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Google has bought Senosis Health, a startup by Indian Origin American tech entrepreneur Shwetak Patel and 4 of his partners. The app turns smartphones into medical devices and collects various health stats. The Senosis apps can monitor lung health and hemoglobin counts, among other things, using functions on a smartphone including its accelerometer, microphone, flash and camera. For example, to measure the hemoglobin, Senosis’ app uses the phone’s flash to illuminate a user’s finger.

Shwetak Patel

Shwetak Patel founded the company with four others from the University of Washington and it’s not the first time his ventures have been acquired. In 2015, renowned American retail giants Sears bought Patel’s WallyHome sensor technology that detects changes in moisture, temperature, and humidity.

With Senosis, Patel and his team of about a dozen engineers and physicians took on a bigger challenge: Turning smartphones into monitoring devices that collect health metrics to diagnose pulmonary function, hemoglobin counts and other critical health information.

Google identifies health tech as a bright prospect for the future and has been investing heavily into health care technology.  In 2015, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, launched a new subsidiary known as Verily which was designed to bring together technology, data science and healthcare in a way that would allow people to “enjoy longer and healthier lives.” Last year, it launched DeepMind Health, an initiative to create a suite of apps that can help doctors identify patients at risk of complications. Google is using AI and machine learning to create tools for medical providers, and at the moment, it says most progress is being made in ophthalmology and digital pathology. The acquisition is in line with Google’s plans for its health technology arm, which aims to “dramatically improve the availability and accuracy of medical services.”

Patel and his colleagues at Senosis are not joining the Verily team, and it’s unclear where they will fit in the greater Alphabet family, the parent company of Google. One source told GeekWire that the Senosis team will remain at Google, forming the backbone of a digital health effort based in Seattle.

It’s also unclear how much was paid for Senosis, which was in the process of raising a series A financing round from leading venture capital firms when the acquisition offer materialized.

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