Health IT, Startups

Spire rolls out Android version of breathing monitor to gauge, manage stress

The app also transmits notifications so users are aware of their stress level and directs them how to manage it.

Spire appLast year, IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics counted 165,000 consumer-facing wellness apps — 19 percent of them target lifestyle and stress. Call it an expansion of the quantified self movement into self-help. In the past couple of years mindfulness has become a hot area, with apps and wearables promoted as a way to focus attention, relax and manage stress. There’s generally little in the way of clinical validation for these apps, but some companies are keen to change that.

Spire offers a twist on this trend by using a wearable and companion app to continuously monitor breathing, steps and calorie intake, and identify breathing patterns as a way to gauge mindset, particularly users’ stress level. The app also transmits notifications so users are aware of their stress level and directs them how to manage it.

This week, the company expanded its customer base to include Android users about 1.5 years after its initial iOS app. The package carries a price tag of $129.95.

In a phone interview, Spire CEO and Co-founder Jonathan Palley said one reason he is psyched about the expansion of the company’s app to Android users is that Spire’s focus on iOS network customers, from the Apple watch to iPhones and tablets, led to some negative reviews from customers frustrated by the lack of compatibility.

Palley acknowledged the growing amount of “noise” regarding apps tracking frame of mind. “Over the last six months, I have seen a lot more people talking about mental well-being, mindfulness apps.”

Palley said Spire came about after he invented a sensing mechanism to detect breathing in a wearable form factor. He had also run a big data analysis consulting business and became interested in how to capture this information in a small form factor. The product was developed based on scientific research from Stanford’s Calming Technology Lab.

Spire counts Rock Health, Stanford University and Y Combinator among its partners, according to its website.

Spire app fact sheetThe app provides guidance based on protocols from clinical studies to alleviate things such as anxiety and pain, increase heart rate variability, and reduce blood pressure, according to Spire’s website. The idea is that by contextualizing users activities, the app can help them figure out what helps them to be calm and focused. It also guides users through breathing and meditation exercises.

Users can receive and customize notifications reminding them to do things like take a deep breath or when they have been inactive and when they have been tense for a period of time.

Although it is not designed to be a physician-recommended product, Palley said the company is interested in pursuing clinical validation for its product. He noted that Spire recently added a professional program for the healthcare space. The app is also compatible with HealthKit. He added that its product is being evaluated as a respiration monitor for asthma and COPD. Beyond healthcare, Palley said he has seen that day traders have used Spire’s wearable and app to get a read on when they are prepared to make the best decisions.

“There’s an interesting line between wellness and productivity,” said Palley.

Photo: Spire