Startup Spotlight: Israeli Device Brings Sci-Fi to Reality

“The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge.” (Proverbs 18:15)

(Photo: SCiO Kickstarter)
The SCiO revolutionizes the way we understand the world around us. (Photo: SCiO Kickstarter)

Israeli tech company Consumer Physics has a dream: to bring our knowledge of the physical world closer to home.  Until recently the stuff of science fiction, Consumer Physics has developed the SCiO, a hand-held device which allows users to scan items in their environment and analyze precisely what they are made of.  According to the company, the applications are endless, from calorie-counting to identifying the authenticity of luxury items, and all at an affordable price.

The technology behind the SCiO is not new.  Based on Near Infrared (NIR) spectroscopy, the device uses an LED light to send light waves to an object.  According to the company’s Kickstarter campaign, “the physical basis for this material analysis method is that each type of molecule vibrates in its own unique way, and these vibrations interact with light to create its own unique optical signature.”

Until now, however, NIR spectroscopy has been limited to laboratories, since the equipment needed is large and expensive. Not anymore.

Using technology common in cellphone cameras and optical communications, Consumer Physics developed a cost-effective, hand-held tool with minimal compromise in quality. The sensor scans the targeted item, then analyzes it based on a wide, cloud-based database of samples to identify the item and its specific chemical composition.

As company CEO Dror Sharon explains, “It senses the spectrum of the actual molecules, sends it to the cloud, and compares what it finds to a huge database.”  The scan, which penetrates to a depth of a few millimeters, takes only seconds to complete, and the results are transmitted via Bluetooth to the user’s smartphone.

SCiO can tell you the exact nutritional composition and level of ripeness of your food, discern which pill is which, or determine whether an allergen is present in your meal.  And the device can learn, so the more it is used in the world, the more information is added to the database, the more useful it can be for everyone.

Currently, the SCiO database consists of food, plants and medications, but Sharon hopes to widen its applications to other areas.  “Our vision is to have this inside every smartphone, every wearable device, and every Internet-connected device—everywhere it makes sense for you to measure a physical property,” he says.

SCiO's tiny optical sensor. (Photo: SCiO Kickstarter)
SCiO’s tiny optical sensor. (Photo: SCiO Kickstarter)

With enough information, it could be used by homebrewers to measure the alcohol content and readiness of their beers, by athletes to check hydration levels, by gardening enthusiasts to identify rare plants, or by shoppers to verify the authenticity of luxury items.  It is not a medical device, but it can read glucose levels in the blood non-invasively, so there is development potential in the field of medicine one day down the road.

Another great thing about SCiO is that it is based on an open platform.  This means developers are encouraged to build their own apps for use with the SCiO device.  Says Sharon, “We designed Scio to empower explorers everywhere with new knowledge and to encourage them to join our mission of mapping the physical world.”

SCiO began with a dream in 2012, but will be available to consumers by the end of this year or early next year.  This was made possible in no small part by equity crowdfunding team OurCrowd, which matches investors with promising Israeli startups like Consumer Physics. This week, Consume Physics, the company behind SCiO, was named one of the top twenty hottest Israeli startups for 2014 by Business Insider.

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According to Zack Miller, head of OurCrowd’s investor community, “OurCrowd is the leading equity crowdfunding platform, investing in the best of Israeli and global startups. To date, together with our community of almost 5000 investors globally, we’ve invested $50 million in over 40 companies.”

OurCrowd differs from other familiar entities, such as Kickstarter, in that it is not donation-based. Instead, OurCrowd’s investors take an active equity stake in the companies they invest in. Investors from all around the world looking to invest in Israel’s Startup Nation are now able to tap into the best Israeli innovation has to offer.

David Stark, Principal at OurCrowd said about their investment in Consumer Physics, “We are honored to be partnering with other great investors including Khosla Ventures, one of the top early stage investment firms in the world, in funding this technology that has the potential to transform the way we interact with the world around us.”

Learn how you can share in the success of companies like Consumer Physics by joining OurCrowd’s investor community.