The Star Trek tricorder just came a little closer to reality

November 12, 2013
Obsession
Startups
November 12, 2013

In July, the Scanadu Scout raised $1.37 million, way above its $100,000 target, on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo. In the process, it became the highest-funded campaign in the site’s history. What made it so attractive is was its simplicity—and the fact that nothing like it exists.

The Scanadu Scout promises to allow you to keep tabs on your (or someone else’s) health. A small, hockey-puck-shaped device, it works through bodily contact. Hold it to your forehead and it displays, via a smartphone, your temperature, heart rate, blood pressure and plenty more.

Today, the company announced that it has raised a further $10.5 million in venture capital funding. More importantly, it said it will start clinical trials in early 2014, an important step on the way to being approved by America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If the FDA gives its blessing, doctors will be able to accept readings from the Scout. That means they could, for instance, perform a check-up in some cases without a patient having to visit, and have more information to work with. 

Apart from finally—finally!—having a way to shut up your hypochondriac friends, the Scout could be of most value for people who take care of family. “Parents with kids with chronic diseases are very medically educated but they don’t have the tool” to monitor goings-on, says Sam de Brouwer, who started Scanadu with her husband Walter, a researcher and entrepreneur, after an accident put their son in hospital. Like most parents in that situation, they were desperate for information and found themselves at the mercy of doctors for every scrap. “You’re in intensive care and you don’t know what it means, what the numbers on those machines mean,” she said. So the couple decided to find their own solution.

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The Scanaflo can check urine for pH levels, kidney infections and liver problems.Scanadu

The Scanadu Scout is still in prototype. If everything goes according to plan, it should be shipped to people who put in money on Indiegogo by next March. But Scanadu is already working on its next device, which de Brouwer says can test urine for glucose levels, pH levels, kidney health, liver infections, pregnancy complications and the presence of drugs. Like the Scout, the urine paddle, named Scanaflo, sends the results to your smartphone, from which you can share them with your doctor.

That, of course, raises questions about how to protect the privacy of all this personal data, which health insurance companies would love to get their hands on. De Brouwer says that Scanadu, at least, will not give its customers anything to worry about on that score. “Our business model is not the data,” she says. “We don’t even store it.”

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