LAKE WALES, Fla. — A smartphone with a built-in spectrometer that can sense nearly any substance is promising to bring to the masses a whole new category of capabilities. The phone's makers say it can, for example, sense spoiled milk, a drink's alcohol content, a food's ingredients, counterfeit pills, poison and nearly anything else.
The key component is a tiny near-infrared spectrometer which is made by Analog Devices Inc. (Norwood, Mass.), designed by Consumer Physics Inc. (Tel-Aviv, Israel) and integrated into an iPhone-lookalike made by Sichuan Changhong Electric Co. (China).
The Changhong H2 smartphone — with a giant six-inch screen and 2-GHz, 8-core application processor — is the first smartphone to use Consumer Physics' spectrometer. Many more sensing products are on-the-way from other original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), such as GE for its refrigerators. The Changhong H2 was shown for the first time at the Consumer Electronics Show 2017 (CES).
The spectrometer alone is called SCiO — a play on the Latin word for "to know."
Video link https://youtu.be/ejl6gGgR9_g Consumer Physics "Kickstarter" SCiO, the world's first molecular sensor that fits in the palm of your hand. (Source:Consumer Physics)
"We have over 2,000 developers working on building SCiO into all sorts of handheld devices and expect many of them to be launched in 2017 after CES," Consumer Physics CEO Dror Sharon told EE Times in a exclusive interview ahead of the announcement. "We will be displaying prototypes of some of these other devices in our booth at CES, including a smart kitchen scale that tells you how many calories you are about to eat, a smart bottle that tells you the quality of the water or the number of calories in your fruit juice or the alcohol consumed from a beer or mixed-drink."
The world's first smartphone with a giant six-inch screen and a built-in ADI (U.S.) spectrometer running integrated software by Consumer Physics (U.S.) and manufacturers by electronics giant Sichuan Changhong Electric Co. (China).
(Source: Sichuan Changhong Electric)
Originally a Kickstarter project, producing a small handheld prototype (see video) for over 13,000 backers, Consumer Physics quickly discovered that their idea had traction with conventional investors. The company has since raised more than $20 million in startup capital led by Khosla Ventures, Marc Benioff, OurCrowd and Dov Moran.
ADI agreed to micro-miniaturize the Consumer Physics prototype, believing it will become a mass produced module worldwide.
ADI's single-package spectrometer is just larger than a dime and thin enough for most smartphones.
(Source: Consumer Physics)
"We had a lot of IoT players interested, but finally went with Analog Devices," Sharon told EE Times. "The final module size is just 4-by-8-by-4 millimeters, which will fit in any of today's modern smartphones." The device protrudes slightly from the back of the smartphone, a la the new twin-lenses on high-end smartphones like the iPhone 7.
To make a determination of the chemical composition of your drink, food or any other object, the user merely holds it about 5-to-10 millimeters (half an inch) away and presses a "scan button" on the app screen. The app sends the signature from the spectrometer up to the cloud where it is compared with the vast database of spectrometer signatures that have been amassed there. The phone is sent back the results within three-to-four seconds.
Typical Consumer Physics created apps allow user to pick popular categories of objects to be scanned or create their own.
(Source: Consumer Physics)
"Its does not replace a laboratory spectrometer — for instance, its signal cannot penetrate deep inside objects — and its results resolve down to thousands of parts, rather than millions or billions, but that is enough for most consumer purposes," Sharon told us.
Also, besides using the cloud database as-is, the user can add their own unique signatures too. For instance, if a user has two objects they keep getting mixed up — say pills — they can create unique molecular signatures for each one and never get them mixed up again. Many common pills are already in the database too, enabling consumers to nearly instantly detect whether that generic they bought cheap on the Internet is a counterfeit.
Besides consumer smartphones, Consumer Physics the device's market to expand beyond to all sorts of kitchen, biometrics, automotive, environmental and other devices they have not even imagined yet. As stated, GE is already putting one inside a new refrigerator.
Typical Consumer Physics applet here analyzes a slice of cheese for its calories, fat, carbohydrates and protein content.
(Source: Consumer Physics)
The company already has more than 2,000 licensees of its software development kit (SDK) for easy integration of the ADI spectrometer along with Consumer Physics' software into their own models and applications including kitchen devices to household goods to fitness equipment to children’s toys — none of which have as yet been announced (besides Consumer Physics own SCiO).
Changhong, a $15 billion company, also claims to be making a variety of original equipment manufacture (OEM) subsystems for integration into other branded devices.
— R. Colin Johnson, Advanced Technology Editor, EE Times