Meet The Chemical Scanner That Could Change The Way You Shop

An Israeli inventor has made a spectrometer that can tell consumers the chemical makeup of almost any item it’s pointed at.

Meet The Chemical Scanner That Could Change The Way You Shop
SCiO Scanner in Action

SCiO is the pocket-sized sensor that could tell you everything you want to know about, well, just about anything. Inventor Dror Sharon’s creation is an infrared spectrometer the size of a thumb drive users can point at food and get a reading of its chemical makeup in just a few seconds.

Right now, SCiO is limited to a few key applications according to–food, pharmaceuticals, and horticulture. Point the scanner at a tomato and learn how many calories are in it or when it will reach peak ripeness. It could prove to be a boon in the world of medicine, tracking and validating possibly counterfeit drugs. While the spectrometer technology has been around, it’s been shrinking further and further of late. SCiO takes a reading of the molecular structure, matches that to an ever-expanding database, and sends the information to users’ smartphones.

Earlier this year, the company raised nearly $3 million thanks to a Kickstarter campaign, and the final scanner is expected to reach backers in early 2015, with a price tag of $299.

While the current database is limited to food, medicine, and plants, Sharon plans to have thousands of early adopters using the scanner by the end of the year who will beef up the database and tweak the software in anticipation of the consumer release. Prominent professors and investors have vouched for the technology and at TechCrunch Disrupt earlier this year, Sharon demonstrated the SCiO in person to great effect.

Among the possible applications for the future: monitoring car tires, fuel tanks, soil analysis, and the human body.

About the author

Skylar is an Editorial Assistant at Fast Company. He's previously written for Popular Mechanics, Esquire, Dwell and his hometown Chicagoland suburb newspaper.