An Update from Tellspec CEO Isabel Hoffmann

Dear Supporters and Friends,

The TellSpec™ headquarters are buzzing with excitement! As you know, we are now collaborating with Texas Instruments to incorporate their award-winning DLP® technology into the TellSpec food scanner. We are currently hard at work to produce beta units for our Indiegogo Beta Testers and Developer Contributors. We expect to start delivery of these scanners in late Q2 2014. The TellSpec scanner will use micromirrors and a broadband lamp rather than a laser, ultimately bringing a safer, more accurate and faster technology to consumers.

Our Beta Testers and Developer Contributors will play a crucial role in helping to build the TellSpec global food database. These backers will be some of the first to own the device and are key supporters to making this powerful tool available to the public.

With the beta units, the testers will be able to scan simple foods (like fruits, vegetables, crackers, breads, chocolate, eggs, meat and potato chips) and receive data about the calories, macronutrients, ingredients, and allergens in that particular item of food. This summer, we will have a live video demonstrating a beta unit in action, along with instructions on how to use the scanner to help grow the global TellSpec food database.

Thanks to the data collected by beta testers; we anticipate that the final model to be able to scan simple mixed foods such as cakes and pizzas. The final model is expected to be delivered to all backers including the ones that have pre-bought the scanner on our website by the end of the year. Every time beta testers scan, they not only learn about what’s in their food, but they also grow the global TellSpec database. TellSpec’s commitment to building a healthier world by empowering people to make informed choices grows with every scan. That is crowd-sourced power for consumers. And this is only the beginning. Details on how we will accomplish this are outlined in our patent filed August 13, 2013.

Crowd-funding enabled our team to receive immediate feedback from our backers and the public, which led us to make strategic choices with our product and further expand our vision. It was this very same feedback that led us to switch from Raman laser technology to the safer NIR spectroscopy technology. We listened to you, our backers, and your concerns about the safety of the laser used in Raman. We chose the NIR spectral measurement technology as the alternative to Raman because it is used extensively in the industry for food analysis and has a proven track record for food applications since the 1980s. We also received a lot of feedback about tracking daily goals and providing nutritional advice; both of which are features that we will now include in our beta version of our smartphone application.

We strongly believe responding to consumer feedback to develop the best product for our backers is a key part of the crowd-funding experience. This allows our backers to remain an integral part of our project that aims to build a healthier world by empowering people to make informed choices about the food they eat. This is truly a project for the people, grown by people, and made stronger and better by people.

To our Beta Testers and Developer Contributors:

Please note that the look and feel of the beta unit you will receive is different than the final version we will send to you at the end of the year. This is because we are still working on fine-tuning the technology to be small enough to fit into the palm-sized scanners like the prototypes on our page. It’s not as sexy as the final version you will receive at the end of the year but it is ready for its first assignment! And, it will have the ability to receive data about the calories, macronutrients, ingredients, allergens in simple food.

Our VP of Hardware Engineering, Dr. John Coates, a world recognized expert spectroscopy, is busy working to integrate new hardware features into the TellSpec scanner so the price will be kept low. John is currently working with a design group we have engaged, to deliver the TellSpec scanner within the expected price point.

Lastly, as an integral part of TellSpec’s success, we want to keep you abreast of our progress and share how we are using the money we’ve raised as a community. Since our funding in November, we have recruited further talent, begun set up our distribution chains, invested in further R&D, paid for hardware partners for a first run of production, and are developing directives for beta testers along with the beta prototype scanners.

Changing the way people access information about their food will not be an easy task, but thanks to your backing, the action you take will help build the global TellSpec food database. Furthermore; it is your support of this disruptive technology that will help us succeed in revolutionizing what we know about what’s in our food. We thank you for your continued support, loyalty, and understanding.

Wishing you the best in health and peace always,

Have questions? Email us at info@tellspec.com.

Sincerely,
Isabel Hoffmann
Founder and CEO

22 replies
  1. Andrew Fung
    Andrew Fung says:

    This device will help us to answer a lot of questions. I was told that peanut butter was bad for my health several years ago. Now I am told it is good. With your device, the argument will end. We will have strict facts about the food. The database you are building will make this valuable information accessible to everyone.

    Reply
    • TellSpec Staff
      TellSpec Staff says:

      Yes the TellSpec global food databank will take time to grow wide and deep but after compiling across time; the crowdsourced food data banks will be able to inform consumers not only about their foods but also about the intersections between food and health. We are also creating a wonderful encyclopedia online resource called TellSpecopedia! More to come later.

      Reply
    • Ben Richardson
      Ben Richardson says:

      As I understand it Andrew, Tellspec will provide us with information about what is *in* your food. This is very different to telling you whether that food is *good* or *bad* and in many cases there is nothing so simple as *good* and *bad* without significant context and often not even with context.

      For example, peanut butter contains saturated fat. Good or bad?
      It is high in omega-6 fatty acids. Good or bad?

      There are very few foods upon which there is consensus about them being bad, with examples I can think of being trans-fats and added sugars.

      My hope is that Tellspec will be able to identify whether there were any trans-fats in my peanut butter and it would be terrific if it could also identify untintended low-level cross-contamination with common allergens, but if *all* it does is tell me about the protein, carb, fat, vitamins, mineral, amino acid, fatty acid content (etc) that has no implication for it being good or bad. That kind of information is already available for most foods via sources such as http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/legumes-and-legume-products/4452/2

      Reply
      • TellSpec Staff
        TellSpec Staff says:

        Ben,
        Thank you again for your inquiries and support. TellSpec is not at this time able to identify cross contamination or any type of low level concentrations. As I said earlier on my other answer, we are working on defining future opportunities with regard to sensitivities but do not have those parameters defined. Stay tuned. Be well!

        Reply
  2. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    I’m hoping that some of the focus is still on identifying allergens such as egg and dairy in products – is that still the case?

    Reply
    • TellSpec Staff
      TellSpec Staff says:

      Yes that is still the case; we are focusing on the top allergens:
      • Egg
      • Milk
      • Peanut
      • Tree nuts such as walnuts
      • Soy (primarily in infants)
      • Wheat
      • Shellfish such as shrimp, crayfish, lobster, and crab
      • Peanut
      • Tree nuts
      • Fish such as salmon

      Thank you for your continued support and interest!

      Reply
      • TellSpec Staff
        TellSpec Staff says:

        Michelle we also just shared this week our first part of the allergen blog recently on our website here. See below link. There are a variety of further articles and information that you can follow up with later at your leisure on the bottom of the paragraphs. So we have pulled together for consumers some of the better sources of references on allergens. At least we are a great starting point for when people want to do further research on food ingredients. Our mission is not only to provide the technology with information on food but also in part the education about food. http://tellspec.com/2014/05/food-allergies-the-top-ten-offenders/

        Reply
      • Bobbi Godfrey
        Bobbi Godfrey says:

        I saw that this scanner will detect allergens such as wheat, however what about the other things that Celiac’s cannot have, ie. oats, barley, etc?

        Reply
        • TellSpec Staff
          TellSpec Staff says:

          WE ARE NOT A MEDICAL device. NO one should depend on TellSpec for DEFINITIVE allergen information. Please remember we are a consumer aid in telling you about what’s in your food and not a scientific medical device.
          We are working on building the food composition database first with macronutrients like calories, carbs, fats, proteins, sugars, adding “gluten” (NOT WHEAT per se) as a target variable and adding other top usda allergens later with more and more food data being compiled slowly. Then we will be adding other additives perhaps in Phase 2 or 3. We will not be able to detect trace amounts of any allergen in Year 1 because the food database has to be crowd sourced to become more accurate and that takes time.

          Since TELLSPEC is designed to measure small portions of a target food on a dish at a time, it cannot guarantee the absence of specific molecules in your plate. At this time, TELLSPEC can analyze and tell you the major components of foods and will gradually getting better and better at other food variables.

          Thank you so much for the follow and support. Blessing to you and your family!

          Reply
    • TellSpec Staff
      TellSpec Staff says:

      Spectroscopy has been used in the past with agricultural applications checking for quality control on olive oil. The challenge is to be able to teach the technology to do it with the consumer version and with enough olive oil food data. The clarity and transparency of OO does however make the science a little more precarious; but we will be exploring various oils in the future for different food composition information. Thank you for your support.

      Reply
  3. Malsert
    Malsert says:

    Hello,

    I would know why you don’t send the prototype at the beta testers from now on, if it is ready for its first assignment ?
    So I would know why has the prototype only the ability to receive data about the calories of simple food, if the principe of the device is to measure the nrj of all the molecules in a sample ?

    Thank you for your answer

    Cordialy

    Reply
    • TellSpec Staff
      TellSpec Staff says:

      At this time the current prototypes are being used to build the TellSpec food database. So when TellSpec’s mass produced units hit the market, users will be able to help expand the database by scanning various foods starting from simple to more complex. We are working on getting more prototypes for betas yes. But as we announced in April the technology changed from Raman to NIR. Here is the letter from CEO explaining the change and your answer on what our first units will be able to scan.

      http://tellspec.com/2014/04/an-update-from-tellspec-ceo-isabel-hoffmann/

      Essentially, on our first versions of the technology we are focusing on macronutrients, calories, allergens, ingredients like fats, sugars, and some additives. Like all spectroscopy instruments; their accuracy and strength is only as good as its database of foods and or substances. The scanners must “learn” from food “memories”/data and experiences for example. Our learning algorithm will not be born with all the memories needed immediately. It has to learn across time. In the future we expect to be able to identify many more complex things like lactose and chemicals. But this is after we expand and grow the database gradually teaching it to identify more and more variable ingredients. Our first version has to start with simple identifications. It must learn to walk before running. Thank you so much for your support and patience. Innovation is always challenging because there are so many unknowns.

      Thank you for being a lover of our product!

      Reply
  4. Evinx
    Evinx says:

    Will Tellspec have the ability to detect lactose? Lactose intolerant people have learned (the hard way) never to believe what restaurant employees tell use about food ingredients (like milk, dry milk powder, etc). Will Tellspec be able to help us?

    Reply
    • TellSpec Staff
      TellSpec Staff says:

      On our first version of the technology we are focusing on macronutrients, calories, allergens, ingredients like fats, sugars, and some additives. Like all spectroscopy instruments; their accuracy and strength is only as good as its database of foods and or substances. The scanners must “learn” from food “memories”/data and experiences for example. Our learning algorithm will not be born with these immediately. It has to learn across time. In the future we expect to be able to identify many more things like lactose and chemicals. But this is after we expand and grow the database gradually teaching it to identify more and more. Our first version has to start with simple identifications. First it must learn to walk before running. Thank you so much for your support and patience. Innovation is always challenging because there are so many unknowns.

      Reply
      • Evinx
        Evinx says:

        Noted but I am a bit confused.
        If for example, one scans guacamole at Chipotle. It may have some different ingredients than guacamole at a local restaurant or from store bought guacamole at Whole Foods.
        Will Tellspec provide individualized results based on each scan – or, based on a generic guacamole database?

        Thanks

        Reply
        • TellSpec Staff
          TellSpec Staff says:

          Good question. But in Toronto, Canada rarely is there any guacamole to scan to get any kind of data built even for reference! And complex heterogeneous foods like guacamole which is not just simple avocado is not our top priority right now. In an open avocado for example; the presence of food components related to fat, carbs and protein would be identified in the specific avocado that you sample. TellSpec is not a hide and seek player by the way. It will only give you relevant information on the portion of food scanned. Thank you for your interest.

          Reply
  5. Chuck Dee
    Chuck Dee says:

    What sort of time frame would you foresee in the device being able to detect something like glyphosate in the food? How about the possibility of quantifying how much glyphosate may be in the food?

    Reply
    • TellSpec Staff
      TellSpec Staff says:

      There are so many interested in so many “glyphosates” fungicides, pesticides, chemicals, additives etc etc; we are building a db of variables for consideration and timeline for adding them to the growing database. Every individual has their own desired focus variable. Quantifying any of those variables is even more data laborious in terms of db work based on crowd sourcing the data. Remember we are a lean start up company introducing to the world the edges of a new form of spectroscopy as a consumer science and that means everything will take developmental baby steps. Please be patient. Just like any new form of consumer science it takes time to expand and grow both vertically and horizontally. Thank you for your interest.

      Reply
  6. tabitha
    tabitha says:

    I love the idea of this product and the limitless potential. When it comes out on the market I’m getting one to learn more about what I’m eating aslo to aid in getting closer to its potential faster lol. I can’t wait till the day it can identify pesticides. Also in the original article it stated you hoped it would be able to detect mold in the home as well as pollution in the air in the home. Will these thing’s be on the first version or are you waiting till the database gets bigger and you can make a pesticide/chemical library or is that be something that needs to be put in manually before it can go through the learning algorithm 🙂

    Reply
    • TellSpec Staff
      TellSpec Staff says:

      Yes those target variables are in the future for additional applications, but also other developers with access to our SDK will likely work on those applications. Thank you for your support and enthusiasm.

      Reply
  7. Mike
    Mike says:

    I have a few different allergies that are listed in your top 10. But I also have a allergy to black pepper. Is it my understanding that you would be able to teach the unit to recognize a certain food, in this case black pepper over time. Or do I have a misunderstanding of it’s limits?

    Reply

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