Withings is no stranger to smart scales, but for CES 2022 the company is taking a much more ambitious approach to the gadget. Announced today, the Withings Body Scan will feature six-lead ECG readings, segmented body composition measurements, and the ability to assess nerve activity in the foot. Basically this is the scale for people who want to know how fat is distributed throughout their body and how this in turn might be related to their heart health.
On the surface, the Body Scan looks like your typical scale, albeit with a retractable handle at the top. It contains four weight sensors and 14 ITO electrodes in the scale itself, plus four more located in the handle. The scale also has a larger 3.2-inch LCD color display, as well as a one-year battery life. It will also integrate with Withings smartwatches, in addition to the Apple HealthKit and Google Fit APIs.
While the handle is visually unique, this is also what enables the Body Scan’s most interesting features. Smart scales measure body composition through bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA). It works by sending a low level electric current through your body. Body fat, water, and lean mass all have different resistance levels, so depending on how fast the current is moving, the scale will estimate your body composition. However, most scales only have two points of contact: your feet. This means that you are really getting an estimate for lower body only. Withings says the Body Scan will use the “multi-frequency” BIA because the retractable handle provides two additional points of contact, resulting in segmented body composition measurements.
Withings claims that the Body Scan can differentiate your torso, right and left legs, and right and left arms. The scale will also break down body composition into percentages of body fat and water, visceral fat, muscle and bone mass, and extracellular and intracellular water. It’s hard to say how accurate the Body Scan will be – smart scales are notoriously inaccurate – but it’s true that it’s nice to see Withings trying to provide additional context. For example, many smart scales do not differentiate between subcutaneous and visceral fat. While agitated subcutaneous fat is relatively harmless, invisible visceral fat is the kind that is actually the most dangerous for your health.
Body composition has recently seen a resurgence in wearables. Samsung has introduced BIA analysis on its Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, while Amazon has also introduced a body fat feature on its Halo platform. Each of these companies has focused on their body fat tools as an alternative to body mass index (BMI), which is an imperfect metric to assess your overall health. That said, incorrect body fat tracking can also act as a potential trigger for body dysmorphia and other eating disorders.
“We looked for a way to do this in a safe and efficient manner,” said Shikha Anand, Withings chief medical officer. The edge. “We can’t figure out how the world views the weight, but that said, we will do everything we can not to exacerbate it. We will be basing ourselves on health, not weight wherever we can. It will always be about the relationship between your weight and your health.
Anand went on to explain that weight is often linked to self-esteem, and that’s part of why Withings wants to repackage its scale at a health station. The idea, says Anand, is to show how your weight relates in context to your overall cardiovascular health, as well as to offer more holistic behavioral information. Anand also pointed out that Withings is testing the Body Scan with a diverse cohort of consumers to make sure the body composition feature is more helpful than harmful. She also said that the Withings app will be upgraded with better data visualizations for long-term trends.
In addition to body composition, Withings states that the Body Scan will provide heart rate, ECG recordings, and vascular age data at each weigh-in. ECG readings can be saved and shared with physicians. Meanwhile, the vascular age feature is meant to show people how their cardiovascular health compares to that of other people in their age group.
While body composition, and even ECGs, make sense for a scale, Withings goes one step further with a new nerve assessment feature developed with French medical device maker Impeto Medical. The scale will allegedly measure the activity of the sweat glands in your feet and generate a score. According to Withings, nerve activity in the foot is currently under investigation and could potentially show signs of nerve dysfunction.
That’s fine, but like other recent gadgets from Withings, the Body Scan is subject to FDA and CE clearance. So, while Withings announces its intention to launch the Body Scan for $ 279 in the second half of 2022, it will all depend on how quickly the company can get the regulatory green light. The Withing ScanWatch, for example, was showcased at CES 2020 and didn’t get FDA clearance until November 2021. Despite that, Anand says Withings is optimistic it won’t take that long this time around. .
“We learned a lot from the ScanWatch process and got to know the FDA team better. I feel that we are on our way to have [the Body Scan] within a reasonable time. ”