Withings U-Scan is a laboratory in your toilet bowl
Withings launches U-Scan, the first hands-free home urine analysis laboratory. You might call it streaming technology. Apologies, but that’s a lot to deal with at the start of January.
In the company’s own words, the device is a “miniaturized health lab that sits hygienically in any toilet bowl to unleash the wealth of health information in everyday urine.” While we might dispute the idea that everything sits hygienically in a toilet bowl, it does mean you’re freed from the mess and hassle of collecting and testing samples yourself.
The U-scan itself is a 90mm diameter pebble-shaped reader, fitted with a removable cartridge which contains a number of test modules. When a sensor inside the device detects urine in the inlet, a pump moves the sample through a microfluidic circuit for analysis. The results are sent to the associated application via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
The cartridge and battery last three months. Once a urine sample has been collected and analyzed, it is ejected, the cartridge rotates to present a new analysis capsule, and the entire device is flushed clean.
The technology took four years to develop and involved 13 sets of patent applications.
Usage, Pricing and Availability
The device and the first consumer cartridges will be launched in Europe in the second quarter of 2023. It is awaiting FDA approval before a planned launch in the United States.
As you would expect for a small lab in a toilet bowl, its price is steep. A starter kit, containing a device and a cartridge that lasts three months will cost €499.95. After that, users can opt for a cartridge subscription or purchase individual cartridges directly from Withings. We do not yet know the price of an individual cartridge.
There are two consumer cartridge options available for launch, although more are planned for the future. The U-Scan Cycle Sync is for tracking a woman’s monthly cycle, and the U-Scan Nutri Balance will analyze hydration and nutrition. Both will send data to an accompanying app which will display data insights and analytics.
Of the two, we think the Nutri Balance might be a harder sell. It will provide information on water and water balance, protein and vegetable balance, ketone levels and vitamin C levels. It’s nice to have – especially for athletes – but it’s not really crucial information. And five hundred dollars is a lot for the average person to shell out for information they don’t need.
Although still niche, the U-Scan Cycle Sync could be a real boon for women trying to conceive. Along with nutritional readings, it will monitor hormonal changes to accurately chart the menstrual cycle, predict ovulation times, track symptoms, and allow users to optimize their diet based on hormone levels. If it’s as accurate as Withings suggests, it would be far more reliable than ovulation sticks. And, if it could replace other expensive fertility trackers, it would be much more attractive financially.
Of course, the U-Scan involves the collection of extremely personal data and Withings is keen to state that it follows the GDPR, which it describes as “the most demanding regulation in terms of privacy” and that it meets the standards highest security in processing and transmission. of personal data.
Use of the medical market
At the same time, the brand’s business to business division, Withings Health Solutions, is developing the U-Scan for the medical markets. So far, it has partnered with the European Georges Pompidou Hospital in Paris, where it has been used to help plan follow-up treatment for patients with kidney stones. A second collaboration with the Institut Curie, for patients with ovarian and bladder cancer, is also underway.
The cartridge available to healthcare professionals can currently monitor pH, ketones, vitamin C, albumin, creatinine, and specific gravity (the concentration of urine), but Withings chemistry teams can work with doctors to create other measures. It has a number of potential applications, from clinical trials to home monitoring – once it gains regulatory approval.
This is another step for Withings to become a holistic medical technology brand and a bridge between patients and healthcare professionals, rather than just a manufacturer of home fitness equipment. Its Body Scan smart scale, launched this time last year, also gives ECG measurements, and US users can share readings with their doctors via Withings’ RPM (remote patient monitoring system).
The U-Scan will launch in Europe in Q2 2023, priced at €499.95 with Nutri Balance and Cycle Sync cartridges available.
The questions raised by this technology are legion. But the first one for us is: if a customer uses your bathroom, are you likely to receive a pop-up notification of their urinalysis? Second, how are they demonstrating U-Scan at CES? Journalists are usually offered hands-on experience, but I don’t want to imagine what the equivalent might be.
Currently, the best way to track your fitness at home is with a smart scale. Take a look at our round-up of the best smart scales we’ve tested, which includes a device from Withings.
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