A Week With a Tellspec Scanner

I have now spent a week with the beta Tellspec scanner, and the Tellspec iPhone application.

From my earlier posts on the scanner, you likely know I had some setup questions, and scanning questions. I had several conversations with the Tellspec team, and finally opened the scanner manual they had sent me a couple of days before the scanner arrived. Yes, I know… nobody reads the manual, and I did suggest they add a “quick start” sheet to the box when they send it.

What I learned over this week is twofold.

First, though the scanner is beta (meaning almost ready to ship), the iPhone application is an evolving work. I would say it is almost beta ready, and we will see how it evolves over the next couple of weeks. It does work pretty awesome, and I will post more on this later.

Second, the world of scanning food with near infrared (NIR) spectroscopy is a highly advanced and evolving technology, used more and more in the foodwine and pharmaceutical industries.

At first glance, the Tellspec scanner is simply that – a simple NIR scanner couple with a phone app. However, the real technology lies in the algorithms that Tellspec has put in place to analyze the scans that the scanner sends to your phone, and then your phone up to the cloud for analysis (and back for display). Check out that last link for a cool video about how the scanner works.

If you look at the technology, and how it works, you will see that every food has a unique signature. One of the things Tellspec is working on is building their database of foods and nutrition information. You can see the chemicals they display at their Tellspecopedia site. Want to know what rBST is, and how it affects your health? It is there. Find Cochineal Red A on your food label, and want to know what it is? It is there. You can look up most things there, and their database is growing.

They also have another database of the spectrum information of the foods, and beta users are scanning new foods (and Tellspec). The goal is that beta users will scan a variety of foods, and upload it to the database with the nutritional information from the food labels. Other sources of information are combined with that data and the scan data, building a comprehensive database of foods and their composition giving quick and detailed scans on food.

This means that the data available is constantly growing, and will continue to grow over the years.