Propeller launches API that predicts local asthma conditions

“Smart inhaler” player Propeller Health is rolling out an application programming interface (API) that provides information on local asthma conditions.

The service, dubbed Air, uses machine learning to analyze millions of days of anonymized asthma-related data to forecast the potential effects of the local environment on people’s breathing, Propeller said in a statement. These data include when people have asthma symptoms and the environmental conditions at the locations and times they have symptoms.

Propeller markets a sensor that attaches to an inhaler and tracks where a patient uses his or her inhaler. The sensor then transmits this data via Bluetooth to a smartphone, where an app analyzes where, when and why a patient took his or her medication.

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The company has inked dozens of partnerships with pharma partners well as with healthcare systems and managed care organizations. And while Propeller’s sensor clips onto a number of different inhalers, the company has worked with companies, such as GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis, on custom sensors for their inhalers.

While Propeller is offering the Air API free of charge to individuals and organizations, who can then build on it to make their own apps, the Propeller team developed some tools at a recent hackathon, which it will also release to the public. These include text or email alerts to inform users of changes in asthma conditions in a specific location.

"We're excited to release the first version of Air by Propeller, a set of services designed to enable a larger audience to help people with asthma," said Propeller CTO Greg Tracy, in the statement. "With the new infrastructure and services, people will be able to make use of Propeller's analytics, which draw on the largest database of respiratory medication use, environmental exposures and conditions. We look forward to seeing how others build on this to change the experience of respiratory disease."

Other teams are looking at measuring environmental conditions to help people with asthma manage their disease, including researchers at North Carolina State University. The NC State team developed the Health and Environment Tracker, comprising a wristband and chest patch, which monitors environmental irritants and could help predict or potentially even prevent asthma attacks.