Mobile Technology

Labstrip project wants to turn the iPhone into a mobile science lab

Labstrip project wants to turn...
LabStrip includes a meter that supposedly improves accuracy.
LabStrip includes a meter that supposedly improves accuracy.
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LabStrip includes a meter that supposedly improves accuracy.
LabStrip includes a meter that supposedly improves accuracy.
LabStrip connects to a companion iOS app.
LabStrip connects to a companion iOS app.

Mobile computing is changing the world. Tasks that could recently only be performed at a desk can now be done anywhere. It may be some time before an entire laboratory can be replaced by an iPhone, but the men behind a new Kickstarter project are taking an ambitious step in that direction.

Testing strips let anyone test a variety of chemical levels. To the inexperienced, though, analyzing those levels can be confusing. Brian Noland and Cas Hoefman want to make that process easier, more accurate, and perhaps more fun. They plan on tying that process to the iPhone with their project, LabStrip.

Field Testing in the Cloud

LabStrip connects to a companion iOS app.
LabStrip connects to a companion iOS app.

LabStrip is the combination of calibrated strips, a meter accessory, and a cloud-connected iOS app. Noland and Hoefman say that the meter helps to "augment the native optics of the iPhone" and remove distracting elements like ambient light. They promise that this yields more accurate results than existing strip-reading apps.

Apart from home pregnancy tests, many of us conduct our last lab strip reading around our junior years of high school. But there are several potential widespread uses for products like LabStrip, including spa care, aquarium maintenance, and beer brewing.

One of the more clever aspects of LabStrip is that its testing strips are pre-calibrated at the factory. Each lot's calibration is entered into the LabStrip database, Anywhere Science Cloud. On receiving the strips, customers would scan the QR code on the box, and their results would be adjusted accordingly.


We can, however, see one big potential problem. The prototype meter was designed for an iPhone 4 or 4S, and it doesn't look like it would fit an iPhone 5 (the camera wouldn't lie in the right spot). There is also no mention of Android support. If the project is a hit, it wouldn't be hard to adapt, but the pitch doesn't mention additional compatibility.

Though we've seen Kickstarter projects that appeal to broader demographics, LabStrip could find a niche. The recently-launched project also still has a ways to go to guarantee funding, so it's far from a sure thing. But if field testing in the cloud tickles your fancy, you can check out the team's Kickstarter video pitch below.

Source: Labstrip via Kickstarter

Ross Nicholson
Water testing would be a nice application. Appalachian Trail walkers want to know if the next spring is pure. Travelers want to know where water is safe to drink in real time. (Water quality varies quite a bit, even in time some places.) Electrophoreses would be another. Testing human tears for pheromone receptor proteins would identify serial killers in grade school. Thin layer chromatography would also be nice, just to eliminate parallax error.
Why is nobody brave enough to plug things into the dock connector? it's got both USB and plain old RS232 serial I/O in there (and 5v), which is everything needed to interface actual sensors to the phone, instead of all these bulky inaccurate "fudge" solutions using audio and/or cameras.
Brian Noland
Hi Will, Thanks so much for writing about us. You mention pregnancy tests in your segway into what we are launching with (mainly non-regulated water testing). However, my background is in point-of-care diagnostics. We have longer-term plans to bring the system to bear on mobile medical...more to come later.
You correctly see the potential problem we have with our current design, we currently only support the iPhone 4/4S. We have looked at both the 5 and 5th-generation iPod touch and believe both are within reach. Part of our reason for focusing in on the iPhone 4/4S is because it has the largest instal base of any one phone design. We most definitely want to add as many phone architectures as we can afford. However, we are small and focus is important to avoid scope creep.
We wish we had more to offer out-of-the-gate with respect to low-power Bluetooth sensors. First offerings will be temperature probes...but we have some mind-blowing things in the works with our "Sci-Fi Sensors".
Brian Noland, Ph.D. (CEO, Anywhere Science, Inc.)
Paul Egmond
It sounds like a great idea, and I can see why you'd use the optics from the iPhone as an interface, in stead of going the dock route.
With 3D Printing on the rise, have you considered selling the inner elements of your dock separately, for inclusion in 3D designs that you will also sell for users to print at home or in their community workshop? This will allow you to support many more phone makes and models, while keeping a focused inventory. Just an idea...
Brian Noland
@Paul, That's a great idea! There's some complexities at we would need to think through. One immediate pitfall is the fact that we calibrate strips on a per lot/per phone type at our site. This is how we are able to achieve our high performance. With phones that we don't support, users would presumably have to calibrate for themselves. I really like the implied idea of open communities helping to make this possible. If you would like to discuss further, please email me from my Kickstarter page at This would be quite popular with makers and citizen scientists.