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Brief Published: 30 May 2014

Scio: Handheld Scanner


Scio is a handheld "pocket molecular sensor" that can collect information about virtually any physical object – including food, medicines and plants.

The device is the creation of US-based Consumer Physics, and has currently raised almost $2m on crowdfunding website Kickstarter. Scio uses an array of molecular sensors to provide users with instant information about the make-up of the object.

Scio works out what an object is made up of based on readings from an infrared light that reflects back to the scanner, as infrared absorption rates vary according to where objects sit on the molecular scale. The information is then uploaded to a cloud-based database where an algorithm works out the quantities of each component, and sends the analysis back to a user's smartphone.

Costing between $200-300, Scio is the size of a USB drive, making it the smallest and most affordable application of near-infrared spectroscopy.

Scio has a host of potential applications – from validating the authenticity of medicines, to determining how ripe an avocado is. While early apps focus mainly on the device's applications for food, plants and medicine, Scio's developers suggest its future implementations are almost limitless – from analysing the make-up of cosmetics, to breaking down the fat content of body tissue.

The rapidly falling cost of technology is putting sophisticated science tools in the hands of curious consumers for the first time. This is having a huge impact on sectors such as the medical industry, enabling mobile diagnosis for clinicians and at-home treatment management for patients. For more on this topic, see Wired Health 2014 and Repositioning Health.

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