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A New Age in Health Tech: the Scout Tricorder

How often do you wonder about your internal systems – the ones that keep you chugging along like a well oiled machine?

Until now, you’d have to see a doctor to get some real data on how good a job your heart is doing; your respiratory system; etc. That’s about to change.

A forward-thinking tech company called Scanadu has developed the Scout, a nifty little handheld device small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, but powerful and ingenious enough to monitor and record vital signs – temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, blood oxygen levels and emotional stress – when you hold it momentarily to your temple. Link the Scout to the accompanying smartphone app va Bluetooth, and your info is saved. If you want, you can click to share the data with your doctor or pesky grown-up kids.

Developed with NASA aerospace physicians and built on the same technology platform that’s used in the Mars Rover Curiosity, the Scanadu Scout (or “Tricorder”: think “Star Trek”) uses sensors to give users the kind of medical-grade data that an ER would gather – except in this case, the doctor is in your palm, there’s no waiting room involved and you get the info.

We haven’t actually seen a Scout; the device won’t be in stores until it gets FDA approval. But, by participating in the online crowdfunding of this project, you can get your hands on an early version of the device before it becomes publicly available and at the same time become an important part of the health research that Scanadu is doing.

Crowdfunding the Scout

To turn prototype into approved medical-grade device, Scanadu is relying on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo. Like the better-known Kickstarter, Indiegogo makes it easy for small companies and individuals to finance projects through hundreds or thousands of tiny to small contributions; donors get perks in exchange for pledging a sum of money. So far, some 2,700 people have contributed a total of $541,500 for the Scout.

A $10 donation to the Scout project on Indiegogo keeps you in the loop on all Scout-related news and gets you the app for free; give $199, and you get your own Scout before it hits stores (the company estimates March 2014; no word yet on what the eventual store price will be), along with the app.

The Scanadu first edition won’t be FDA approved yet, but getting onboard early not only means you’ll be ahead of the tech curve (cool!); if you agree to share your data with Scanadu, you’ll also become a helpful part of the data collection process that the company needs for FDA approval. According to Fast Company, if you opt in, you’ll also be able to check out the aggregate data: “People will be able to tweak search parameters (i.e. body temperatures in California) to see only what’s relevant for them.” Or if you have flu symptoms, for example, you could check your city and see if the flu is hitting.

Scanadu’s Indiegogo campaign runs through June 21 at 11:59 PT. All systems go!

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