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Highmark Health and Bosch Launch Research Collaboration to Study the Role of Deep Audio AI in Diagnosing Pediatric Pulmonary Conditions

Highmark Health and Bosch announced at the CES 2022 convention in Las Vegas, NV, a research collaboration that will explore the use of innovative sensor technology to capture audio that is analyzed using artificial intelligence to detect pediatric pulmonary conditions, such as asthma. The Bosch SoundSee technology was launched to the International Space Station (ISS) in late 2019 and is currently being used aboard the station to assess system operations.

The new research collaboration builds upon a long-time practice in doctor-patient care. When doctors put a stethoscope on a patient’s chest, they can hear audio patterns that help them detect an abnormality. Highmark Health and Bosch are applying the same principles of the stethoscope by using AI-enabled sensor technology to listen and detect audio cues that could help with patient diagnosis. Such AI capabilities have the potential to improve patient-centric, at-home care where audio AI-based diagnostic results can be reported to a doctor for further analysis and recommended action.

By using high-fidelity microphones coupled with AI and machine learning for sound analysis, the research team will investigate if pediatric pulmonary conditions such as asthma can be detected using the noise emitted through various breathing patterns from patients.

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Clinical studies will be conducted through the Pediatric Institute of Allegheny Health Network (AHN) and are scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2022. Joseph Aracri, DO, AHN pediatrician and Chair of its Pediatric Institute will conduct the first feasibility study in a small cohort of pediatric patients. During the patient’s visit to the pediatric clinic, the high-resolution microphone will be used to capture the sounds as the children speak and breathe. The sounds will then be processed and added as a feature into the AI and machine learning techniques along with clinically relevant information and the child’s diagnosis.

“This unique collaboration between two industry leaders fits squarely with our mission of exploring technological innovations that can improve the health and wellness of our patients and members,” said Kelly J. Shields, PhD, Senior Research Data Scientist, Highmark Health. “Bosch’s global leadership in the development of pioneering industrial and consumer technologies and Highmark Health’s R&D expertise, along with AHN’s leading pediatric expertise is an incredibly promising combination that we believe can help transform the diagnosis and treatment of asthma and other breathing disorders.”

Dr. Aracri has practiced medicine as part of AHN Pediatrics since 1998 and served as its president from 2009 through 2014. Since 2014, Dr. Aracri has also served as the Chair of the Department of Pediatrics for Allegheny Health Network, leading a Department of Pediatrics with more than 120 affiliated physicians, providing a broad range of inpatient and outpatient care, including general pediatrics, asthma, allergy and immunology, and neonatology services. In western Pennsylvania alone, over 60 providers within AHN Pediatrics provide care for over 80,000 pediatric patients at 20 locations. The lifetime asthma rate in Pennsylvania was 12.3% in 2019 among children in the 0–17-year age range.

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Audio AI expands from space to earth

Bosch’s SoundSee technology on-board the Space Station connects to NASA’s free-flying Astrobee robot and performs AI-driven analytics on audio data from the station’s systems and equipment to develop fully autonomous sensing capabilities to gauge system performance and predict maintenance needs. The technology captures ambient noise through built-in microphones and then uses artificial intelligence to extract operational characteristics of the machines and components from their emitted audio patterns to spot potential anomalies.

“It has always been the vision of Bosch that the SoundSee technology would have applications beyond space,” said Dr. Samarjit Das, leader of the Intelligent Internet of Things group at Bosch Research in Pittsburgh. “Our new research collaboration with Highmark Health and Allegheny Health Network is another important step in demonstrating the potential of this technology – and specifically artificial intelligence – to provide benefit to humankind.”

Bosch has secured multiple patents in utilizing the SoundSee AI technology towards various consumer and industrial applications such as environmental audio event recognition and machine health monitoring.

Sensors help to detect asthma

Already Bosch’s experience and core competencies in sensor and microsystems technology, miniaturization, algorithm development and smart connectivity have yielded a product for monitoring asthma. The Vivatmo me enables asthmatics to monitor their condition at home via a breath-gas analyzer device that allows patients to accurately determine levels of inflammation and document them in an app that can be shared with their doctor. Vivatmo me has been available in Germany and Austria since March 2020 and Bosch plans to obtain approval in other markets, such as the United States.

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