Healbe, the latest to claim a passive calorie-in tracker, and what it means for the Apple iWatch

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 12, 2014        

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HealbeGoBeLast October Waterloo, Ontario-based Airo Health, a small startup founded by recent graduates, began taking preorders for a passive nutrition-tracking, wristworn device on its website, only to refund its backers a few weeks later after admitting it should have tested and validated the device further before putting it up for sale. Last week Healbe, a company with offices in San Francisco and Russia, began a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo for a similar device, called Gobe, that claims to passively track caloric intake, hydration levels, stress, activity, sleep phases, and more. In just one week that company has already raised almost $350,000 — more than tripling its $100,000 goal.

Last year we noted that many of our readers expressed disbelief that Airo’s prototype device could accurately use a wristworn optical sensor to detect caloric intake — I have received similar notes from readers about Healbe.

Here’s Healbe’s description of GoBe from its crowdfunding campaign: “GoBe doesn’t require you to keep a food diary, scan bar codes, or take photos of your meals. It automatically calculates calories consumed by measuring the amount of glucose in your cells, through your skin. Only GoBe uses Healbe FLOW Technology to combine a unique algorithm with measurements from the body manager’s pressure, accelerometer, and impedance sensors to show you calories consumed; metabolic rate and calories burned during any activity; hydration; sleep; and stress.”

In an email to MobiHealthNews, Healbe CEO Artem Shipitsin wrote that, “Yes,” the “device actually works” but that Healbe doesn’t have validation “right now [from an] independent company”. All of Healbe’s validation testing so far has been done in-house as part of the device’s development. Shipitsin said that the company has tested GoBe’s glucose sensing against a traditional glucose meter’s readings and the GoBe’s level of accuracy usually falls within the 80 percent to 85 percent range. Healbe also compared its device’s detection of caloric intake up against what standard caloric tables say the meal being tested contains, and Shipitsin said GoBe was usually within 88 percent to 92 percent accurate. He also promised to make documents from an independent testing facility available to MobiHealthNews once they go through such testing.

When it first began taking preorders last year, Airo also told MobiHealthNews that it had validated its device in-house and that it planned to have it independently validated in the future.

Healbe expects to ship its devices to those who preorder via Indiegogo in just a few months — June 2014.

While whether Healbe’s GoBe device works as advertised remains to be seen, its concept might shed some light on the rumors circulating about Apple’s iWatch and the reason the iPhone maker has been snapping up noninvasive glucose sensing experts for the past few years. As we have argued in the past, it is unlikely that Apple would add functionalities to its iWatch and make medical claims about them that would put the device in the FDA’s crosshairs.

Maybe all those noninvasive glucose sensor experts joining Apple are working to build a GoBe-like device that can passively detect caloric intake. Maybe Healbe built it first. Or, like those who preordered the Airo device found out, and — perhaps Apple’s team is finding out behind closed doors — the feasibility of passively detecting caloric intake via a wristworn wearable device just isn’t here yet.

  • Pascal

    I feel sorry for people who seriously believe that Healbe will send them a reliable product in June 2014.

    As for Apple, they will differentiate itself with good design and valuable use cases, based on established physiological sensors (movement / SpO2). Integrating unproven technology into their first smartwatch would not make sense from strategic-, branding-, legal- as well as regulatory aspects.

  • http://batman-news.com CrocodilesPoor

    More unsubstantiated bullshit from a crowd funding site. When will people learn? I don’t care if they say it works, show me a scientific study or keep your hands off innocent people’s money.

    If this technology really did exist, then it would be much more valuable as a tool for diabetics. The fact that they’re putting it into an activity tracker is proof that it’s a fairy tale.

  • Jeff kilcorse

    This the 2014 version of the ‘mood ring’. Will platforms such as indiegogo see any blowback from hosting these fraudsters?

  • SR

    @crocodilespoor:disqus Just curious: why is alignment with an activity tracker proof of a fairy tale? Inactivity and obesity go hand in hand with type two onset.

  • Alyssa

    I wish it would work. I have nesidioblastosis of the pancreas and i produce over 50 times more insulin than needed every time i eat or drink. If it worked it may tell me exactly my glucose levels, How can i find out? i am so ill with it and no help

  • http://batman-news.com CrocodilesPoor

    If this technology was for real, it would be a lot more significant than a dinky wristband. It would be a major technological revolution for non-invasive measurements.

  • Devo B

    Just food for thought, but suppose it does work. If it has tested with only an 85% accuracy rate it would be substantial as a guestimate of calories taken in compared with current fitness apps that have you estimate portion sizes. However, this is nowhere near the current standard for invasive medical testing with glucose meters. But, they have already stated that the medical community is not their target market. So for this target market, 85-93% is a fairly reliable idea.
    Sincerely
    Devin, RN/tech junkie

  • VvV

    Has it occurred to you that perhaps there is a bit of difference between the accuracy requirements for a fitness tracker vs a medical device. If this thing gives a ballpark calories estimate with +/-10% accuracy most people using the device would consider this reasonably informative.

  • Jane

    Have you been exposed to continuous glucose monitors?

  • pf3

    Me too and I don’t even have anything wrong with me. I’m just a fat American.

  • everydayfella

    1) There is not a smidgen of scientific proof that this GoBe thing can work; there is not even a valid physical model to explain how this thing could possibly work.

    2) Even if it did measure with 85% accuracy, which (again) it absolutely could never do, it would be nothing more than an extremely expensive pedometer. As the NIH has published on many occasions, a mere 3% miscalculation in energy balance can cause obesity over the span of just a few years.

    But in my humble opinion, anyone ignorant enough to fund GoBe is probably better off with less money in their pockets.

  • http://batman-news.com CrocodilesPoor

    As mentioned below: “As the NIH has published on many occasions, a mere 3% miscalculation in energy balance can cause obesity over the span of just a few years.”

    There are also many other sources of calories than just glucose.