Withings, best known for its smart scales, watches and other health-focused consumer tech, released a new gadget at CES in Las Vegas today. Making a splash in an underserved market, U-Scan aims to help customers track what's going on in their urine, without having to worry about catching their wastewater in a cup or messing about with test strips. The device syncs to the company's ever-expanding Health Mate app and promises to give actionable insights.
The U-Scan is designed to be installed in the toilet bowl, which gives users hands-free access to urine analysis. While routine in medical settings, urine is a rarely tapped opportunity for at-home health monitoring. That may change quite a bit over the next few years if Withings has its way. The company points out that urine has more than 3,000 metabolites, giving an immediate snapshot of the body’s balance and health.
"The ability of U-Scan to perform daily urine analysis from home will allow Withings to take its mission to help consumers fully utilize urine data to an entirely new level," said Mathieu Letombe, Withings CEO at a press conference. “It’s one of the most exciting and complex products we have ever announced. We begin this journey with U-Scan Cycle Sync and Nutri Balance and look forward to announcing more cartridges on an ongoing basis as well as medical applications of the technology.”
The rechargeable U-Scan reader knows the difference between flush water and urine and ensures it collects only the samples it needs. When in use, urine flows efficiently to a collection inlet, activating a pump when a thermal sensor detects the presence of urine. The sample is guided through a microfluidic circuit and injected into a test pod. Here, the reaction is read by an optical sensor and reported back to the app. Every subsequent flush of the toilet cleans the system, resetting it for the next sample collection.
In Europe, the U-Scan Nutri Balance app shows an analysis of specific gravity, pH, vitamin C and ketone levels. The combination of these measurements helps people monitor their metabolic intake to optimize their daily hydration and nutrients. The "actionable" part of that is that the system can recommend workouts, offer dietary suggestions and recipes — all to help health-conscious users achieve their goals. The company points out that U.S. functionality of Nutri Balance may vary, depending on what the FDA has to say about the matter.
The product will make its debut in Europe with two different health cartridges aimed at consumers. Medically focused cartridges will follow in the not-too-distant future. The price tag is €499.95 and includes one U-Scan reader and a cartridge providing three months of testing. The first two cartridges that are becoming available are Cycle Sync, which will help people who have monthly cycles track them, and a Nutri Balance cartridge, which will give a detailed metabolic guide for nutrition and hydration. The company isn't sure when the device will be made available in the U.S. as its launch will be depending on FDA clearance.
Incredibly, U-Scan can tell the difference between various users (and therefore assigning the results to the correct person using the device), through it's amazingly named Stream ID feature. Low-energy radar sensors embedded within the reader measure multiple variables to identify an individual's "urine stream signature" by detecting the movement and distance of the stream. Stream ID information can be affirmed in the app.
In addition to the consumer-focused product, Withings Health Solutions, the company’s business-to-business division serving the healthcare provider market, is making the technology available to partners for research purposes.
The company told TechCrunch it is planning to make the cartridges available on a subscription basis or on an individual basis.