If you were to ask a random crew member of the Starship Enterprise what the most valuable piece of equipment on board is, they’d probably mention the food replicator, the universal translator, or the teleporter.
But if you were to ask Lieutenant Commander Data, though, he’d likely name-drop the “tricorder,” a versatile information gathering tool used to quickly analyze environments or organic matter. Scanadu, a medtech company in Silicon Valley, has built a real life tricorder designed to quickly scan peoples’ vital signs and send them to their smart phones.
The Scanadu Scout is a handheld device equipped with an array of sensors that can measure a person’s heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and blood oxygen levels in just a few seconds. After pressing the Scout against your head just above your eyebrow, the device takes a quick snapshot of blood flow and extrapolates data from analysis done in the scanner itself.
Scanadu's CEO Walter De Brouwer explains in a video about the device that his vision for the Scout first came to him while spending a prolonged amount of time in the hospital while while dealing with one of his children's medical issues. Initially, he couldn't make much sense of the various metrics being measured and reported by different machines, but in time his understanding of the data grew. Why wasn't there a product, he thought, that could give anyone instant access to sort basic medical information they'd receive during a routine checkup?
While a fitness tracker can roughly measure the number of steps you’ve taken in a day and how many calories you’ve burned, Scanadu claims that the metrics obtained using the Scout are much more informative about a person’s current well being. Using the smartphone app, Scout users can track their vital levels over time and compare them to averages for people of their age and weight.
Scanadu first brought the scanner to market through a successful IndieGogo campaign in 2013. Those 8,500 early backers, who have already received their scanners, are currently serving as Scanadu’s early beta testers, tracking and logging all of their base vitals with an accompanying app. The company hopes to submit the device to the FDA for review and could bring it to the public market as early as next year.