Technology

This washer tests your nutrition and cycle right from your toilet

This washer tests your nutrition and cycle right from your toilet

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You know that extreme paranoia you feel about dropping your favorite device down the toilet? Withings wants you to forget all that for its latest health tracker, the U-Scan, which is not only specifically designed to be used in a toilet bowl, but also to urinate on. Stay with us; it’s not as harsh as it sounds.

There’s only so much health information that can be gleaned from strapping a smartwatch to your wrist, strapping a pulse oximeter to your finger, or wrapping an inflatable blood pressure cuff around your upper arm. That’s why doctors often order blood samples or require patients to pee in a cup for detailed urine analysis in a laboratory before making a diagnosis.

Urine tests that can be performed at home are not a new idea, but the information they provide is often limited. Drugstores sell strips that can be used to test for urinary tract infections, while urine tests remain the cheapest and easiest way to confirm pregnancy without a doctor’s visit. With U-Scan, Withings expands the health information that can be collected from urine without sending it to a lab, while making the collection process completely hands-free.

The Withings U-Scan urine analyzer mounted in a toilet bowl.

Image: Withings

The hardware is reminiscent of Google’s Chromecast dongle, but instead of plugging it into a TV’s HDMI port, you hook it to the front of a toilet seat, where you then deliberately urinate on it. The U-Scan’s smooth, pebble-shaped design directs urine along its surface down into a collection hole at the bottom, where a thermal sensor detects the presence of fluid and activates a pump that draws the sample inside and through a ‘microfluidic circuit.'” As the user urinates, a “low-energy radar sensor built into the device” can also recognize and differentiate between multiple users by detecting their “unique urine stream signature” through a feature Withings calls Stream ID.

Inside the U-Scan is a replaceable cartridge, good for about three months, filled with dozens of test capsules into which urine is injected. Chemical reactions then occur when one or more biomarkers are detected, producing specific colors that are analyzed by an optical sensor. After the test is complete, the remaining fluids are pumped out of the U-Scan and returned to the toilet. The device itself is cleaned during each flush, although you may still want to grab a pair of gloves when changing cartridges or charging it, which you’ll need to do every three months.

U-Scan test results are shared over wifi to Withings’ private servers and made available through the company’s accompanying mobile apps, allowing each user’s results and personal health data to be tracked over time. There’s no timetable for when the U-Scan will be available in the United States – Withings is still developing it for the US market and will first require FDA approval, but the starter kit will go on sale in Europe next year for €499.95 (about US $530 ) and will include one of two different quarterly cartridges, with the option to purchase more via a subscription plan or standalone.

Withings U-Scan next to the Nutri Balance cartridge and two smartphones displaying the analyzed data in the accompanying mobile application.

Image: Withings

The U-Scan Nutri Balance cartridge and app will provide information on the user’s pH, vitamin C, carbohydrate balance and ketone levels to help “monitor their metabolic intake to optimize their daily hydration and nutrients” and to recommend “workouts, dietary suggestions and recipes to achieve your goals.”

Withings U-Scan next to the Cycle Sync cassette and two smartphones displaying the analyzed data in the accompanying mobile app.

Image: Withings

The U-Scan Nutri Balance cartridge and app are instead designed specifically for “cycle tracking, training and journaling” and provide information on “cycle predictions and ovulation window based on hormone detection along with key hydration and nutrition biomarkers “. The user can also document other symptoms that the U-Scan cannot detect, including menstrual cycle, mood, food and water intake, and cervical fluids. The hope is that U-Scan and logging together will provide more accurate predictions and insights into the user cycle than applications that rely only on logging and self-collected data.


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