Wondering how nutritious that food is, if that plant needs water, or just what that misplaced pill is? Well, the makers of SCiO claim that their device is able to tell you all of those things, plus a lot more. To use it, you just scan the item in question for one or two seconds, then check the readout on a Bluetooth 4.0-linked smartphone.

SCiO is actually a miniature spectroscope. Like the bigger, more expensive laboratory-grade models it's based on, it works by shining near-infrared light on materials, exciting their molecules in the process. By analyzing the light that's reflected off those vibrating molecules, it's reportedly possible to identify them by their unique optical signature, and thus determine the chemical composition of the material.

In the case of SCiO, an accompanying iOS or Android app sends its readings to the cloud, where algorithms process the data in real time. The results should appear on the phone's screen within a matter of seconds.

According to Consumer Physics, the Tel Aviv-based company that's developing the device, it will initially come with apps that allow it to analyze food, plants and medication. As described in a press release:

"The food app delivers macro nutrient values (calories, fats, carbohydrates, and proteins), produce quality, ripeness, and spoilage analysis for various foods, including cheeses, fruits, vegetables, sauces, salad dressings, cooking oils, and more. SCiO can also identify and authenticate medication in real-time by cross-checking a pill's molecular makeup with a database of medications. Finally, SCiO can analyze moisture levels in plants and tell users when to water them."

The company also plans on providing an Application Development Kit, so that third parties can create their own apps for use with SCiO. These apps could greatly expand the variety of materials that can be analyzed, as the designers claim that it should work on just about any material, "including cosmetics, clothes, flora, soil, jewels and precious stones, leather, rubber, oils, plastics, and even human tissue or bodily fluids."

SCiO is powered by an integrated battery, that should provide approximately one week of use per charge. It's compatible with iPhone 4S and up, iPad 3rd generation and later, and with devices using Android 4.3 and later. Consumer Physics is currently raising funds for its commercial production, through Kickstarter. A pledge of US$179 will get you one when and if they're ready to ship, this December.

The very similar TellSpec is also presently in development, although it's being marketed more as a food-specific device.

More information on SCiO is available in the pitch video below.

Sources: Consumer Physics, Kickstarter