FDA Approves Kinsa’s Smartphone Thermometer

4-21-2013 5-46-04 PM

New York City-based startup Kinsa Health receives 501(k) clearance for a smartphone-connected thermometer that it promises will do far more for health and wellness than just take your temperature. The approval marks the first-ever smartphone-enabled thermometer to receive pre-market clearance in the US.

Kinsa launched on a $2 million seed round in August 2012 led by IA Ventures, and with additional participation from Founder Collective and several angel investors.  In April of 2013, the company had a working prototype and launched an Indiegogo campaign that netted $52,000 in April of 2013.

Kinsa is using the concept of a smartphone-enabled thermometer to build a crowd-sourced virtual health map of sickness, tracking various diseases as they spread at the community level. Similar to the work being done with Google Flu Trends, Kinsa hopes to increase the accuracy of disease tracking by introducing an actual health metric, your temperature, into the equation. Currently, Google Flu Trends is publishing localized outbreak information based entirely on keywords entered into the search engine.

The Achilles heel of Google’s algorithm-based outbreak tracking has always been reconciling the fact that not every person who searches for keywords like "flu" is actually sick. When local news coverage of flu increases, instances of users Googling “flu” increase in that area, and thus Google Flu Trends shows an erroneous spike in flu at that location.

Kinsa sees this weakness as an opportunity for improvement. The startup is building an outbreak map based on actual health metrics: temperature and patient-reported symptoms.

"The world is seeking better ways to track infectious disease both at the level of the individual and the community. Kinsa’s approach is exciting because it engages consumers — it can provide real value for individuals — and at the same time aggregates information in a way that could help predict and hopefully prevent illnesses like influenza." – Ken Staley, MD, former White House Director for Biodefense and Kinsa advisor

Kinsa unveiled its design in April of 2013, and spent the second half of the year pursuing FDA clearance. With regulatory hurdles now behind it, the company plans to move forward with beta testing. The company is also taking pre-orders for units that it expects to ship in March or April of 2014. The initial price for the thermometers will be $14.99, which is comparable with traditional thermometer prices.

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