Yes you read correctly. ‘UChek’, unveiled at TED in Los Angeles yesterday is a smartphone application that tests your urine for possible illnesses by way of camera pictures. Can this be true?
Yes. What seems like a very unlikely story is in fact a very useful tool, particularly in the developing world where the use of mobile phones is revolutionising remote healthcare. The invention by TED fellow, Myshkin Ingawale, is able to test urine for the presence of ten elements like glucose, nitrates and proteins, thereby diagnosing diseases and conditions like diabetes, urinary tract infections, cancers and liver problems. A urine strip is supplied as part of the app and once dipped into the urine is able to determine the ailment with the help of a colour chart. Issues that could have arisen through varying lighting conditions and colour distortion are cleverly ruled out by the app, that normalises colours for accurate readings.
The potential for individuals to take greater control of their health would be an enormous step in the right direction for people who would otherwise not be able to access simple health tests of this kind. UChek will be trialed at King Edward Memorial hospital in Mumbai, India where it will be tested for accuracy against standard laboratory machines. If it is tried and true, it will be rolled out to mobile clinics and save hospitals tens of thousands in machinery costs, and many more lives in the long run. Smartphones may still be an expensive tool in many developing nations but the cost of existing healthcare equipment is far more with the cost of mobile technology falling everyday.
In other mobile healthcare advances, Mr Ingawale has also created an anaemia blood test that can be taken without drawing blood. This is a revolution for clinics, saving thousands in needles, swabs and other basic resources needed for simple procedures.
UChek will be available for the iPhone at the end of March for $20 (£13), which includes the cost of the colour mat and five dipsticks, with an Android version coming soon.