Could New Pocket Molecular Sensor Detect Food Fraud in Seconds?
02 Jun 2014

Could consumers soon be able to detect food fraud with a handheld device? A new, pocket-sized, affordable molecular sensor could allow users to analyze the chemical makeup of materials, including the composition of food, in real-time. Designed for anyone who would like instant information about the things they interact with and consume every day, users will be able to determine how much fat is in any salad dressing, how much sugar is in a particular piece of fruit, how pure an oil is, and more.

The SCiO, developed by Consumer Physics, uses NIR spectroscopy to scan the molecular fingerprint of physical material and delivers real-time results to its mobile application on the user's smartphone via Bluetooth, which in turn forwards it to a cloud-based service for review. Advanced algorithms utilize an updatable database to analyze the spectrum within milliseconds and deliver information about the analyzed sample back to the user’s smartphone in real-time.

"Smartphones give us instant answers to questions like where to have dinner, what movie to see, and how to get from point A to point B, but when it comes to learning about what we interact with on a daily basis we're left in the dark," said Dror Sharon, CEO of Consumer Physics. "We designed SCiO to empower explorers everywhere with new knowledge and to encourage them to join our mission of mapping the physical world."

Using the food application, in just five seconds, the SCiO can deliver information about the purity of foods, spoilage analysis, produce quality, as well as the macro nutrient values (calories, fats, carbohydrates, and proteins) for various foods, including cheeses, fruits, vegetables, sauces, salad dressings, cooking oils, and more. With increased interest in the authenticity of food, such as those brought to light in the horsemeat scandal last year, the SCiO could help users to test the quality and identity of the food they consume. Users can also upload and tag the spectrum of any material they scan, helping to rapidly expand the SCiO database.

While current applications include food, plants and medicines, others are planned to be developed and released regularly. Developers can also design and custom-build their own unique smartphone apps or physical form factors. The materials SCiO can analyze are endless, including cosmetics, clothes, flora, soil, jewels and precious stones, leather, rubber, oils, plastics, and even human tissue or bodily fluids.

For more information on Consumer Physics and SCiO, please visit the SCiO crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter and the Consumer Physics website.

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