Scientists have recently discovered that Amazon Echo, Alexa and even smartphones could soon be used to identify cardiac arrests in its owners.


An AI-powered tool which could be installed on smart phones and speakers could detect irregular gasps of breath (agonal breathing). This is due to the unique sounds associated with cardiac arrest.

The devices could then automatically alert the emergency services.

Why is this so important?

Those who are suffering are often elderly, living alone at home and potentially unable to seek help at this urgent moment.

What are agonal breaths?

Agonal breathing is a gasping sound, experienced due to the sufferer’s low oxygen levels. It is more of a reflex action that occurs in 50% of people following a cardiac arrest.

This is why it is so important when checking for breathing to recognise normal breathing and check for at least 2 normal breaths in up to 10 seconds. If there are less than 2 normal breaths, the person should be considered to be not breathing and require CPR.

More facts about the new technology:

The University of Washington listened to over 160 emergency cardiac arrest calls – where bystanders were asked to hold the phone to the casualty’s face so the call handler can listen to establish if they are making agonal gasps.

The scientists developed an algorithm to recognise these specific agonal gasps and tested their tool over an eight year period. It was important to develop a system that can detect agonal gasps even whilst layered with everyday noises such as dogs, cars, snoring and more.  The system was able to detect agonal breathing in 97% of cases when the device was up to six metres away from the individual suffering agonal gasps indicating cardiac arrest.

They want to conduct further work to further reduce any false positives which would be distressing to next of kin and costly to the emergency services. However, potentially this could be extremely useful.

What will the product be like?

The scientists, from the University of Washington, envisage a “contactless system that works by continuously and passively monitoring the bedroom for an agonal breathing event, and alerts anyone nearby who could come and provide CPR” explains Shyam Gollakota.

He confirms that this could run on popular device Alexa.

CPR is crucial

This device reiterates the importance of CPR being administered in the event of a cardiac arrest.

You can make sure you know how to perform effective CPR by joining one of our first aid courses. Our courses will also teach you how to detect signs of cardiac arrest and how to spot and treat many more medical emergencies.

Written by Emma Hammett RGN

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