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Scanadu wants to make a tricorder out of your iPhone

Posting in Food

By this time next year, you’ll be able to figure out what’s making you sick by holding a little square up to your head and reading an analysis directly on a smartphone’s screen. Technology Review reports.

Based at NASA-Ames Research Center, Scanadu is getting ready to sell a gadget that, along with a smartphone, tracks vital signs like blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, and blood oxygenation.

The company plans to start selling their first device -- a vital signs monitor called Scout -- by the end of 2013, for $150. During a recent demonstration, CEO Walter De Brouwer held a prototype up to his temple. It’s about the size of a MacBook adapter.

The side of it touching De Brouwer’s head included electrodes and an infrared thermometer. He held it with his thumb and forefinger, one finger on another electrode and the other on a PPG (photoplethysmography) scanner, which measured blood flow. The difference in time between the PPG measurement and a user’s electrical heart rate can be used to calculate blood pressure.

Data gathered by Scout was transferred via Bluetooth to an iPhone that De Brouwer held in his other hand. Scanadu’s software spends about 10 seconds scanning and analyzing, and then shares information about his pulse, temperature, and more on the phone.

Coming along in 2013, Project ScanaFlo and ScanaFlu: a disposable urine analysis test that can detect pregnancy issues, urinary tract infections, and kidney problems, and a saliva analysis test that can detect upper respiratory problems like strep throat and the flu. They’re skinny blue disposable plastic cartridges. You would spit or urinate on the appropriate one, then snap a photo of a QR code on the test and of a small display area on the test to get results.

Scanadu’s team is among those competing in the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize, a $10 million challenge to basically build the tricorder from Star Trek.

The company is seeking approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and talking to hospitals about setting up a clinical trial.

[Via Technology Review]

Image: Scanadu video

— By on December 4, 2012, 2:19 PM PST

Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure