Piddle-like app, uChek, brings urinalysis to TED

By Jonah Comstock

uChekOne of the many promises of mobile health is self-diagnosis, and for informational medical tests that are easy to perform at home, it's hard to beat urinalysis. One of the most ubiquitous home diagnosis devices of the last century, the home pregnancy test, is a consumer urine test. But although the first home pregnancy test was patented in 1968, it's taken until recently for the many other uses of urinalysis to make their way to the home -- and to the smartphone.

At a TED talk this week in Long Beach, California, Myshkin Ingawale of Biosense Technologies unveiled the company's new product uChek, a smartphone app that interprets urine test strips and checks for signs of up to 25 diseases, including diabetes, pre-clampsia, and urinary tract infections. Urinalysis is done by dipping a test strip in urine and waiting for the different sections to change color. Most commercially available urinalysis strips are either difficult to decipher or designed to be read by a specific, expensive machine.

Biosense's uChek system consists of test strips, an app, and a mat. The user puts the test strip on the mat -- which contains color samples to normalize lighting conditions -- and then snaps a picture with their smartphone camera. The app analyzes the strip colors against the swatches on the mat, and returns data about glucose, protein and ketone levels in the sample as well as diseases detected. The user can save readings and track data over time.

Although the TED talk gave the product a lot of exposure, uChek is neither BioSense's first product, nor is BioSense the first company to tackle mobile urinalysis. Ingawale gave a TED talk last year about ToucHb, a noninvasive anemia scanner developed by BioSense. And in the field of mobile urinalysis, Danish healthcare design company Line built an app called Piddle that helps consumers use urinalysis strips effectively, also using the smartphone's camera.

And one of the highest profile self-diagnosis companies of the moment, Scanadu, announced the ScanaFlo peripheral would launch as part of its initial product launch some time this year.

"Project ScanaFlo will be used to conduct urinalysis," we wrote last year. "Customers can buy an over-the-counter disposable cartridge, and the software will test urine for pre-clampsia, gestational diabetes, kidney failure and urinary tract infections. Pregnant women will also be able to scan for pregnancy complications or to monitor their health throughout the pregnancy."

The uChek system will be available for iOS at the end of March for $20, according the BBC. The cost will include the app, the mat, and five test strips. An Android app will follow later, according to the company.