A Tricorder At Last

Nov. 15, 2013

By Medical Discovery News

Many people may soon have a piece of “Star Trek” sitting at home in their own medicine cabinets. It’s not a Captain Kirk costume, Spock ears, or a model of the Starship Enterprise, but a real-life tricorder.

When “Star Trek” began in 1967, the character Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy used this medical device in his work. Now, the Scanadu company has brought this fictional tool to life and called it the Scout. To use it, a person holds the round, palm-sized tricorder to their temple and it measures their temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, blood oxygen saturation, and stress level and performs an electrocardiogram. It does all this with optical sensors in 10 seconds with 99 percent accuracy. It sends the readings via Bluetooth to a smartphone where apps track and analyze the data.

To raise capital for producing the Scout, Scanadu listed its project on the crowd sourcing Web site Indiegogo, where people could pledge money to preorder the tricorder for March 2014. They had a month-long campaign goal of $100,000 but raised $1.66 million. Those who buy the first round of Scout tricorders will have the option to be part of clinical studies, which will be presented to the Food and Drug Administration in order for the Scout to be approved as an over-the-counter diagnostic tool.

That means this device is simple to use and accurately monitors important indicators of a person’s health. It can also be pointed at others, such as a child, to quickly gather all that data about them, making it a potentially valuable tool in a healthcare setting. The device uses a 32-bit Micrium platform, the same real-time operation system used by NASA on its Curiosity Rover on Mars.

In fact, the Scanadu device was originally intended for NASA astronauts to monitor important health indices while in space. Scanadu is one of the teams competing for the $10 million Qualcomm Foundation X-Prize, which challenges technology and medical innovators to develop a real-life mobile tricorder that can diagnose 15 diseases without any poking or prodding.

The final version of the Scout also allows for future changes, such as additional plug-in sensors. As more data is collected, the algorithms used to the analyze vital signs could be linked to additional health conditions in the future.

While the Scout tricorder still needs FDA approval and more data need to be gathered to validate its accuracy, a simple device that determines so many vital signs so quickly would be a valuable tool for first responders, healthcare providers, and consumers.

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