Mobile Spectrometer Will Measure the Caloric and Nutritional Content of Food

Consumer Physics, an Israeli consumer electronics startup, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funding for a small handheld spectrometer that it claims can provide a wealth of information about the food we eat and the ingredients we cook with.  The campaign kicked off Tuesday and has already raised $300,000 from 1,700 backers.

Consumer Physics was founded in 2011 and had already raised $1.9 million in VC funding prior to its Kickstarter campaign. The company is backed by the highly regarded VC tech firm Khosla Ventures, which led its $1 million Series A round in September 2013.

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Since its founding, the company has been building a USB drive-sized spectrometer that it says can be used to analyze foods, medicines, plants, or other materials to learn more about their composition.  The device synchs with a smartphone app that displays a detailed chemical analysis of the item being scanned. The company says that as users scan more products, the data collected will be added to a growing database of information that will be used to further improve the app.

The device uses near-IR spectroscopy, a technology already in use in agriculture to determine the composition and quality of fruits, grains, meats, and vegetables. It is highly regarded technology in agriculture because it is accurate, reliable, and inexpensive. The device works by emitting a light which is capable of penetrating deep into the scanned object, an optical sensor then collects and analyzes the light reflected back from the object. The light is broken down into a spectrum, which is analyzed and provides chemical information on the makeup of the item. This information is then transmitted via BlueTooth to a smartphone app which displays the information in a consumer-friendly user interface.

Crowdsourcing sites, particularly Indiegogo, have taken flack recently for hosting campaigns from companies that claim to have created technology that is functionally impossible. Such was the case with the recent Healbe GoBe campaign which raised over $1 million dollars on Indiegogo for an activity tracker that was supposedly able to non-invasively monitor glucose levels and calculate daily caloric intake.  The campaign generated heated debate among backers over Indiegogo’s restrictive refund policy.

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Unlike, Healbe GoBe, Consumer Physics does a good job of explaining the science behind its technology, as well as the iterations that its hardware has come through to get to its current prototype. In addition, having the financial support of a trusted name like Khosla Ventures will likely help quell some of the skepticism during Consumer Physic’s Kickstarter campaign. The company’s Kickstarter campaign is offering the SCiO for $199 and estimates that shipments will begin in December 2014.


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