Google has been working on several new additions to its Pixel line of phones, including the much-rumored addition of an always-on ambient display and the addition of artificial intelligence (AI) through the integration of Google Assistant. Now, the company reportedly wants to add another feature that could change the way people use their phones altogether. According to Android Police , Google is developing an AI app that can automatically detect when you’re coughing or snoring while you sleep, which could potentially be used to track health data and identify problems like sleep apnea in real time. Google Working on a Cough Snore Detection Feature for Pixel and Android

A closer look at the health tech industry

With thousands of voice-activated devices in people’s homes—Amazon Echo alone has sold more than 20 million units since its 2014 launch—one of Google’s biggest competitors, Apple Inc., is expected to debut a new model of its own smart speaker in June. Health tech is only one facet of tech as a whole though: With software working at all levels, from inside our phones to running our offices, it’s not surprising that artificial intelligence is becoming ever-more prevalent. And with AI comes new questions about data privacy (and security). Some fear we are seeing an era where dataism may take over humanism as economic systems begin to rely more heavily on data collection.

Google Working on a Cough Snore Detection Feature for Pixel and Android
Google Working on a Cough Snore Detection Feature for Pixel and Android

What type of information will be collected?

This new feature will automatically detect excessive coughing or snoring while you are using your phone. The feature will display a warning notification if it notices that you are having an issue with one of these actions. If you ignore these notifications, it will try to get your attention through different means such as shaking your device slightly. If you continue to ignore these notifications it will then start placing calls to emergency services. Google is hoping that by detecting health issues before they actually happen, they can help save lives. They also stated that users can opt out of any part of their plan that they don’t want included in it but didn’t specify what exactly those features would be or how users could manage them specifically.

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How will it be used?

Google’s patent specifically talks about using your smart device to detect that you are in need of medical attention. For example, if you have a hearing or visual impairment then certain apps could be used to detect that as well. In addition, by monitoring our coughs and snores we can further increase our chances of making it through our early mornings without running late to work or school. After all who really wants to be running around with sleep crusted over their eyes only to spill coffee all over their shirt? This is definitely a feature I would love to see integrated into Google Home because quite frankly what goes on in my bedroom is my business!

Will all data be analyzed in real time?

There are about 30 million voice recordings uploaded to Google’s servers each day. Is it possible that Google will analyze all of these data streams in real time? We don’t know yet. All we can do is speculate until more details surface. One thing we do know is that Google has access to more data than any other company in history.

Google Working on a Cough Snore Detection Feature for Pixel and Android
Google Working on a Cough Snore Detection Feature for Pixel and Android

Therefore, it might be able to power artificial intelligence algorithms with voice data beyond just detecting coughs and snores. For example, there might be an AI algorithm that could detect when you have a cold based off your voice patterns or even predict whether you will get sick or not—if so, it could send you information regarding healthy foods or special flu medicine before you get sick.

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Can I opt out?

If you’re being involuntarily included in Google’s cough detection study, you might want to stop reading here. The other 99 percent of us who don’t have one of those annoying snorts or violent coughs that we can’t seem to hold back should read on. Apparently, Google is testing software to allow its Home devices to detect unwanted sounds—like snoring or bouts of coughing—and identify them as such. By doing so, Google will be able to send targeted content like healing music during sleep disturbances and offer users advice about colds when they inevitably go through a bout of coughing fits.

Who controls the data?

When considering whether to buy any new device or technology, look at how much control you have over your data. Privacy is one of those things people rarely care about until it’s gone—and it’s incredibly difficult to regain once lost. Even if you’re planning to buy one Google product over another because of its functionality or unique features, keep in mind that your data is part of what makes that service run. Take time when reviewing products (or anything else) to consider who gets access to your data and how it can be used—and figure out if you’re okay with that potentiality before committing to anything.

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