About this project
SITU is a simple food scale with a Bluetooth chip that talks to your iPad or Android tablet. You can place virtually any food item on SITU and view the exact nutrition information for that amount of food on the companion SITU app.
We all know it’s healthier to eat fresh foods cooked at home rather than pre-packaged meals you buy off the shelf. But the problem with home cooking is that it’s very hard to tell the nutrition content of the fresh foods you’re preparing. This means that many people–such as calorie counters, diabetics, and people with high blood pressure–often turn to pre-packaged meals to manage their dietary intake because, until now, it was the only way of knowing the exact amount of nutrients they were putting into their bodies.
However, as a former calorie counter myself, I know sticking to pre-packaged meals is one of the easiest ways to fall off the diet wagon because you feel you’re missing out on all the joys of home cooking and all the yummy stuff your friends and family are eating.
SITU solves these problems. Place your food on SITU and you’ll see exactly what’s in it–from calories to salt to sugars to vitamins and minerals. You can use SITU to quickly check the nutrition content for a single piece of food, or you can choose to go further, tracking entire meals, saving them to your dietary history, setting alerts for nutrient limits, and even exporting your data to share with your doctor, nutritionist, or personal trainer.
SITU Is For Everyone
We say SITU is different things to different people because, though it provides all users with the same information (the nutrition content for the amount of food placed on the scale), what SITU helps a user achieve depends on the type of person using it.
Here are some examples:
- Are you a calorie counter who wants to allow yourself a snack of some potato chips but don’t want to go overboard? Just put some on SITU and if you see that amount contains too many calories, simply take some off until the total caloric content matches your allowance.
- Are you someone who’d love to cook more at home, but need to track your sugars and find it hard to judge how much of the sweet stuff is in fresh foods like fruits, breads, and other grains? Simply put your food on SITU and you can see exactly how much sugar is in it.
- Are you someone who wants to make sure you don’t go over a certain amount of salt each day? Measure your home cooking and snacking on SITU and you’ll always know the amount of salt you’re ingesting.
But SITU isn’t only about limiting food intake. It also helps people who want to eat more of the good stuff:
- Perhaps you’re an athlete who wants to eat enough protein each day (say, 100 grams). Track your food on SITU and it’s easy to see if you’re hitting your goal.
- Or maybe you’re like my mom who wants to make sure she’s eating enough calcium and Omega-3. SITU tells you.
- SITU is also a great learning tool. Children can more easily grasp why an apple is better than that candy bar if you can put both on SITU and show them how their nutrient contents differ.
- SITU is also a valuable tool for dietitians, personal trainers, and nutritionists who want to teach their clients about nutrients.
Check out the demo video below to see how I use SITU to quickly find out the total nutrition content of my lunch.
People Can Use SITU In Different Ways
We made SITU so it’s versatile enough to support the usage habits of a wide range of people. We know different types of users will want to use it in different ways. For example, an athlete on a strict diet may choose to weigh every single thing they eat and track their nutrition intake with the app’s History features. Other people may only want to quickly check the amount of calories in that slice of Pizza Hut pizza they’re about to put in their mouth, but not care about tracking every single meal they consume.
There is no right or wrong way to use SITU.
For example, here's how I quickly check the nutrition content of my cereal in the morning.
Look Who's Talking About SITU
So Who Are We and Why Did We Create SITU?
My name is Michael Grothaus and I’m a former Apple employee and a current technology journalist.
Long before I was a technology journalist and even long before I worked for Apple I was a very overweight teenager. During my teenage years I always struggled with my weight: so much so I ballooned to 289 pounds on January 1st, 1995–when I was just 17. I remember that date because it was a new year and I stepped on the scale just after midnight.
That’s when I decided to do something. So as soon as the stores opened on New Years Day I went out and bought a simple food scale and a nutrition book. For the next eight months I manually weighed every single meal I ate and kept a journal of each meal's nutrition content.
It was incredibly time consuming.
For every meal I would put each piece of individual food on the scale, record the weight, turn to my 800+ page nutrition book, look up the nutrition content, and then use a calculator to see how much I was eating based on the weight of the food.
This took an extra half-hour to do for every meal, but in eight months I lost 100 pounds doing this (I kept my calorie intake to 1800 calories a day).
I kept the weight off for five years. But after college when I went to work for Apple I no longer had the time to weigh and calculate everything I ate. How can any of us with full-time jobs and a busy life afford to spend an extra half hour per meal calculating the nutrition content of our food?
My weight ballooned again.
But in 2007 when Apple sent me the first iPhone right before its public launch I got my idea: a wireless food scale that talks to an app that tells you your food’s nutrition content in seconds. I left Apple and moved to England and became a technology journalist. At the same time I started sketching designs for the scale and planning how the app would work. When the iPad came out I redesigned the app to make it more functional and accessible, enabling it with more features thanks to the iPad’s larger screen.
In 2012 I shared my idea with one of my best friends, Jose Farinha, a professional photographer and former engineer. He immediately “got” the idea and, after spending a night talking about how we both believe that since happiness is so often related to health, any technology which enables us to lead healthier lives is the best technology of all, we decided to form a company and bring SITU to life.
When conceptualizing the design, we wanted to make the SITU app easy enough to use so my mom (who is a technophobe) could grasp it just by looking at it. So we designed SITU with a dead-simple, drag and drop interface. We also made the app with large buttons and tap zones because many users will be using SITU while they’ve got their hands full cooking a meal in the kitchen.
The SITU app consists of four primary screens:
The Scale screen
Food categories live on a shelf above the scale. Tap a category to see all the food in it. To tell the app what food is on SITU just drag its icon onto the on-screen scale. Nutrition content is displayed on the banner above the shelf. To the right of the banner is a thermometer that tracks your most important nutrient (this could be sugar or fat or whatever you set it to be). There’s also a search function and you have the ability to add a food to your Favorites, add it to your Current Plate, or add it to your History. Or you could just use this screen to quickly check out what’s in that handful of chips and that’s it.
The Current Plate screen
The Current Plate screen is handy if you’re tracking an entire meal. It shows you the total nutrition content of everything you are cooking, whether it’s a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a glass of milk, or a bowlful of Caesar salad.
This screen also offers a feature called the Ingredients Drawer. Often when we cook we use specific amounts of oils or spices that we need to measure (for example, 1 TBSP of corn oil or 3 TSP of sugar). Since these ingredients use pre-measured units you don't need to weigh every tablespoon of oil or teaspoon of sugar. Simply pull the Ingredients Drawer out from the side of the screen to quickly select the ingredient, then pinch to change its measurement size and then drag it to your current plate. Its nutrient content will be added to your total meal.
The History & Settings screens
The History screen allows you to quickly view your nutrition intake for your Last Meal, Day, Week, or Month. You can tap a nutrient to see a detailed view of its specific intake over time.
On the Settings screen you can set up multiple user accounts so all your family members can track their nutrition intake individually. You can also password protect accounts and export your nutrition data.
Here you'll also find My Guidelines where you can select which nutrients you want to track by toggling individual nutrients on or off. You can also manually set your own nutrient guidelines. For example, if you’re an athlete, you might want to tell SITU you want to make sure you are eating 100 grams of protein a day. Users can also select their gender and select to use the US FDA’s recommended daily guidelines or the UK’s FSA guidelines.
On the Settings screen you can also choose between imperial and metric units, control your iCloud backup, get help, and more.
Some additional notes about the app:
- Many nutrition apps on the market ask you to set up an account and require you to have Internet access to use the app. SITU doesn’t do that. The nutrition database is built into the app, so it doesn’t matter if you have an Internet connection or not.
- You also don’t need to create an account or register to use the app. None of your data is uploaded to anyone’s servers. And yep, the app works in landscape or portrait.
SITU was designed and refined over a period of nine months. We went through several iterations, testing various designs, sizes, surfaces, materials, and even types of buttons for the ON/OFF switch to choose just the right type of “clicking” noise we liked best!
The final design we chose because it’s thin and small enough to not take up much room on your kitchen counter, yet also large and strong enough to hold big plates and bowlfuls of food. We think it’s beautiful looking and hope you’ll appreciate some of the small touches–like the ever so slight dip in the surface so that a single grape placed on SITU will roll right to its center.
Note that in the videos shown we are using a handmade prototype SITU. The internals and materials used are the exact same that will go into the machine-made, mass produced units. The size and color and everything else is also the same. The only difference is that the LED display will be moved to the left front corner and the LED background will likely be white with black digits.
Other specs for SITU:
- Weight of the scale: 500 grams
- Dimensions: 190mm (W) x 215mm (D) x 22mm (H)
- Load weight: 5 kg / 11 pounds
- Battery type: Four AAAs
- Battery life: 6 months on average
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0 (aka Bluetooth LE or Smart Bluetooth)
- System requirements: Any iPad with Retina display, iPad Air, iPad mini, or iPad mini with Retina display running iOS 7 or above.
Evolution of SITU
SITU is a product that consists of two parts: the hardware scale and the software app. The first step on its evolutionary journey came from the software side of things. After I conceived of the idea, I quickly made a series of sketches.
The sketch for the iPad app above was rough, but it quickly began to take shape as Jose and I continued to mock it up. Here’s the next, slightly more refined, mockup.
Once we had a good idea of how we wanted to app to work, we brought in our software engineers to wireframe everything...
And then we got to work designing the look and feel of the app...and refining it...
And refining it some more...
Onto the hardware side of things...
We went through many different designs on paper to find not only the right look, but also the right shape that would lend itself to the best functionality.
After we settled on the design, a cardboard mockup was made to make sure the size and surface area was right.
Concurrently with the designing of the SITU body we were working on hacking together the internals of the first prototype. Here’s an early PCB.
Once the design was settled on and we had working internals, we knew it was time to move ahead and build the first hand-made SITU prototype.
From there we continued to refine the internals and began fine-tuning little aspects of SITU, like choosing just the right type of button control that would give the user just the right amount of tactile feedback when pressed.
And that brings us to today. We’ve worked so hard on this for the last two years but now we’ve got a beta-stage app and a finished, manufacturing-ready SITU prototype scale that we are ready to mass produce. We just need your pledges to help us fund the tooling and manufacturing.
Also I’m happy to say that I’ve been using the SITU prototype and beta app for the last five months and have lost the 60 pounds I gained at Apple. That’s how we know SITU works.
We Need YOU!
But in order to share SITU with the entire world, we need you.
Until now it's just been Jose and I investing our own money to get this far. Now we need your pledges so we make one final rapid prototype made by the factory we’ve contracted that will mass produce the final units, which will be the first production unit used to test for final quality assurance. We’ll then have the factory build the tooling, start the assembly lines, put all the units on a freighter and ship them to us. We’ll in turn ship one out to each and every donor who supports us at £50 or above.
We know the good SITU can do, so we can’t wait to get it in the hands of as many people as possible. We know SITU will enable you to meet your health goals, just as its enabled me to lose 60 pounds again.
Rewards At A Glance
Oh, did you hear? We've just announced SITU support for Android tablets!
And we have plenty more in store for SITU. In the future we plan to support the iPhone and Android phones, as well as Windows tablets and more. We also have some very cool plans up our sleeves for the SITU family in the future...
We Also Want To Take a Moment To Thank...
The UK Government’s Technology Strategy Board. We gave them a sneak peek at SITU late last year and they decided to award us a grant to pay for part of the research and development costs. Considering that the Technology Strategy Board’s role is to "promote and support research into, and development and exploitation of, technology and innovation for the benefit of UK business, in order to increase economic growth and improve the quality of life," we’re very honored that they agree SITU helps fulfill that goal.
Finally, THANK YOU!
It’s been a long journey to get to Kickstarter, but we’re so excited we’re finally here. We’re so thankful for so many things, but most of all we're thankful to you for checking out SITU and thank you for your pledges.
We can’t wait to get SITU into your hands!
Risks and challenges
To understand the risks and challenges it's important to understand where we are now with bringing SITU to market.
As of the launch of our Kickstarter campaign we have:
√ A fully working prototype with complete manufacturing blueprints and a factory already contracted to make SITU, provided we can raise the money for tooling (the big machines used to create products) and the components to make each scale.
√ A late stage app that works exceptionally well. It's still in beta though. We want to continue testing it thoroughly to work out all bugs and make any necessary performance enhancements.
Given that the engineering of the hardware and software is in the final stages–and provided we reach our fundraising goal to pay for tooling–the known risks and challenges are the following:
– The app shown in the videos and screenshots above is a beta version. It is possible that features of the app or its design could change.
– The SITU scale in the videos and photos above is a handmade pre-production prototype. It's possible the final look or details of the scale could change slightly if such a change would be beneficial.
– As with any hardware manufacturing, it's possible that there could be delays in production. This would usually be do to outside factors including component shortages or problems with the factory. We do not foresee any of this happening, but we need to mention it.
– Another highly unlikely scenario would be if something happened to the finished products during transport from the factory to our offices. Again, this is highly unlikely, and the product would be insured anyway, but we need to mention it.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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