X-Ray vision for consumers

Tiny new sensor offers instant analysis of food, materials

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(IsraelTechDaily Exclusive) Imagine if every consumer had X-Ray vision in their smartphone, able to identify produce with a two-second scan, or tell you how many calories in a piece of food just by looking at it.

You won’t have to wait much longer.

Israeli start-up Consumer Physics today launched the Scio, a miniaturized spectrometer that can fit inside a smartphone and identify the ingredients, calorific value or active chemical contents of food, drugs, textiles and other materials – like X-Ray vision for consumers.

Using light waves, the spectrometer identifies the optical fingerprint of the underlying molecules of materials by measuring the absorption of light against a vast database. Until now, such devices have been large and unwieldy and produced for industrial, not consumer, use. An app linked to the Scio accesses a cloud-based database and series of algorithms that enables the consumer to ask a series of questions about the material being examined.

In a demo I saw last week in Jerusalem, the Scio identified an Advil and distinguished it from a generic ibuprofen another pill that looked exactly the same, and identified various fruits and pieces of cheese, reporting their calorific and nutritional value.

Scio Sensor

The Scio scanned the food and pharmaceuticals, sent the results via Bluetooth to a smartphone App that then compared the findings with a cloud-hosted database. Within five seconds, there was a readout on the smartphone screen telling us what it was and asnwering questions about its nutritional and calorific value.

The possibilities are endless. It might reveal whether there is lead, for example, in the paint on children’s toys, or identify the estimated 20% of antibiotics on the market believed to be fakes.

“You can use it to measure the nutritional value, quality and safety of food and for pharmaceutical identification,” says Dror Sharon, who founded the company with fellow Israel Air Force veteran Damian Goldring in 2011. “You can use it in agriculture, horticulture and gardening to analyze soil and analyze plants, and anything that is a derivative of the oil and gas industry, like plastics, oil and gas itself, cosmetics, leather, jewelry, diamonds, wood, clothing.”

“You can also analyze the human body for point of care and personal health diagnostics,” he says.

Scio-Kickstarter

Emerging from years of stealth mode backed by some of the leading names in Israeli high-tech, Consumer Physics unveiled the Scio to the public today with a Kickstarter fundraising campaign. The company is developing a series of its own apps linked to the device, and inviting independent developers to create their own apps using the same platform with the expectation that consumers will be able to ask any question they want of the Scio as it scans each material.

Early backers can pre-order the device through Kickstarter for $149. In future, the company hopes the Scio will be embedded in smartphones alongside the camera and other sensors.

Sharon says the aim of the Kickstarter campaign is not just to raise money.

“The key goal is to engage a community of users that are curious about the world around them and want to explore it and see the potential, and engage a community of developers who will develop applications for this,” he says.

“Our apps will be free for the first three years to anyone who buys it on Kickstarter,” he explains. “We believe there are many applications that we will not develop but will be done by third-party developers, either by building the database themselves or by building a better graphical user interface on top of existing databases and algorithms.”

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