February 28, 2013
Urine Analysis? There’s An App For That!
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
In the early days of iPhone, it wasn't uncommon to hear the phrase "There's an app for that" uttered by Apple commercials and the nightly news. What started out as a great pitch quickly became a sort of test, a challenge to find a use-case for which there wasn't an app. With smartphone technology improving all the time, it's becoming more difficult to pair a need with an app.At a TED conference this year, one Mumbai entrepreneur made a pitch for a powerful app which performs a task no smartphone has done before, providing journalists with a great lead-in: "Urine analysis? There's an app for that."
Myshkin Ingawale is the creator of UChek, an app that uses the iPhone's ever improving camera to take pictures of test strips. The phone's processor then analyzes the picture, looks through its database and churns out the results.
Similar urinalyses exists, of course. Test strips are readily available and after the strips have been dunked and submerged, they can be read to look for different elements, minerals or even potential trouble. The problem with these strips, says Ingawale, is that they depend on human interpretation. Our eyes are powerful things, of course, but they're simply not equipped to detect slightly graded variations in color which translate to different levels of chemical compounds.
UChek works in a very similar way to these other test strips. The patient first purchases a set of test strips and a color map from UChek for $19.99. Once the strip has been dunked, it is placed on the color map. Depending on which kind of test is being performed, the color map determines the levels of things like "glucose, proteins, ketones, etc."
The strip and the color map are then placed on a plain white background, such as a clean piece of paper, and the patient then simply snaps a picture using the 99 cent iPhone app. The app uses easy to understand words like "large" and "trace" when describing these levels, and keeps a running record on these amounts. Patients can not only track these levels but also send them to doctors or concerned family members.
According to Ingawale, the app has been able to read these strips much more accurately during their tests and is much cheaper than other, more sophisticated tests. His app is simple, straightforward, accurate and cheap.
"The idea is to get people closer to their own information,” said Ingawale in his TED talk wherein he showed off his latest creation. “I want people to better understand what is going on with their bodies.”
According to Ingawale, the app is currently working its way through Apple's approval process, and he hopes it will quickly emerge and be ready for sale soon. He is also working on an Android version of the app, but the fragmentation of Android hardware makes the development process more difficult, especially with such a hardware-intensive app such as this.
Individuals interested in getting the app once it is released can sign up at the UChek website now to be notified when the app becomes available. Ingawale also stresses that while this app can be used to get a very clear picture of what is going on inside someone's urine, it should only be seen as an informational tool rather than a replacement for medical-grade disease diagnostics. However, the information that UChek provides is powerful, and when used in conjunction with sound medical advice, it could help save lives.