Gee whiz, Withings wants you to pee on their new product, the U-Scan

Withings U-Scan announcement
Source: Withings and 99.films on Unsplash

People love smart health sensors. Can’t get enough of them. Even though many of them keep proving to be not particularly accurate, they continue to sell like hotcakes. On a related note, your pee says a lot about you. There’s a reason why dogs, cats and former US presidents are so (allegedly) into it. Urine can be used to detect cancer, pregnancy, ovulation, infection, and help track the progression of kidney disease and diabetes. This is, presumably, why Withings has just announced the Withings U-Scan – a smart pebble you pee on.

If you just checked the calendar to make sure it’s not April 1st, you are not alone. This is a real product that will be sold in actual stores, starting in Europe and then expanding out as various regulatory agencies give approval.

What is this wee Withings U-Scan pebble?

What it is is a white, plastic puck, around 9cm in diameter, which Withings claims to “hygienically sit within any toilet bowl”. Withings does not elaborate on how it does this hygienically, or how one avoids accidentally flushing the €499.95 device down the dunny. Presumably, any adhesive would eventually wear off. It’s designed to collect the urine of people who sit down to pee, and those who stand may need to find placement workarounds.

Withings U-Scan app
Apparently, the Withings U-Scan will be hygienic in how it tests your urine

The press release says that the U-Scan will automatically be able to tell the difference between urine and the flush water, and funnel the urine into a “collection inlet”, due to the pebble-shaped design. The urine is then injected into a test pod, and the chemical reaction is read by an optical module.

Instead of testing urine for everything, which would be challenging outside a laboratory set-up, users can purchase different kinds of cartridges. Each pod contains dozens of mini-test pods, and a new pod is used each time. The cartridges available at launch will be based on testing menstrual cycles (including cycle predictions, ovulation windows, and key hydration and dietary biomarkers) and a Nutri Balance cartridge, which will focus more on nutrients and hydration. Each cartridge is claimed to last three months if users follow “the recommended measurement plan”. The press release did not elaborate on the measurement plan.

What about communal toilets?

If you share a toilet with multiple other people, “Stream ID” will be used to identify whose pee is being tested, and assign the analysis to the correct urinator. Each person’s urine contains enough markers for them to be easily told apart with the right tools. This also means that a group of marketing executives had to have multiple meetings to name a tool designed to differentiate people based on their pee.

The Withings U-Scan starter kit will be available in Europe in Q2 2023 for €499.95. Pricing and availability for other regions have yet to be confirmed, but hopeful Australian purchasers shouldn’t hold their bladder for TGA approval to come any time soon.

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