Scanadu Scout Aims to Become the Everyman's Medical Tricorder

By Wesley Fenlon

It fits in the palm of your hand, and it can read your heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and more.

In mid-May we wrote about DNA barcoding, a technology that essentially gives modern scientists the tools of Star Trek's scientific tricorder--they can efficiently identify species with a bit of genetic material. Now the other tricorder--you know, the medical type favored by Dr. McCoy and his television successors--is on the brink of reality. It's called the Scanadu Scout, and it's already raised more than $700,000 in an Indiegogo campaign, seven times its $100,000 goal. And you can buy one for $200.

The Scanadu Scout is just one entrant in the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize, which aims to better integrate medical and wireless technology. And that inspiration is clear in the Scout, which isn't aimed at doctors diagnosing mysterious illnesses. It's aimed at regular people who want to know more about their health, and to have that information easily accessible on a smartphone.

In the video below, Scanadu's creators refer to this as the "fingerprint of health." The device can measure your heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, respiratory rate, and oximetry. And they point out that the Scout isn't meant to replace a doctor, but rather to give you better information to present to a doctor. It's easy to imagine a reborn medical system where people send data to their doctors to determine whether they need an in-office visit. The infrastructure isn't in place yet, but it's certainly possible.

The Scanado Scout Indiegogo page makes sure to specify that the device is currently for "research" and not medicine. It's not completely accurate, yet, and more importantly, isn't approved by the FDA. But it's also just a prototype--a prototype that happens to be using the same Micrium platform as NASA's Mars Rover uses for collecting samples. And the thing is small--it may be running with the Tricorder name, but it will fit in the palm of your hand, unlike its bulky Star Trek equivalents.

It'll probably take a couple years for the Scout to make it through all the testing and certification it needs to be sold on store shelves as a medical device, but you can grab one early by throwing $200 at the Indiegogo.