Food Allergies and the Future: Add-on Device May Turn Your Smartphone into a Personal Food Lab

tech 1For those with severe food allergies, the presence of even trace amounts of an allergen in food can cause drastic consequences and has the potential to be life threatening. What if you could test your food before eating to be 100 percent certain it was allergen free?

Technology and innovation combine to bring you the iTube, a device that attaches to your smartphone, converting it to a colorimeter; your very own food analysis lab at your dinner table. Any kind of food can be tested, and by doing so, those with allergies could gain a level of confidence they don’t find by simply checking package labels or asking wait staff to verify that no allergenic substances have come into contact with their food.

While the iTube promises accuracy and certainty, giving the quantity of allergens in a substance in parts per million, it isn’t quite as easy as zapping your food and taking a reading. The process is somewhat more involved—food must be ground, mixed with chemicals in a test tube and then inserted into the device. LED lights combined with the camera in the smartphone then analyze the substance.

The data collected by the device can be uploaded to a personal database or shared with others via food allergy forums and websites. While the device would be a useful addition to a home kitchen, using at a restaurant table could present challenges. However, for those with life-threatening allergies, the process may seem like a small price to pay in order to ensure allergen-free food.

The iTube allergen-detecting device may yet have a long path to travel before you are able to use it to manage your own or your children’s allergies. The inventor, Aydogan Ozcan, a professor of engineering at UCLA, is currently working on developing prototypes. Next comes market research and then, finally, manufacturing. Ozcan believes the device could be of great benefit to allergy sufferers and will be testing the market to assess demand for such a device. What do you think? Would you use an iTube for yourself or your child if it became available?


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