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Toilet Sensor Analyzes Urine to Monitor Health

Laveta Brigham

While urine often conjures up unpleasant and unsanitary thoughts, the fact is that these fluids contain key information on the body’s chemical composition that could indicate abnormalities and possibly disease. For those reasons, most physical checkups request a patient’s urine sample, which is collected by a lab and analyzed with […]

While urine often conjures up unpleasant and unsanitary thoughts, the fact is that these fluids contain key information on the body’s chemical composition that could indicate abnormalities and possibly disease. For those reasons, most physical checkups request a patient’s urine sample, which is collected by a lab and analyzed with results appearing in the patient’s health records.

During the recent Consumer Electronics Show, a health monitoring company called Withings unveiled a novel device, called U-scan, that hygienically sits in a toilet to collect health information from urine. The toilet sensor comprises an advanced, pebble-shaped reader that uses replaceable analysis cartridges.

A brief video of the toilet sensor is shown here.

The rechargeable U-Scan reader can distinguish between external liquid and urine and automatically funnels samples for analysis. A pump is activated when a thermal sensors detects urine, which directs the fluid through a microfluidic circuit.

After being collected, 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.

The rotating cylindrical U-Scan cartridge is a tiny chemical assessment chamber containing dozens of miniaturized test pods. 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 designed to allow Withings to continually develop and support the analysis of biomarkers associated with various medical and health conditions. The information analyzed by the device is paired with a smartphone app that provides actionable insights based on daily readings.

Initially, the toilet sensor will be available in Europe as the U.S. version is awaiting clearance from the FDA. The companion Withings app provides results, actionable insights, and guidance to help people improve their health. U-Scan Cycle Sync, which comes on the European version and is under development for the future U.S. version of the sensor, 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 menstrual cycle.

The European version will also offer the Nutri Balance app, which 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.  Besides displaying carb balance and pH levels, the app will recommend workouts, dietary suggestions, and recipes to achieve identified goals. 

Spencer Chin is a Senior Editor for Design News covering the electronics beat. He has many years of experience covering developments in components, semiconductors, subsystems, power, and other facets of electronics from both a business/supply-chain and technology perspective. He can be reached at [email protected]

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