For most of us, checking our health or diagnosing an illness means a trip to the doctor’s office. For Walter De Brouwer, it involves holding a little square up to his temple or spitting onto the edge of a blue plastic square, snapping a photo with his iPhone, and then reading his diagnosis on the small, glowing screen.
De Brouwer is the founder and CEO of Scanadu, a company that plans to sell a consumer-geared gadget that, along with a smartphone, tracks vital signs like blood pressure, temperature, and heart rate. If the device sounds a bit like the fictional tricorder from Star Trek, it should: Scanadu’s team is among those competing in the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize, a multiyear, $10 million challenge to build such a device for the health-care field.
Scanadu announced Thursday that it plans to start selling this first device—the Scout, which monitors heart rate, temperature, blood oxygenation, and other vital signs—by the end of 2013, as well as a disposable urine-analysis test that can swiftly detect pregnancy issues, urinary tract infections, and kidney problems, and a saliva analysis test that can detect upper respiratory problems like strep throat and the flu. The Scout will cost less than $150, De Brouwer says; he doesn’t put a price tag on the disposable tests but says they will be “very, very cheap.”