Electronics

SCiO is made to analyze ... everything

SCiO is made to analyze ... ev...
The SCiO Pocket Molecular Sensor
The SCiO Pocket Molecular Sensor
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The SCiO Pocket Molecular Sensor
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The SCiO Pocket Molecular Sensor
The prototype SCiO device
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The prototype SCiO device
The evolution of SCiO
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The evolution of SCiO
The SciO food app
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The SciO food app

Wondering how nutritious that food is, if that plant needs water, or just what that misplaced pill is? Well, the makers of SCiO claim that their device is able to tell you all of those things, plus a lot more. To use it, you just scan the item in question for one or two seconds, then check the readout on a Bluetooth 4.0-linked smartphone.

SCiO is actually a miniature spectroscope. Like the bigger, more expensive laboratory-grade models it's based on, it works by shining near-infrared light on materials, exciting their molecules in the process. By analyzing the light that's reflected off those vibrating molecules, it's reportedly possible to identify them by their unique optical signature, and thus determine the chemical composition of the material.

In the case of SCiO, an accompanying iOS or Android app sends its readings to the cloud, where algorithms process the data in real time. The results should appear on the phone's screen within a matter of seconds.

According to Consumer Physics, the Tel Aviv-based company that's developing the device, it will initially come with apps that allow it to analyze food, plants and medication. As described in a press release:

"The food app delivers macro nutrient values (calories, fats, carbohydrates, and proteins), produce quality, ripeness, and spoilage analysis for various foods, including cheeses, fruits, vegetables, sauces, salad dressings, cooking oils, and more. SCiO can also identify and authenticate medication in real-time by cross-checking a pill's molecular makeup with a database of medications. Finally, SCiO can analyze moisture levels in plants and tell users when to water them."

The SciO food app
The SciO food app

The company also plans on providing an Application Development Kit, so that third parties can create their own apps for use with SCiO. These apps could greatly expand the variety of materials that can be analyzed, as the designers claim that it should work on just about any material, "including cosmetics, clothes, flora, soil, jewels and precious stones, leather, rubber, oils, plastics, and even human tissue or bodily fluids."

SCiO is powered by an integrated battery, that should provide approximately one week of use per charge. It's compatible with iPhone 4S and up, iPad 3rd generation and later, and with devices using Android 4.3 and later. Consumer Physics is currently raising funds for its commercial production, through Kickstarter. A pledge of US$179 will get you one when and if they're ready to ship, this December.

The very similar TellSpec is also presently in development, although it's being marketed more as a food-specific device.

More information on SCiO is available in the pitch video below.

Sources: Consumer Physics, Kickstarter

20 comments
Graeme Harrison
Great-sounding device... I've been looking for a tricorder since Episode 1 of StarTrek. There will be many, many uses for such a device, from medicines to materials. Unfortunately, in the same way that people claim pornography 'drove' the internet's image and video content in the early years, I suspect that early-adopters will include those in the drug-distribution business, doing quality checks on high-value items at time of transaction. Eventually I want someone to build one into a small multi-wheel all-terrain vehicle of less than 1m x 1m which crawls along one's paddocks and senses plant leaves, checks the database and then laser-zaps or glyphosate squirts just the weeds. It is not that much harder to do than an robotic vacuum cleaner, but has to know what it is 'cleaning up'. Eventually, I can see such small-scale technology as allowing mini-traps in wild and semi-wild areas, which capture passing animals 24x7 and then checks their composition to discern the difference between native/protected species and invading/pest species and either let them leave unharmed, or zap them with a strong laser and drop them into a hatch for later emptying. Some introduced species (eg cane toads in Australia) are so abundant that ONLY automated 'smart' removal systems could possible control...
Ben O'Brien
Herbal supplements have been said to be strife with potentially harmful other herbs and fillers. When I look at vitamins and such online I always wonder if that is what I'm getting. Especially for stuff like racetams as every place that sells them looks fake to me but I'm paranoid too. Does that tea have pesticides on it? Does that plastic have BPA in it? Does that water have fluoride in it? Human health metrics? What can we tell by scanning our hair, skin, blood, spit, tears, ect?
Nairda
No mention of what depth the scan can penetrates. There a bit in the video where a girl on a treadmill scans her drinking bottle. If that's not pure PR bull, then this might be able to penetrate certain liquids well enough. The biggest use I would find is testing the quality of portable water and its additives. Moving beyond that, catching fungal spores developing on food products would the the other desirable. Re:Graeme Harrison I would be happy if dealers provided the civic duty of scanning product quality prior to distribution. A lot of ODs and permanent damage people receive from drugs stems from the impurities that are there mainly as filler.
MarkmBha
Yes, a tricorder is finally reality; sort-of.
Victor Engel
Nairda, They didn't state how far it penetrates, but they did state it uses near infrared, which is a known quantity. The penetration depth depends upon the material. What I wonder about is that as described, the spectroscope emits near IR and then scans the result. Well, how wide a spectrum is included in near IR? Whatever is scanned would be limited to this spectrum plus whatever fluoresces from near IR. I think better results would likely be possible if the radiation included a wider spectrum. Why not visible and UV, for example? Victor
rik.warren
what about volatiles, biochemicals, pathogens. This would be really useful.
MK23666
T-rays (terahertz wavelength) would be better at scanning deeper. I'm all in for this device tho. I can imagine phones being made with this capability built in a few years.
Abraham Kovler
Glyphosate??? I wonder if this device could show the level of stupidity in our supposed scientists, lol.
Bob
I could be wrong but this sounds way over-hyped to me. It could work with some organics but would be very limited. It would require a spectral scan that would have to be compared to known spectra. Pure materials would be doable but mixtures are very difficult and can be very complex. Then add on the fact that many materials range from transparent to totally opaque to infrared. This looks way too simple when compared with the sample preparation and FTIR equipment I used to use.
Sean Ross
I would be most interested in scanning food for contaminants. It doesn't seem to mention this but should be possible? A lot of our food is being imported from China which could be highly contaminated (just google it). I would love to point this thing at some Chinese "organic" food and see if it's as clean as claimed. I am thinking this device could detect all known pesticides and heavy metals, plus their concentration. Could you scan your dinner at a restaurant for salmonella or e-coli? etc. I could see this being integrated into a smartphone, hold your phone over an item and get a full readout on screen. Very cool.