Google captures FDA de novo clearance for Pixel smartphone thermometer app

Google has secured an FDA clearance that finally unlocks human use of the temperature sensor built into its highest-end smartphone.

When the Pixel 8 Pro was first announced last October, the company said its sensor was well-suited to gauging the warmth of household objects, but that it shouldn’t be used to check someone out for a fever.

That’s changed with the agency’s green light, clearing what Google describes as the first smartphone body temperature app—and one that’s on par with other FDA-cleared thermometers that scan the temporal arteries around the forehead.

Google Pixel 8 Pro temperature app

“In clinical trials, our software algorithm was able to calculate body temperature in the range of 96.9°F–104°F (36.1°C–40°C) to within ±0.3°C when compared with an FDA-cleared temporal artery thermometer,” the company wrote in a blog post. The FDA’s de novo clearance was granted last December to Google’s Fitbit Health Solutions division.

The contactless infrared sensor takes in data from a wide field of view. To make sure the device is the correct distance away from the skin—so it can pick out the temperature of blood moving through the vessels close to the surface—it works with the laser rangefinder that adjusts the focus on the smartphone’s camera.

The thermometer app also provides vibration feedback and audio instructions to guide the user toward the arteries at the temples.