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The Ultimate Worlds | May 25, 2018

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Food Gadget: Tellspec can identify chemicals, nutrients, calories and ingredients

Food Gadget: Tellspec can identify chemicals, nutrients, calories and ingredients
Staff Reporter

Tellspec is a portable mini food scanner marketed soon. Tellspec able to give the data about chemicals, nutrients, calories and ingredients in any foods or beverages.


Mercury fish, fruits and vegetables treated with pesticides, dishes filled with preservatives and other chemical additives. When you want to eat healthy, to choose the shelves of a supermarket falls obstacle course. Not to mention allergic consumers who must hunt for products containing gluten or peanuts, a real headache ! Only solution cling to decipher the labels that are at best illegible, incomplete at worst.

The promise of scanner developed by Tellspec can therefore dream. Is it connected to angel watching your diet object? With one click, it would appear on your smartphone detailed composition of the dish that is on your plate or even packaged food. Would be shown the caloric content of the product, when practical diets.


The principle? A mini- spectrometer scans performed and recorded a spectrum which is then processed by a mathematical algorithm hosted on servers in the firm. The result , ie the details of the composition of the product is sent to your smartphone or tablet via a dedicated application. Tickets priced at $ 320 ( plus $ 7.99 per month or $ 69.99 per year after one year to access the analysis system ) Tellspec be distributed by early 2015.

Scanner Tellspec:

Video demonstration of the system Tellspec posted on YouTube in September 2013. Range scanners Tellspec intended to be marketed by 12015. The scanner will not detect trace element.


Fats, vitamins, gluten, pesticides, calorie….. Nothing escapes the mini- scanner according to the demo video posted on the site Indiegogo crowdfunding by which the start- up based in Toronto has raised nearly $ 400,000 fall last. The problem: since the company pocketed the tidy sum, she not only admitted that the video was a simulation (the phone does not really work, as is now specified at the bottom of the image), but it also changed the technology used- yet presented in the film as “ready to go into production” after 9 months of development. This food scanner would it be a scam, as some already denouncing ?
The device uses infrared spectroscopy to analyze food.


On March 17, the company announced in a statement Tellspec it changed its tune on technical analysis. Exit Raman spectroscopy, criticized as unrealistic for this application by bloggers and online following the call campaign donations on Indiegogo (difficult to miniaturize, analysis only on the surface, complex management of spurious signals induced by this technique). The scanner will eventually equipped with a near-infrared spectrometer manufactured by Texas Instruments. Already used to control the quality of products in the food industry, the near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) seems at first sight a more suitable choice. With a measurement carried out in less than one minute and without sample preparation, it provides access to the chemical composition of the food to a depth of several millimeters.

Like all spectroscopic techniques, NIRS studies the interaction between light and matter. When a beam of a wavelength between 800 and 2500 nanometers (corresponding to the near infrared) strikes the sample, it is absorbed differently by each chemical moiety. The radiation reflected by the foodstuff is recorded by a sensor located within the scanner. In the obtained spectrum, the characteristic absorption bands of the molecular bonds in the presence is observed. The information can be inferred the concentration of the molecules that make up the material.


French National Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture department said, “this technique does not detect trace elements. I recommend to people allergic to rely on as peanut traces, for example, can trigger reactions even in very small quantities.” According to the founders of Tellspec, this scanner would help people with food allergies. As for the promise of the start- up can indicate the presence of pesticides, also present in very small quantities. I think it is “not realistic.


Which components can therefore detect this food scanner? “With near infrared spectroscopy, it is possible to analyze the content of sugar, fat, protein or certain vitamins.” Information that also allow to know the caloric content of the product. But to produce reliable results “apparatus requires precise calibration hundreds of known samples.” This calibration should be close to those in the requirements analysis, otherwise you may get false results. ” When measuring the amount of sugar in fruit, the spectrum will be different depending on its maturity or temperature, for example, due to changes in the physical structure of the material.”

Should therefore each case be subject to calibration, a daunting task … Is this why Tellspec says the results obtained by the scanner gain in accuracy with the number of scans performed by the community? Strange … because the data will by definition products whose composition is not precisely known. Spectra will therefore in no case calibration value.


What very heterogeneous foods, like pizza for example? “The light does not necessarily pass through all the layers. Besides it will be difficult to obtain a reliable average composition, knowing that this is the hand that you will sweep the food with the famous scanner. Train not spend a second too over the cheese, the risk that the fat composition is not completely distorted! Perhaps that is why in his latest video, Tellspec not analysis cookies or crackers.