“SmartPlate” uses sensors to ID nutritional content, manage portions

SmartPlate2 from Fitly on Vimeo. About one year after it launched a delivery service for healthy meal ingredients, Philadelphia-based startup, Fitly has unveiled a “SmartPlate” designed to help users manage portion control and stay within calorie and carbohydrate limits through built-in cameras and sensors. It launched a Kickstarter campaign this week to raise $100,000 to […]

SmartPlate2 from Fitly on Vimeo.

About one year after it launched a delivery service for healthy meal ingredients, Philadelphia-based startup, Fitly has unveiled a “SmartPlate” designed to help users manage portion control and stay within calorie and carbohydrate limits through built-in cameras and sensors. It launched a Kickstarter campaign this week to raise $100,000 to bring the plate to market next year.

The company, which is part of the Philadelphia Digital Health Accelerator at the University City Science Center and graduated from DreamIt Health accelerator, is taking pre-orders of the plate on its Kickstarter page and plans to ship them over the summer.

In an interview with Fitly co-founder and CEO Anthony Ortiz, he said it wanted to get away from people having to log food and meals manually. The SmartPlate is designed to identify, weigh and record everything on the plate through sensors and transmit that information to an app. It can also produce information on carbohydrates, protein, fat and sodium, data the company gets from the USDA.

One goal behind the smart plate is to take the guessing game out of meal planning by helping users do a better job to avoid adding hidden calories to their meals because of sugar content and carbohydrates. In this regard, Ortiz noted the smart plate is especially useful for people with diabetes. The American Diabetes Association is one of its backers.

If users do exceed carbohydrate settings users have set for themselves, the plate transmits an alert to the app reminding users they need to reduce the portion of carbohydrates. The device uses machine learning, according to Ortiz. The more data you feed it, the smarter it gets at recognizing food items.

“Through our algorithm, the smart plate can detect the difference between a fried drumstick and a grilled one. It can also distinguish between whole wheat and regular pasta. Our algorithm factors in texture, shape and color.”

Among the company’s recently added advisers are DJ Lee, a computer engineering professor at Brigham Young University. He developed an algorithm to recognize objects with 99 percent accuracy. Domingo Mery, a visiting professor at the University of Notre Dame’s Computer Vision Research Lab.

The SmartPlates can’t be put in the dishwater or the microwave, although they are water-resistant. But its lid is microwave safe. The price of the smart plates will eventually rise to $199, but it is providing pre-orders at a discount.

Fitly’s move reflects the interest in automating what have been tedious manual tasks to get rid of any conceivable barrier to helping people manage their nutrition. It is working on speeding up the time it takes to make the calculations from a couple of seconds to be instantaneous. A demo of the device revealed that it’s pretty straightforward to use.

But the longer range challenge will be getting customers to use the plate consistently. Fitly plans to add an analytics later to give users a better understanding of their weekly and monthly record to share with dieticians or physicians if they choose. It also is interested in collaborating with complementary startups in consumer wellness.

The SmartPlate reminds me a bit of Mark One Lifestyle’s drink data aggregator Vessyl. Its $119 smart cup is designed to make users more aware of the number of calories and sugar they consume. By aggregating data on the amount of sugar, caffeine and carbohydrates users are consuming through beverages on a daily basis, the device can add a whole new level of insight.