Over five years after the release of the Body Cardio (and one flirtation with Nokia later), French company Withings has released its far most technologically advanced connected scale yet, the Body Scan. The big change over the last model is the addition of a handle with four stainless steel electrodes that allows it to measure ECG, segmented body composition (fat/water in your arms, legs and torso) and even esoteric things like nerve activity. All of these features will also make it one of the most expensive scales yet when it arrives to market.
Withings says it's the number one US smart scale manufacturer and created the Body Scan "because users are demanding more and more medical and health data and information," Withings CEO Mathieu Letombe told Engadget in French.
The new scale is certainly designed to deliver that. Though the design and high-strength tempered glass construction are similar to the previous Body Cardio, it's loaded with extra sensors that can tell you more than ever about your body. That includes four weight sensors, 14 ITO (Indium tin oxide) electrodes within the platform and four stainless steel electrodes on the new handle. The battery can now go for a year between charges compared to nine months before and it packs a larger, higher-resolution 3.2-inch LCD color display.
The handle allows safe, low-level electrical signals to pass through your entire body, not just your feet — much as you may have seen on some advanced gym scales. To start with, that enables a new 6-lead ECG that can detect heart arrhythmias via two sets of electrodes on each side of the handle and one within the base of the sale. That compares to a single lead on smartwatches, so the Body Scan can deliver more specific results "that can easily be ready by a cardiologist," said Letombe.
An embedded algorithm can detect heart patterns associated with atrial fibrillation, showing the results on the display or Withings' Health Mate app. Those can be stored to show trends or "shared with medical professionals from the app," according to Withings. "Each time you weigh yourself, the scale can deliver that information, thanks to the new handle."
In terms of your weight, Withings claims the Body Scan is accurate to within 0.1 pounds (50 grams) or double the previous model, but that's just the start of showing your body makeup. It uses multi-frequency bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) to measure whole-body fat and water percentage, visceral fat, muscle and bone mass and extracellular and intracellular water. It can even provide readings for individual body parts, including your torso, arms and legs. All of that allows you to spot things used by health experts and sports professionals like dangerous localized fat or muscle imbalance, Withings said.
Working with a French company called Impeto Medical, Withings also developed a feature to assess nerve activity. It can track sweat gland activity in the feet (sudomotor function) using a small direct current via the electrodes located in the plate. Impaired function in that regard could show signs of degeneration of small nerve fibers, something that can be corrected with regular activity and a healthy diet.
"It's a useful function, because there are a lot of chronic health issues like obesity associated with poor nerve function," Letombe told me. "Impeto creates devices used by neurologists and others doctors that can cost upwards of 10,000 euros, and the Body Scan is a consumer product that, again, does that every time you weigh yourself." At the same time, Withings will be able to collect nerve activity data from millions of users that could be useful for medical research and patient care.
Along with the scale, Withings is also introducing (yep) a subscription service, with the price yet to be announced. It will "allow users to connect with medical specialists for advice and consultation while providing clinical teams with data in real-time," Withings said. It'll also offer personalized health plans, videos and more covering topics like nutrition, sleep, exercise and stress management to help users with their health goals.
With the Body Scan, Withings will be offering consumers one of the more advanced health, sports and medical home devices out there — at a price. It's expected to cost $300 when it arrives to the US and Europe in the second half of 2022 following FDA clearance, or $100 more than the Body Scan's launch price. That will include three free months of the subscription service, but it's still big chunk of change for a scale.
A lot will depend on whether it delivers on all the promised features with reasonable accuracy and if it receives its FDA clearance in a timely manner. That's not necessarily a given, as it took Withings well over a year to get its ScanWatch cleared by the FDA after it was first released. The company also had issues with its Pulse Wave Velocity (PVW) heart health feature, and pulled it in some regions over regulatory concerns.
Given all that, it's fairly bold on Withings' part to introduce a scale with even more advanced medical and health functionality. "We think that's how we can advance a user's health, not by asking an extra effort, but delivering more targeted information on a product they use every day," said Letombe.
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