Withings builds hands-free connected home urine lab

  • January 17, 2023
  • Steve Rogerson

French healthcare company Withings has announced what it claims is the world’s first hands-free connected home urine lab.

Following four years of development, U-Scan is said to be a breakthrough in-home biomarker analysis. One of the company’s most technologically advanced devices to date, the miniaturised health lab hygienically sits in the toilet bowlto unlock the wealth of health information in daily urine.

With more than 3000 metabolites, urine is an extraordinary witness to assess and monitor one’s health. It gives an immediate snapshot of the body’s balance and is integral in monitoring and detecting a large variety of health information.

People urinate on average seven times a day, but urine analyses are usually performed only once a year. U-Scan aims to change that by making it possible to conduct biomarker assessments from the comfort and privacy of a person’s own bathroom.

It consisting of a pebble-shaped reader and changeable analysis cartridges designed to assess biomarkers without the need for external sample capture or strips. Then, with seamless sync to the Withings Health Mate app, it will provide actionable insights based on daily readings.

The product will debut in Europe with two consumer health cartridges with medical versions following in the future. These include U-Scan Cycle Sync for women’s monthly cycle tracking and syncing and U-Scan Nutri Balance, a detailed metabolic guide to hydration and nutrition. U-Scan is in development in the USA and will not be available until it receives FDA clearance.

In addition, the company is making the technology available to partners for research purposes.

“The ability of U-Scan to perform daily urine analysis from the home will allow Withings to take its mission to help consumers fully utilise urine data to an entirely new level,” said Mathieu Letombe, Withings CEO. “It’s one of the most exciting and complex products we have ever announced. We begin this journey with U-Scan Cycle Sync and Nutri Balance and look forward to announcing more cartridges on an ongoing basis as well as medical applications of the technology.”

While easy to use, U-Scan overcomes a myriad of technical and chemical challenges. Developed with in-vitro diagnostic experts, it was four years in the making and resulted in 13 patent application families.

Just 90mm in diameter, the rechargeable reader is engineered to distinguish between external liquid and urine and automatically funnel samples for analysis. Urine flows to a collection inlet thanks to its pebble-shaped design. A pump is activated when a thermal sensor detects the presence of urine, which starts a sample’s fluidic journey within a microfluidic circuit.

After its collection, 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.

It can distinguish between various users thanks to its Stream ID feature. Low-energy radar sensors embedded within the reader measure multiple variables to identify an individual’s urine stream signature, by detecting the movement and distance of the stream. Stream ID information can be affirmed in the app.

The rotating cylindrical cartridge is a tiny chemical assessment chamber containing dozens of small test pods that can deliver reliable results.

When the reader delivers the sample to the injection point, U-Scan begins the chemical analysis within moments. It automatically transmits results via wifi 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 develop and support the analysis of biomarkers associated with various medical and health conditions. Combined with measurements from Withings’ ecosystem, it should create more insights for users and aims to help prevent diseases, improve quality of life and reduce healthcare costs.

The accompanying app provides results, actionable insights and guidance designed so people can build habits for enhanced wellness. In Europe, the Cycle Sync results will appear in the app, which becomes a central place for cycle tracking, coaching and journaling. It 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 cycle.

The Nutri Balance app shows analysis of specific gravity, pH, vitamin C and ketone levels. It helps people monitor their metabolic intake to optimise their daily hydration and nutrients. As well as displaying results such as carb balance and pH levels, it recommends workouts, dietary suggestions and recipes to achieve identified goals.

U-Scan will first be available in Europe from spring 2023 with consumer cartridges Nutri Balance and Cycle Sync. Future medical cartridges will be available pending regulatory approvals in Europe.

Withings created the first smart scale in 2009, and has been the pioneer in connected health ever since. Its clinically validated range is used by millions worldwide, and includes smart scales, hybrid watches, blood pressure monitors and sleep analysers.