Withings has filed another patent for a home urine analysis device. It follows another such patent approved last year. The multi-use product works with an accompanying smartphone app and is meant to be attached to the rim of a conventional toilet bowl.
Home urine testing platforms
You knew it was coming. Yup, high-tech toilets might just become the next big thing in health and fitness technology and Withings may be the first big brand to be a part in this.
Wearables have been growing from year to year and this is unlikely to change anytime soon. In fact, we are still in the beginning stages.
Currently most of these live on our wrists. When 5G comes into widespread use they will always be connected untethering them from smartphones and allowing them to live on the cloud. First we’ll have 5G fitness trackers and smartwatches, then smart clothes. But there might be a better way of tracking health.
We wrote a couple of years ago about Inui Health, formerly known as Scanadu. The outfit announced at the time that it is working on the first clinical grade home urine analysis platform. Such tests were previously available only at a lab or medical facility.
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The idea was to fill a single-use cup with urine up to the required level. The next step would consist of dipping the measuring paddle into the liquid and scanning the readings with the smartphone app. This would then let you know if there’s anything to be worried about. We’re not sure what happened this venture. If you log into the Inui Health website now, there is nothing to see.
An outfit which has had more luck is UK-based Test-Card. They announced their kit at CES 2019. Their idea was to sell urine testing strips for pregnancy, urinary tract infection and glucose levels. As far as we can tell you can only currently purchase tests for urinary tract infection. They sell for £12 a pop. Similar to the Inui Health solution, results are obtained by holding a mobile device above the TestCard.
It would be nice if all this could be done for you automatically. Let’s face it, no-one really likes to mess around with stomach-wrenching urine or poop. French-based Withings might be looking in this direction.
Withings urine analysis patent
A patent has recently been made public with the USPTO for a Withings “Urine Analyzer Device”. It is described as follows;
“…configured to be installed in a toilet bowl, to be used several times, the device comprising a holder member, to attach the device to the rim of the toilet bowl, an electronic unit, enclosed in a housing, a urine reception area, with at least one electro-chemical sensor, configured to measure a quantity of at least one substance contained in urine…”
The device would measure physiological compounds or chemical components and send the results wirelessly to a smartphone app – presumably the Withings Health Analyzer. The idea is to provide a readily available at home, simple to use urine analyzer device, that could be used several times subsequently. This is something that is not currently offered by the big wearable tech brands.
The sensor would be configured to measure color and opacity of the urine. A long list of metrics is mentioned in the patent that could potentially be tracked. This includes pH of the urine, concentration of Ca2+ ions to determine Calcium level in the urine sample, concentration of K+ ions to determine the Potassium level. It also lists H+, Na+, Mg2+, Cl–, H2O2, Glucose, Nitrites, Proteins, Oestrogenes, Luteinine Hormone, Beta-HCG Hormone and Creatinin.
This would be a multi-user device according to the patent filing. The toilet seat would have weight sensing elements and impedance measurement elements in order to identify the user. The results will also be shareable through the app with doctors and others.
Withings has filed another such patent last year. It is not clear whether that is a separte patent or the base of this new one. That one went under a catchy name – “Microfluidic device to deliver a controlled amount of liquid to an analysis tool for analysis”. This has been added to the USPTO database (under the number 17121101) as well as the European Patent Office (number EP3834940). You can view the European paperwork in full on the EPA website.
The company has been at the forefront of wearable tech innovation for over a decade now. So it is not really surprising that once again they are looking in a direction where other wearable brands may not be.
We might even know the name of the upcoming gadget. The French outfit has filed a trademark for something called the Bio Screener a while back. There is no Withings product at the moment with that name so this could, very well be, the urine analysis platform.
The Japanese have been at it for a while
When you think of health and fitness gadgets urine analysis is not really something that springs to mind. Unless you live in Japan, that is.
The country has been using and selling smart toilets for a while now. In fact, you’ll never encounter a more pleasant restroom than in Japan.
Their toilets do everything from automatically lifting and lowering the lid, to heating, and playing music to cover “certain noises”. Most of this is focused on hygiene and comfort. The pictograms on these things have even been officially standardized to prevent foreign visitors from pressing the wrong button. Some smart toilets, such as the TOTO Neorest NX, sell for up to $6,000!
Such devices are yet to gain ground in the West, though. In fact, the toilets used in the US and Europe have not really been improved upon in decades. But upgrading your loo might just become the next popular health tracking fad.
Stool and urine samples are often used by doctors to monitor for certain conditions. This includes infection, poor nutrient absorption and even certain types of cancer. A smart toilet that analyses human waste would be like going to a doctor’s checkup every day. We all use them so there’s a potential market of several billion!
The challenge is making smart toilets useful, reliable and inexpensive enough for widespread use. A product breaking new ground is unlikely to gain acceptance otherwise.
Outfits such as Toi Labs believe smart toilets will revolutionize personal healthcare in the years to come. Their flagship product is called TrueLoo, an internet-connected toilet seat that is installable on pretty much any toilet in minutes. The thing is currently used for monitoring conditions such as urinary and digestive disorders and dehydration by taking optical scans of waste.
In time, it could also be adapted to check on heart rate and blood pressure. The product is currently being tested at senior-living facilities in California, but the hope is it will be available to the general public soon.
Fitness trackers and smartwatches are useful for keeping tabs on health, but they can only go so far. Imagine smart toilets that will analyze urine and stool in real time every day. You’ll be able to catch signs of disease early on. In the near future, laboratory-grade equipment in your porcelain throne will make sure you don’t flush away valuable data!
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