Medical Tricorder Startup Scanadu Scout Raises Over $1.3M With Two Weeks Left

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Over the years, it has become increasingly evident that Star Trek is a highly influential -- if not the most influential -- work in science fiction that has inspired generations of people to pursue science and technology careers. Every day we edge closer to many of the show's imagined 23rd century technologies, but perhaps the one that arguably has been the most sought after is the tricorder, a device with sensors that can scan, analyze, and record data on pretty much anything. While an environmental tricorder that analyzes a geographic region would be advantageous for scouting new frontiers, it was the show's medical tricorder able to detect injury and disease rapidly that held such a degree of technological wonder that it almost seemed magical or otherworldly.

But not any more -- a first version of a medical tricorder is within reach, thanks to a startup named Scanadu.

The device, called a Scout, is a handheld, disc-shaped sensor that when placed against the forehead for 10 seconds, will monitor vital signs, including temperature, respiratory rate, blood oxygenation, heart rate, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Additionally, it performs an electrocardiogram and assesses "stress" as a custom metric. The Scout transmits these data to an integrated smartphone app that can record, track, and analyze vital signs providing a single "comprehensive healthfeed" for multiple users.

And the Scout isn't  just a crazy proposal - it's a real device that was recently profiled on Bloomberg TV and is coming to stores next year.

To help bring the device to market, Scanadu recently launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo with a modest goal of $100,000 to help bring the device to market. Amazingly, that goal was smashed in just two hours. To date, the campaign has raised over $1.3 million with the help of nearly 7,000 funders.

Check out the pitch video for the Indiegogo campaign to learn more about the Scout:

Now Scanadu has been able to raise funds in the past, as it did in 2011 when it brought in $2 million from investors. The team also has enjoyed support from NASA, as the Singularity University company is located at the AMES Research Park in Silicon Valley (in fact, the concept for the Scout was conceived after founder Walter De Brouwer attended a Future of Medicine Executive Program, one of SU's premiere programs).

Crowdfunding, however, provides a sense of consumer reception and demand for a product.

With a few weeks left still, the success of this campaign bodes well for the Scout's and Scanadu's future. In fact, the startup has even laid out plans for its next device: the ScanaFlo, a disposable paddle that will convert a smartphone into a urine analysis reader to measure levels of glucose, protein, leukocytes, nitrates, blood, bilirubin, urobilinogen, specific gravity, and pH. It will even perform pregnancy tests.


Scanadu's app displays the results of the Scout's scan to give you an integrated snapshot of your vital signs

The good news is that there's still time to get the Scanadu Scout through Indiegogo. Head on over to the campaign page before July 11 to reserve a device and get your Star Trek on.

David J. Hill

Managing Director, Digital Media at Singularity University
I've been writing for Singularity Hub since 2011 and have been Editor-in-Chief since 2014. My interests cover digital education, publishing, and media, but I'll always be a chemist at heart.

Discussion — One Response

  • Chuck Juhl October 14, 2014 on 7:31 pm

    FDA regulations explicitly prohibit marketing an investigational device prior to FDA approval for commercial distribution:

    21 C.F.R. Sec. 812.7 Prohibition of promotion and other practices.
    A sponsor, investigator, or any person acting for or on behalf of a sponsor or investigator shall not:

    (a) Promote or test market an investigational device, until after FDA has approved the device for commercial distribution.

    “It’s sold as a research device for investigational use. Everyone who buys it is essentially a researcher in that project,” De Brouwer told MobiHealthNews in May of 2013 at the beginning of the Indiegogo campaign. Key words there: SOLD, EVERYONE, and BUYS. Walter De Brouwer himself characterized the Indiegogo campaign as selling the Scout as an “investigational device” to Indiegogo buyers, which is explicitly prohibited by the FDA.

    That’s all somewhat academic at this point as Scanadu is more than 6 months past the date it promised to deliver those “investigational” devices to Indiegogo purchasers. The excuses coming from Scanadu for the delays have been pretty lame, and are frankly in direct contradiction to De Brouwer’s claims in May of last year when he stated in MobileHealthNews that “The device has seen 18 iterations, the industrial design is ready, the algorithms are in place, the manufacturer is secured, the FDA audit trails are operational. For Scanadu this is just the end of the beginning. We did Indiegogo when we were over-ready.” That sure seems like one big fat fib right about now.