Propeller Health releases asthma forecasting API for open use

By Dave Muoio
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Madison, Wisconsin-based Propeller Health is taking its asthma alert messaging to the masses, as the longtime digital respiratory health company announced today that it is releasing Air, a free and open API that provides information on local asthma conditions.

Air makes asthma forecasts by pulling geographic data on humidity, wind direction, temperature, and other pollutants collected by the Environmental Protection Agency, AccuWeather, and BreezoMeter, Propeller’s Chief Technical Officer and cofounder Greg Tracy explained. Propeller already collects these data for the more in-depth services offered by its patient app Daily Asthma Forecast, he said, and sees Air as an opportunity to extend this cultivated health information to the general public.

“In our products, we’ve built a highly personalized predictive service that notifies patients when their asthma forecast is poor, and that notification is based on their own history of symptoms and medication usage along with environmental factors,” Tracy told MobiHealthNews. “We wanted to extract all of that machine learning work and create a general purpose forecasting service, and then we wanted to make it available because … we have this great repository to understand the conditions that are leading to these symptoms, and we wanted to go back to our roots a little bit and create something a little more public health-minded or civic-minded and share that knowledge with everybody else.”

While Propeller is enabling individuals and organizations to use this tool, it already has developed a number of applications for the service internally as a team-building exercise.

“The company meets up once a year and does a retreat … and this year we decided to use that time to launch new things,” Tracy said. “We spent a full day doing a hackathon where everybody broke into teams and they built new example applications that utilize this new, free API. And the teams did a bunch of super fun stuff, a really wide variety of [applications].”

Tracy said that these applications included daily emails and texts with local asthma conditions, voice compatibility with virtual private assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, an embeddable Air Widget, and IFTTT Applets. Although the company is planning to roll out additional tools under the Air API within the coming months, Tracy said that he looks forward to being surprised by the various ways that Air API will be implemented once it’s out in the wild.

“Propeller doesn’t have to be the source of all the great ideas — just making the service available allows anybody to use their creative energy to build new systems and services that maybe our team couldn’t imagine,” Tracy said. “So what I’m hopeful for is that we can enable others to take advantage of all the awesome insight and data we have into what makes a day difficult for people with asthma, and create unique experiences around that information.”