Toilet tech: Unlocking health insights with mini lab for the loo

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

Withings U-Scan device and app
Withings U-Scan device and app

Related tags tech Nutrition women's health

Withings, a French tech firm providing health analysis tech for the last 15 years, is to be the first to bring a commercial urine test device to market, in an aim to unlock menstrual cycle and nutrition insights.

Following four years in development, the U-Scan device, which is set to enter the European consumer market from next year, is a miniaturised health lab that hygienically sits within any toilet bowl to unlock the wealth of health information in urine.

The firm aims to allow the assessment of many aspects of one’s health, with an initial focus on menstrual cycles and nutrition status.

The pebble-shaped reader and changeable analysis cartridges assess specific biomarkers and results are synced to the user-friendly Withings Health Mate app, to provide actionable insights based on readings.

It will debut in Europe with two consumer health cartridges with medical versions following in the future. These include U-Scan Cycle Sync, measuring specific gravity and pH levels, which will provide menstrual cycle predictions and ovulation window predictions based on hormonal detection, alongside key hydration and dietary biomarkers.

U-Scan Nutri Balance will enable analysis of specific gravity, pH, vitamin C and ketone levels to help people monitor their metabolic intake to optimise hydration and nutrition. As well as displaying results such as carb balance and pH levels, it recommends workouts, dietary suggestions, and recipes to achieve identified goals.

Users will be able to buy U-Scan starter kit for €499.95 to get one U-Scan reader and one cartridge providing 3months of testing; then they will be able to subscribe to an automatic refill or buy a standalone cartridge on Future medical cartridges of U-Scan will be available pending regulatory approvals in Europe. U-Scan is not for sale in the United States but is in development and plans to be available in the future following FDA clearance.

Working towards a preventative future

Withings was the first to develop and bring a body composition analysing weight scale to the consumer market in 2009.

It is now the biggest smart weight scale distributor in France, Germany, the UK and the US, and the team has developed a full range of body composition scales, smart watches, blood pressure analysers, sleep monitors, activity trackers, and smart thermometers.

In its first 10 years it was D2C only but has recently been building its B2B partnerships with the likes of nutritionists, clinicians, and insurers, allowing experts and companies to offer remote patient programmes, providing clients with at-home devices that will allow them to better monitor and improve their health, with most programmes focused on weight loss and diabetes prevention.

Antoine Pivron, head of health solutions, Europe, tells NutraIngredients: “Health insurers understand that prevention is the future and it’s something they need to address but it’s difficult for them to calculate what its costs to invest, against the long-term benefits. But there are some players that want to be innovative in this space.

“We are now working with one company who next year will provide a programme with a weight scale to measure everything to do with body composition and cardiovascular risks and customers will have access to programmes within an app providing advice about eating, sleeping and exercising better. They will also have access to a team of nurses who will check the trends in the data and connect with users if the trends are not going in the right direction.”

The company is also regularly in communication with he French Government as it aims to help inform policy.

“They hear from us every couple of weeks as we are pushing a lot to explain the benefits of tele-health monitoring programmes for the benefit of patients, medical teams, and government - through healthcare cost savings.”

Withings’ devices have been used in a number of health care trials​, allowing participants to monitor their own health and send data to researchers from the comfort of their homes, building the evidence for the utility of these devices within the health care system.

While Pivron is hopeful that governments will take note he says changes are slow to come to fruition so they are continuing to build their evidence case, sharing results with the right decision makers.

For example, the team has recently been working with the Imperial College London​, in the UK, to help researchers to track and analyse patients’ sleep patterns with the ultimate aim to build solutions to prevent diabetes. Pivron says the team will discuss the resulting benefits with the NHS.

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