The most important thing about a thermometer isn't that it takes your temperature. What's important about a thermometer, according to Kinsa Health founder Inder Singh, is that it's already the go-to device for home diagnosis of illness.
"The thermometer is the single most important device," Singh told MobiHealthNews, "the first device any parent or doctor uses to confirm illness."
The product Kinsa Health just launched on Indiegogo is a thermometer that connects to a smartphone via the headphone jack. By using the phone's battery and electronics, the company claims it has been able to build an accurate digital thermometer with a low price point -- possibly even cheaper than non-connected digital thermometers are today.
But the thermometer is only an entry point for a much more ambitious project. Kinsa Health's plan is to have patients (and, especially, parents) who use the device also contribute to a realtime health map that tracks the spread of disease. The app will supplement the data it generates with public third party data, like data from the CDC, and data from private data partners.
"The idea is with just a few simple additional actions, you can track your child's history, communicate it with a doctor and it's with you at all time, on your phone," he said. "It gets you engaged in a system that can send you push notifications when the flu's going around your child's school."
In addition to the health map, the Kinsa app will be able to locate nearby urgent care facilities and eventually incorporate a one-touch nurse call button. The app will also support small private networks, like all the teachers in a particular first grade class.
Kinsa is not the first smartphone-connected thermometer. A handful of companies like Kindara, Ovuline and Temperature Concepts have developed smartphone-enabled thermometers to help couples conceive. As for thermometers for diagnosing fevers, at the end of last year Raiing received FDA clearance for a wireless thermometer which is yet to launch in the US.
Kinsa Health is hitting the scene with some impressive investors and team members. Singh himself comes from the Clinton Health Access Initiative, where he helped lower the price of drugs for malaria, AIDS and other diseases. Ed Park, COO of athenahealth is an investor and advisor for the company, which has also recieved seed funding from IA Ventures.
But Singh said the crowdfunding campaign is as much about raising buzz as raising money, since the realtime health map has more value the more users it has.
"It's well and good that experts and entrepreneurs back us," he said, "but what will make the difference is if people back us, if parents back us, if people who are really engaged in the system back us."