This Zicam-Sponsored App Lets You Detect Your Cold Risk Using Your Phone

ColdSense, released today on the App Store, combines a user's personal health history with hyperlocal data.

Experts say although change in the weather does not spread germs, it could aggravate allergies. There are plenty of mobile cold trackers on the market which give users information about risks in their state. But a new app is going one step further, combining users’ personalized health history with hyperlocal data.

ColdSense, released today on the iTunes App Store, uses sensors to evaluate a user’s chances of getting sick based on their lifestyle and surrounding environment. Its proprietary algorithm assesses risk for illness based on variables like calendar schedules, recent travels, local weather conditions and even the frequency of sneezes in the area.

The app is sponsored by the cold and allergy medicine Zicam—the idea for it was actually hatched in the company’s offices. Lori Norian, vice president of marketing at Zicam, told the Observer that the company realized it could do more to help consumers.

“We recognized there was a gap in how people think they’re getting a cold—they blame it on one recent event,” she said. “But with an app we could provide personalized information to the consumer, and they could also input information to make it more responsive. That gives them a chance to look over time and discover factors they haven’t considered in the past.”

ColdSense, which was developed at the production firm Current Studios, evaluates the potential risk of exposure to sickness by analyzing various factors that lead to cold risk. One of the main tools the app utilizes is the phone’s calendar.

“If we understand your travel, we know when you were in larger venues like an airport or a concert arena where a cold could be spread,” Stephen Martell, vice president of creative technology at Current, told the Observer. “The app has a direct impact.”

The app’s own tools also help users determine their chance of sickness. Among these are the “Cough-A-Lyzer” and “Sneeze-O-Meter”—users record their coughs and sneezes so the app can measure their intensity and determine whether they are acute or more serious. It then compares that data to all the coughs and sneezes in its database using “intensive user data,” in Martell’s words.

A screenshot of the ColdSense app.
A screenshot of the ColdSense app. ColdSense

ColdSense can also manually record and listen in on the user’s surroundings using the phone’s microphone, to determine the user’s risk of exposure to sickness.

“If someone’s coughing around me on the subway, the app detects that and adds it to the library,” Martell said.

This information is then added to ColdSense’s “cold forecast,” which analyzes the amount of sneezes and coughs (high, medium or low) along with extraneous factors that lead to higher risk (Martell noted that there was a small margin of error due to the ambient noise in many public places).

The app is also a marketing opportunity for Zicam—Norian noted that the company can stay in touch with consumers, and in turn they can engage with the brand.

“We want consumers to check in and focus on themselves, and to help them as they get through cold season,” she said. “If they do have a cold we hope they keep us top of mind.”

If users are taking medication for their cold (whether Zicam or otherwise), ColdSense will also send notifications to remind them of their next dose.

Norian said she hoped ColdSense would help consumers be more mindful of their health.

“We just want to give a heightened awareness and consumer value,” she said. “If they’re sick, what contributed and how can they start treatment right away?”

Martell also wants the data to be helpful from a tech perspective.

“We’re a development shop and love these sorts of challenges,” he said. “Ideally consumers will adopt this and it’ll grow, and the aggregate data will make the tool more valuable and help people become mindful of their health. The app is a one stop shop.”

This Zicam-Sponsored App Lets You Detect Your Cold Risk Using Your Phone