NIR Spectrometers? Think Shazam, but for molecules. Nerdy? No way – your mum will be using one before you know it. It’s set to be a game-changer and you’ll be seeing a lot more of this tech in the next few years. I was pretty excited to see the SCIO project launch on Kickstarter yesterday. I’ve been following the rapidly evolving sensor industry for a long time and in particular spectrometers. Devices like the SCIO promise to unlock millions of new applications and use cases for everyday consumers and businesses. The actual tech has been around for years but has always been bulky, expensive and industrial, until now. What do these sensors do? In layman’s terms the device breaks down the individual constituents of a material allowing you to see what something is made of and its present state. This works using a NIR spectroscopic sensor which is able to measure Near Infrared energy vibrating at a molecular level (every molecule has a unique NIR signature which can be recognised – watch the video at the end of the post).
Why is this useful? If you’re on a diet, you’ll be able to see how many calories or how much sugar is in your food. Plant lovers can measure how healthy their plant is. Cooks can check if food is fresh. Wives will be able to know if it’s a real diamond. You’ll be able to see what chemicals are in a medicine you are taking. You’ll even be able to look at your own flesh and see what’s going on in there. In essence these devices are like the ultimate quality control tool putting information in consumers hands that they have never had before.
I don’t think many businesses are aware just how impactful and disruptive these kinds of little devices will be. For some it will be a Pandora’s box scenario particularly for the food industry, restaurants and supermarkets. Many normal people with access to these tools will start to check for issues like freshness/bacteria etc so that would place much more pressure on quality control. I expect spectrometers to be embedded in most smartphones within a few years so it would be a mistake for businesses not to consider the impact in the marketplace if every consumer was capable of accurate product analysis. I’d be guessing that Apple would have given a lot of thought to implementing a spectrometer into their fabled iWatch – this would make perfect sense if they are looking at jumping the curve. There are certainly other similar devices in development that use a spectrometer like the AIRO (http://www.getairo.com/) although that project has been very quiet after some buzz last year. Either way you look at it this well established tech is now well on the way to being accessible to the masses. It’s highly useful and has the power to change the way we think about things we use everyday.
SCIO certainly looks promising. Some of the apps shown are clearly at concept stage but that’s part of the Kickstarter charm… You don’t quite know what you’ll be getting until it arrives and chances are things will change. Regardless, I’ve ordered one and can’t wait to play with it as soon as possible.
Arrival date estimated at Dec 2014.