AZoSensors speaks with a representative from Withings about their newly unveiled product U-Scan, which hopes to provide users with regular insights into their health by detecting biomarkers in their urine.
Please could you introduce yourself and tell us about your current position at Withings?
My name is Julius Dewavrin; I am a Product Manager at Withings, leading the team responsible for the U-Scan product.
Who is Withings, and what are its core aims?
Withings, founded in 2008, is a pioneer in home health monitoring and the inventor of the first smart scale. Our mission has always been to create breakthrough technology that people love to make better health a part of daily life.
Withings has identified a new wealthy source of data for health which is: urine. After four years of development, Withings is proud to announce this new breakthrough innovation in line with our company’s vision.
Urine samples can offer insight into an individual’s health and are often the first step to diagnosis; why are they significant to health monitoring?
Urine is produced by the kidneys, which regulate the amount of water in the body and filter the blood, removing wastes and extra water to make urine. Indeed, we identified that urine is an extraordinary witness to assess and monitor one’s health.
With more than 3000 components, it reflects your dietary intake and can help diagnose and monitor certain diseases, such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease, kidney stone, Urinary tract infection, liver disease and more. It also signals important events such as ovulation for women.
Also, it is an available biofluid that can be analyzed at home, much more accessible than blood tests, and its collection can be non-invasive. Despite the fact that a healthy adult urinates around seven times a day, urine analysis is only performed once a year on average.
[EN] Withings Unveiled 2023 — Introducing U-Scan
Withings Unveiled 2023 — Introducing U-Scan. Video Credit: Withings
What are the main challenges health practitioners face when taking and analyzing urine samples?
Currently, the practitioner does not have access to longitudinal data of urinalysis from their patient.
The current solution consists of prescribing analysis in a lab, but it is difficult to conduct this regularly because of the constraints for the patient and how costly it is for the healthcare system.
Another solution for patients today is using test strips, but we identified that the reading is, in most cases, a visual check which is not precise. It requires urine manipulation, which can be inconvenient for users.
As a result, it is difficult to monitor urine routinely for certain conditions, for example, people diagnosed with renal lithiasis, but also for their practitioner to have access to regular information.
U-Scan is the first device that can enable hands-free, regular and precise urine testing from the comfort of the home.
Could you explain the ‘U-Scan’ product and how it works?
U-Scan is a new product category at Withings that aims to unlock the wealth of health information in daily urine. It is a versatile platform that can analyze multiple biomarkers. We define a biomarker as a characteristic of the body that you can measure.
U-Scan is composed of 3 parts:
- The Reader: A technologically advanced pebble-shaped device. It contains all the components required for urine sample collection until analysis by optical means. The device is equipped with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Connectivity. Bluetooth is used to set up the device an launch measurement, the test results are transmittted by Wi-Fi.
- The Cartridge: inserted in the Withings U-Scan Reader. It is a cylinder-shaped interchangeable plastic part that contains dozens of test pods composed of chemical reagents which can detect the level of various human biomarkers in urine.
- App: The mobile application Withings Health Mate is required to install the reader, user identification, and review your results.
Many technical challenges had to be overcome in creating this new device, generating 13 patent application families.
Image Credit: Kristini/Shutterstock.com
U-Scan includes radar sensor systems as part of its design; why were these sensors chosen and what function do they give?
A challenge we identified is that, in most cases, several people can use your toilet bowl. Because of this, we searched for a solution to identify the main user among other users privately.
We eventually developed the Stream ID feature, which is Withings' patented technology for differentiating a user from other people urinating on the U-Scan reader, based on a low-energy Radar.
The Radar concept is similar to throwing a stone in the water, which emits waves; when it hits a rock, it comes back to provide information about its position and dynamics. In our case, the rock we hit is the stream of urine which emits a unique pattern that we can use, among other information, to differentiate individuals.
Using data from the radar sensor integrated into the U-Scan reader, Stream ID can differentiate an individual by the signature of the urine stream, characterized by its speed, distance and dispersion.
How could U-Scan help to alleviate the issues surrounding urine testing?
We think that U-Scan can provide a new data stream for no-effort health monitoring:
- Get access to at-home, regular and accurate urinalysis data. Access all data in an intuitive interface with our platform Withings RPM and be alerted to the patient's data evolution.
- Collect data in the long term thanks to effortless and hands-free urinalysis for your patients.
- Select biomarkers from our catalog or develop new applications with our internal chemistry team, to create a tailored cartridge adapted to the need of your cohort.
- The long-term monitoring of parameters is key in detecting trend changes and can reveal key information on one’s health.
What are the main application areas of this product? Are there any that would be especially interested in U-Scan?
U-Scan will debut in Europe with two consumer health cartridges with medical versions following in the future, and making the platform available for health professionals.
In Europe, the U-Scan Nutri Balance is the first solution to seamlessly test several key biomarkers for hydration and nutrition, allowing hygienic and automatic urine analysis, combined with an in-app coaching experience to improve overall daily health.
In Europe, the U-Scan Cycle Sync will show cycle predictions and the ovulation window based on hormonal detection alongside key hydration and dietary biomarkers, specific gravity and pH levels to help women manage their menstrual cycle.
In addition, the company’s business-to-business division, which serves the healthcare provider market, is making the technology available to partners for research purposes.
In your opinion, how might integrating sensor technologies into medical devices help to improve access to healthcare and an individual’s ability to have autonomy over their health?
We believe that there is a big change happening in health today where we do not only cure people when they suffer from conditions but also provide solutions that enable anyone to take care of their health in their daily life. We believe that introducing a smart device that is easy to use and which can generate accurate health information is a game changer for healthcare.
What are the next steps for this product, and Withings as a whole?
We developed U-Scan as a modular platform to unlock all the potential of urinalysis; the next steps are to develop new cartridges that can be useful for patients. Primarily, this will help diagnose or monitor chronic conditions such as lithiasis, urinary tract infections, chronic kidney disease and diabetes.
Withings will continue to fulfill its mission to develop solutions that reduce the gap between patients and their practitioners with new devices and solutions.
About Julius Dewavrin
Julius is passionate about hardware and software product development. He began his career in a sourcing office in China, where he discovered electronic hardware making.
Following this, Julius created a start-up that developed connected devices for hotels and restaurant professionals.
In 2016, he joined Withings as a Product Manager, working on our blood pressure monitor category, then on their activity tracker and eventually the U-Scan project in 2019.
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