal Nature, “wearable breath sensors are at a pivotal stage, with immense potential for impacting healthcare monitoring and disease diagnosis.”

Some types of breath health sensors can determine whether a person is getting the proper amount of airflow through their breathing. Other types of breath sensors can detect trace chemicals in the breath — such as hydrogen peroxide or ammonia — to determine whether someone has a disease or not.

For example:

  • Ammonia detection can help doctors determine whether a person has liver or kidney diseases.
    Hydrogen peroxide in the breath can be a reliable biomarker for inflammation and oxidative stress.
    Breath sensors could also detect the presence of pathogens, such as influenza or COVID-19.

In each of these cases, the article notes that breath monitoring is generally considered non-invasive and could make detecting disease and overall health much more straightforward, quicker, and cheaper.

On the other hand, current wearable breath sensors generally take the form of face masks or patches, which makes long-term and continuous use difficult. That’s where a wearable manufacturer or consumer technology company like Apple could come into play.

Apple breath sensor research

Current Apple devices, like the Apple Watch, contain a robust suite of sensors that can help you track your heart rate, blood oxygen levels, activity, and more. A future Apple wearable, however, may just contain a breath sensor.

One Apple patent application with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office in 2020 outlined a method to use infrared light and optical sensors to provide information on a user’s body by monitoring their breath.

More specifically, the Apple system could use the breath sensor to cross-check the levels of specific substances in a user’s breath to a database. The company went on to say:

“The database information may also contain information pertaining to human breath characteristics such as typical ammonia levels, acceptable alcohol levels for driving, etc. (e.g., so a user can compare infrared spectra obtained when the target object of interest is that user’s breath and/or the user’s mouth to human breath data from the database).”

On the other hand, the patent doesn’t lay out exactly how the sensor would be worn. In theory, Apple could mount these types of sensors on a wearable, or even include them for use in something like an iPhone. Imagine being able to blow on your iPhone’s camera and get current health information.

Apple has filed other breath-related patents applications, too. For example, Apple is currently researching a type of system that would monitor respiratory health through the nose pads on a pair of smart glasses. Another patent application details a way to monitor lung health through guided breathing — a concept similar to some current wearables on the market.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.