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One of the company’s most technologically advanced devices to date, U-Scan is a miniaturized health lab that hygienically sits within any toilet bowl to unlock the wealth of health information in daily urine.
The project is a game changer when it comes to testing your body — a goal of people who want to have a “quantified self,” a topic I was writing about more than a decade ago. U-Scan went through four years of development. The company unveiled the fruits of the work at CES 2023, the big tech trade show in Las Vegas.
With more than 3000 metabolites, urine is an extraordinary witness to assess and monitor one’s health, Withings said. It gives an immediate snapshot of the body’s balance and is integral in monitoring and detecting a large variety of health information.
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While people urinate on average seven times a day, urine analyses are usually performed only once a year. Withings U-Scan aims to change that by making it possible in the future to conduct biomarker assessments from the comfort and privacy of a person’s own bathroom.
U-Scan is designed to be a versatile platform consisting of a technologically advanced pebble-shaped reader and changeable analysis cartridges designed to assess specific biomarkers without the need for external sample capture or strips. Then, with seamless sync to the Withings Health Mate app, it will provide a wealth of actionable insights based on daily readings.
The product will debut in Europe with two consumer health cartridges with medical versions following in the future. These include U-Scan Cycle Sync for women’s monthly cycle tracking and syncing and U-Scan Nutri Balance, a detailed metabolic guide to hydration and nutrition.
Withings U-Scan is in development in the U.S. and will not be available until it receives FDA clearance.
In addition, Withings Health Solutions, the company’s business-to-business division serving the healthcare provider market, is making the technology available to partners for research purposes.
“The ability of U-Scan to perform daily urine analysis from the home will allow Withings to take its mission to help consumers fully utilize urine data to an entirely new level,” said Mathieu Letombe, Withings CEO, in a statement. “It’s one of the most exciting and complex products we have ever announced. We begin this journey with U-Scan Cycle Sync and Nutri Balance and look forward to announcing more cartridges on an ongoing basis as well as medical applications of the technology.”
How it works: Just pee
While easy to use, U-Scan overcomes a myriad of technical and chemical challenges. Developed with in-vitro diagnostic experts, it resulted in 13 patent application families. As a complete system, U-Scan performs three tasks:
The first is automated sample capture using a sophisticated reader within a toilet bowl. Just 90 millimeters in diameter, the rechargeable U-Scan reader is engineered to distinguish between external liquid and urine and automatically funnel samples for analysis. Urine flows efficiently to a collection inlet thanks to its pebble-shaped design. A pump is activated when a thermal sensor detects the presence of urine, which starts a sample’s fluidic journey within a microfluidic circuit.
After its collection, the urine sample is injected into a test pod where the chemical reaction is read by an optical module. At the end of each measurement, the circuit returns to the idle position and the remaining liquid is purged through a waste outlet. The system is subsequently cleaned with every flush.
U-Scan can distinguish between various users thanks to its Stream ID feature. Low-energy radar sensors embedded within the reader measure multiple variables to identify an individual’s urine stream signature, by detecting the movement and distance of the stream. Stream ID information can be affirmed in the app.
The second task is biomarker analysis, using a miniaturized urine lab tailored to specific use cases. The rotating cylindrical U-Scan cartridge is a tiny chemical assessment chamber containing dozens of miniaturized test pods that can deliver reliable results.
When the reader delivers the sample to the injection point U-Scan begins the chemical analysis within moments. It automatically transmits results via Wi-Fi and then rotates the cartridge to expose the next test pod to the injection point. Each cartridge is designed to support up to three months of readings.
The module system is purposely designed to allow Withings to continually develop and support the analysis of biomarkers associated with various medical and health conditions. Combined with measurements from Withings’ ecosystem, U-Scan will create even more insights for users and is an exciting tool to potentially help prevent diseases, improve quality of life, and reduce healthcare costs.
The final task it performs is providing actionable advice, backed by science.
The accompanying Withings app provides results, actionable insights, and guidance designed to help people build habits for enhanced wellness. In Europe, the U-Scan Cycle Sync results will appear in the Withings app that becomes a central place for cycle tracking, coaching, and journaling.
It will show cycle predictions and ovulation window based on hormonal detection alongside key hydration and dietary biomarkers, specific gravity and pH levels to help women manage every aspect of their cycle. Full information on U-Scan Cycle Sync is available here. U-Scan Cycle Sync is under development in the USA; its features will be announced when the solution becomes available following FDA clearance in the future.
In Europe, the U-Scan Nutri Balance app shows analysis of specific gravity, pH, vitamin C and ketone levels. It helps people monitor their metabolic intake to optimize their daily hydration and nutrients. As well as displaying results such as carb balance and pH levels, it recommends workouts, dietary suggestions, and recipes to achieve identified goals.
U-Scan Nutri Balance is under development in the U.S.; its features will be announced when the solution becomes available following FDA marketing clearance in the future.
U-Scan will first be available in Europe in the second quarter of 2023 with consumer cartridges Nutri Balance and Cycle Sync. Users will be able to buy U-Scan starter kit for €499.95 ($530) to get one U-Scan reader and one cartridge providing three months of testing; then they will be able to subscribe to an automatic refill or buy a standalone cartridge on withings.com.
Future medical cartridges of U-Scan will be available pending regulatory approvals in Europe. Withings makes other products like smart scales, health wearables, blood pressure monitors, and sleep analyzers.
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