The 12th Invest in ME Research Conference June, 2017, Part 2
MEMum presents the second article in a series of three about the recent 12th Invest In ME International Conference (IIMEC12) in London.
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New smartphone uses infrared molecular scanning to distinguish real drugs from fakes

Discussion in 'General ME/CFS Discussion' started by Hip, Mar 6, 2017.

  1. Hip

    Hip Senior Member

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    The new Changhong H2 smartphone has a built in infrared molecular scanner which can distinguish real pharmaceutical drugs from fakes. This molecular scanner device is called the SCiO, and works by near infrared spectroscopy.

    The video at the bottom of this article about the Changhong H2 smartphone shows the phone distinguishing a real Viagra pill from a fake Viagra pill, by means of the phone's built in SCiO molecular scanner.

    This article says that:
    The idea is that developers will write lots more apps to expand SCiO's capabilities.



    The SCiO molecular scanner is also available for sale at $299 as an add-on device which works with existing smartphones (iPhone or Android).

    SCiO Molecular Scanner Identifying Spices
    SCiO molecular scanner.png


    The video on this page of the SCiO website shows the SCiO molecular scanner device measuring the quality and ripeness of fruit in the supermarket, measuring the percentage fat level in your body, and distinguishing real pharmaceutical tablets from fake pharmaceuticals.

    On the business version of the website, they detail SCiO potential use in the pharmaceutical industry and in hospitals for validating pharmaceutical drugs: see here and here.


    Note that near infrared spectroscopy machines are normally the size of a microwave oven or larger; the SCiO is the first near infrared spectroscopy device small enough to fit into a mobile phone.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2017
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  2. undiagnosed

    undiagnosed Senior Member

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    Interesting, a device like this would definitely be useful when forced to resort to getting drugs from questionable sources. I don't know much about infrared spectrometry, but from my quick searching found a couple of useful bits of information. On this site which studies counterfeit pharmaceutical detection using similar (higher end) devices, they are able to discriminate pretty well. They scan the spectrum of a known legitimate drug in question and then compute how similar the spectrum of the item being scanned is to the genuine drug spectrum. For the SCiO, there has been some concern for how accurate the device actually is. It appears that the spectrum it generates would be relatively low resolution which could make it less capable of discriminating between drugs. Also, it didn't appear to give any data regarding the spectral match confidence.
     
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  3. Hip

    Hip Senior Member

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    I was discussing this SCiO device last year with a scientist/technician who works with near infrared spectroscopy (on another forum). He was rather skeptical that the team at Consumer Physics, the Israeli start-up company that developed the SCiO, would be able to get it to work (but said he was prepared to eat his words on this).

    Near infrared spectroscopy shines near infrared light into a material sample, and then detects the absorption spectrum (which wavelengths of light are absorbed by the material). Each chemical has its own absorption spectrum fingerprint, so using this fingerprint, you can tell which chemicals are present. For example, the infrared absorption spectrum of alcohol (ethanol) is shown below:

    Near infrared absorption spectrum fingerprint of ethanol
    Ethanol_near_IR_spectrum.png

    In the articles I read about this SCiO device, they were saying that it should be able to tell you, for example, the percentage ethanol in your drink, or tell you whether the melon you are considering buying in the supermarket is ripe, based on its percentage sugar content.

    I understand it gets complicated though when there are multiple chemical compounds present in the same material, because it is hard to untangle the superimposed absorption spectrums for each compound.

    Consumer Physics also said that the SCiO would not be able to detect chemical compounds that were only present in low amounts in the sample, like less than one or two percent.


    This product has been some time in the making: I first read about the SCiO in this 2014 Wired article.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2017
  4. undiagnosed

    undiagnosed Senior Member

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    I'd be interested to see a performance comparison against higher end scientific devices. I was looking at the Consumer Physics website and saw that the SCiO app includes SpectroScan with which you can scan an object and receive its molecular fingerprint on your smartphone. You can compare your scans in the app to find the molecular differences and similarities between materials. It doesn't specify if the fingerprint is the raw spectrum data or not.
     
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  5. Ema

    Ema Senior Member

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    I just had a PTSD flashback of trying to identify compounds based on their absorption spectrums for a final exam. TRYING was the key word there. :)

    This device looks pretty cool though. If it would save me from cardboard tomatoes and melons, I'd be in for sure!
     
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  6. rodgergrummidge

    rodgergrummidge Senior Member

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    As with most scams, the SCIO appeals to our most ernest hopes that the claims are true. The company webpage offers no credible argument or scientific explanation for how it works. A quick google search shows a large number of 'soft' interviews that are nothing more than 'infomercials'.

    For example, check out the claim for the SCIO device below:

    "He also showed me its ability to scan what looked like a unmarked white pill. Scio correctly identified the chemical makeup of the pill as aspirin and even showed that it was made by Bayer."

    Wow! could that really be true? Of the thousands and thousands of over the counter pills on sale around the world, could a small hand-held device sold for <$300 identify the actual molecular structure of acetylsalicylic acid? Could it somehow identify aspirin's aromatic ring? could it even identify which carbon atoms on the aromatic ring in aspirin that the acetates are attached to? Could a beam of light with a wavelength hundreds of times greater than the size of a small drug molecules really provide definitive molecular data? Could the energy generated by the SCIO generate the necessary resonance to allow 1000s of different complex molecules to be identified? Could it also identify the company that sold it (bayer)? Sounds fantastic, right?

    Well, no. Of course it cant. But, whats the trick? Because it appears that the SCIO can genuinely differentiate 1000s of different medicines. it appears to be able to correctly identify an apple from a banana. How does it work?

    magic? Or, is there are really neat trick?
     
  7. Hip

    Hip Senior Member

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    I think you may need to recalibrate your skeptometer on this one, because this is a legitimate product. I have followed its development for several years, even before it got to market. It uses near infrared spectroscopy, which is a means to identify molecules by their near infrared absorption spectrum signatures.

    The challenge is to get this to work when you have several different molecules mixed together in the same substance, as for example you get in an apple, as it is hard if not impossible to disentangle the absorption spectra of each different molecule.

    So it is possible that the SCIO is not as reliable or effective as one might hope, but it is certainly not a scam.

    One of the fortes of the SCIO though is identification of pharmaceuticals: this is because although pharmaceutical tablets have multiple ingredients, they are standardized in their percentages, so each pill will be the same. This makes it a lot easier for the SCIO to identify pills by their absorption spectrum signature.
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2017
  8. Hip

    Hip Senior Member

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    There used to be a SCIO developer's forum, which is now closed, but you can still read the threads here. Plus lots of threads on reddit.
     

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