A Canadian startup has developed technology that may disrupt the mobile health tracking market. Airo Health is commercializing a nutrition tracker that can passively detect and inform the wearer exactly how many calories were consumed in the user’s last meal.
The nutrition tracker uses a light emitter and detector in a wristband and fairly sophisticated software in a smartphone app to measure metabolites in the bloodstream. The metabolites are released during and after the user’s meal.
The Airo device also detects the user’s heartbeat and uses that information to assess activity and fitness levels. All of this analysis starts with sensors in a small, unobtrusive wristband.
According to the company co-founder, Abhilash Jayakumar, Airo received US$81,400 in seed funding from the Canadian federal government and the University of Waterloo. The company says it is planning a commercial launch in the fall of 2014 – that’s just a year or so away. Airo has not yet built production prototypes, so their launch date is most likely optimistic.
In an interview with MobiHealthNews, Jayakumar said the sensor bracelet is detecting accurate calorie intakes about 80% of the time. That’s an exciting development, but the lead times for consumer electronics make a full commercial launch in a year improbable at best.
The fledgling startup has done impressive work with very little funding. They are taking digital health and the “quantified self” movement to a new level. Competitors are no doubt already starting development of their own passive calorie tracking technology. What would really be disruptive is an app to make you not eat that cheeseburger in the first place!
Takeaways: Mobile health sensors and applications are getting progressively more sophisticated. It remains to be seen if there is a sizeable market for these devices and apps but they are capable of measuring things in real time that were previously available only in a doctor’s office by appointment. The commercial availability of a Star Trek-like Tricorder device may be only a few years away.
Most of the personal fitness devices are targeted at healthy people. There is a large opportunity as well in monitoring people with chronic diseases or those recovering from surgery.