January 4, 2023
Withings, a company most known for its smartwatches, has yet again stormed CES with an ambitious health device. The company hit the event in 2022 with a smart scale that could take EKGs and segmented body composition readings but is now stepping up the novelty factor with its 2023 submission, an at-home, hands-free “urine lab” that sticks to the inside of your toilet. The company says it hopes to take the ick out of urinalysis testing.
The U-Scan is composed of two parts, the reader and the cartridge. The reader — the part you pee on — is a pebble-shaped device containing all the components required for urine sample collection, analysis by optical means, and data transfer by Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection. The cartridge is an interchangeable component made of cylindrical plastic and inserted in the reader which contains dozens of test pods composed of chemical reagents that can detect the level of various human biomarkers in urine.
U-Scan has a thermal sensor to differentiate between pee and toilet water as well as who is urinating. Yep, you heard that right, this device detects the identity of who’s peeing by the movement and distance of the stream. Of note, U-Scan only works with one person per reader, so forget about tracking the household’s health with one lumpsum payment.
The device is self-activating and there are enough tests in the cartridges for about one test per day for 3 months. Once the reader senses you’re peeing, it uses a microfluidic circuit to take a small sample while the rest of the pee gets dumped and flushed.
Giggles aside, Withings says it took four years and 13 patents to get to a device that you don’t have to risk touching until the battery needs recharged using USB-C or the cartridges are ready to be switched out (about 3 months for both).
To start, the company is focusing on two use cases, reproductive health and nutrition. The Cycle Sync cartridge, which is used for reproductive health, measures luteinizing hormone (LH), pH levels, and hydration levels by testing how concentrated your urine is. This can help detect which part of the menstrual cycle a person is in as well as estimate an ovulation window. pH levels can also act as an indicator of a diet in need of more vegetables (too acidic) or more protein (too basic).
The nutrition focused cartridge, called Nutri Balance, also measures pH and hydration as well as ketones and vitamin C. Too many ketones in blood can trigger ketoacidosis, which is a serious condition where your blood is too acidic. The addition of vitamin C tracking, according to Withings, could help people improve iron absorption.
Once the tests are complete, the Withings app comes into play. The results are sent via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to the app and the cartridge rotates to the next test pod. Within the app, users also get actionable tips to improve their health based on test results.
Withings is launching with the reproductive health and nutrition cartridges first to gauge interest in the system, as well as pitch to professional medical markets for research, clinical trials, and remote patient monitoring. The company is currently collaborating with Georges Pompidou European Hospital in Paris, France, for kidney stone patient follow-up and a future collaboration is planned with Institut Curie to “develop a way to monitor bladder and ovarian cancer relapses and screenings,” according to an article in The Verge.
European consumers will be able to buy the U-Scan reader and both Cycle Sync and Nutri Balance cartidges in Q223 for €499.95. After the initial payment, users will have to subscribe to refill cartridges (€29.95 monthly) or buy them separately. Medical applications for U-Scan are still pending European regulatory approval. Withings is currently waiting for FDA clearance.
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