Back in February we ran a piece about a Kickstarter campaign for the Flo smart thermometer, a connected health device that promised to revolutionize taking and tracking body temperatures. Now Flo is available for sale for US$39.99, and the product is so impressive that it's an Apple World Today Top Pick for 2016.
It's rare for Apple World Today to select an accessory as a Top Pick, and even more rare for us to have two accessories in two days be Top Picks! Yesterday it was the Meem cable for backing up your iOS device, while today the Flo smart thermometer is getting the honors.
To be considered an AWT Top Pick, an accessory has to excel in design and execution, and that describes Flo perfectly. The device was created by Eddie Cheung and Henry Ma at Zeraph, and it seriously deserves to be in every household.
The idea of a smart thermometer is to not only take the temperature of people and objects, but to track those temperatures over time and location, and weave those temperatures into a health narrative. For example, back in the late 1990s I had a two-week period during which I was running high (103-104°F) fevers at night, but felt fine during the day. With Flo, I could have taken my temperature once or twice an hour, tracking this information in the Flo app along with pictures and comments about how I felt, then shown this information to a healthcare provider for possible diagnosis. As it was, they basically felt it was a FUO (Fever of Unknown Origin)...
Flo is a small, key-shaped device. Powered by a single CR2032 battery (included), there's just one button marked with a Z. Press that button, and the device turns on. It can be used with or without the app; without the app, one simply points the end of the device at a forehead or object from about an inch away, and an LED lights up showing above normal (red), normal (green) or chill (white) conditions.
Using the app, it's possible to set up profiles for every person in a household. The profiles capture first and last name, birthdate, and gender, as well as an identifying photo. Pressing the button on Flo turns it on, and while the app is open a little thermometer icon changes to show that there's a Bluetooth connection. Press the button again while holding Flo about an inch from the forehead grabs the temperature, displays it on the profile, and with a tap the temperature can be saved along with a photo and note if desired.
With a swipe on the profile, it's possible to see a chart of temperature during time -- perfect if you want to be sure that a fever has broken and the patient is on the mend. A story can also be created, telling with pictures, temperature readings, and notes just how the patient has reacted during a disease.
One final cool thing - turn on audible mode in the Flo app, and the temperatures are read aloud. That's great if you wish to take a person's temperature but don't want them to get germs on your iPhone! Just put the iPhone onto a surface within Bluetooth range of Flo, take the temperature reading, and you'll hear a voice reciting the temp.
Not only is the Flo design compact, lightweight, and durable, but it just looks good as well. It's white, with a choice of one of four accent colors -- strawberry ice, aquamarine (blue), beveled glass (green) and lavender. The material is easily cleaned, although you should never need to clean it off since Flo doesn't actually touch the patient. Zeraph includes a small velour bag to keep Flo in when it's not in use.
Bluetooth pairing to the app is instantaneous and done with the push of the Z button. Once the button is pushed again to take a reading, it's immediately available on the app and verbalized if you've set up the app to do so. There's no need to go into iOS settings to do the pairing, which is perfect for the person who just wants to take a child's temperature and not go through a technical hassle while doing so.
The app is very easy to use and understand, and if first-time users want a quick primer in how to do everything, a tap on the "Flo" logo at the top of the app provides a link to a "Quick Start & Troubleshooting" page with quick and simple illustrated instructions.
UPDATE: At the request of a reader, I'd like to add that Flo supports VoiceOver and that the device's ability to vocalize the temperature reading makes it perfect for vision-impaired individuals.
While there are certainly less expensive thermometers available, they either don't come with an app for tracking information, require that the thermometer probe be placed in the mouth, underarm or "other places", or require contact with the skin. Flo is simple to use, non-invasive, and tracks temperatures for a number of people. The physical design is very well thought out and the fact that this precision device can be sold for just $40 is a bit of a miracle.