Using your smartphone as a scale?

So far, apps which claim to transform a smartphone into a weighing scale generally fall into one of two categories:

  • Simulators: They pretend to be a scale, but simply show a previously entered weight. Might be good for dealers wanting to rip off gullible customers, but certainly not much else.
  • Creative sensor use: Some apps try to make use of existing sensors in order to calculate the weight of an object. This could mean balancing your phone on a bag filled with air and placing an object on it while the app measures the inclination. Another app requires putting your smartphone on top of the object you want to weigh and then dropping both on a cushion. Of course, you’d also have to repeat the procedure with reference weight. Obviously, this is not exactly user friendly. While I haven’t tried any of the apps myself, they mostly received one star reviews. Unlike the simulators, which at least do what they pretend to be doing, it doesn’t look like these apps work well enough to be even remotely useful.

Therefore, I was surprised when I saw the following video featuring Peach-O-Meter, an application which compares the weight of two peaches:

Weighing Plums on an iPhone

It’s easy to use and seem to be working better than anything available so far. This became possible thanks to 3D Touch, a feature on the new iPhone 6s. A new layer of capacitative sensors registers how hard you press on the pliable glass:

Pressing down onto the glass bends the glass very slightly at the point of contact, shortening the distance between your finger and the corresponding capacitor plate in the array beneath the display.

Putting peaches on your screen is probably not what Apple had in mind when they introduced 3D Touch as “a new way of interacting”. Originally, the program author had planned to use grapes, but discovered that the iPhone ignored them. He’s announced that he’s purchased calibrations weights and is planning to run further tests. There’s also at least one company which is trying to develop a professional app (with “calibration cubes”).

I’m looking forward to seeing where this leads, thought I’m skeptical concerning the usefulness of such an app. Want to weigh lightweight “objects” while you’re on the move? I’m sure you’d get much better results from an inexpensive pocket scale. Using your top-of-the line device in the kitchen has its own perils and reminds me of this sketch from a German comedy show:

iPad Chopping Board (English Subtitles)

 

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New Scales and Balances coming in 2014

A&D

A&D has confirmed that the SJ-WP series of compact bench scales is going on sale in Europe in the first quarter of 2014.

A&D SJ-30KWP Food Scale

To understand what’s so ingenious about this scale, you should know that until now, compact scales were either fast or they had a high degree of ingress protection. It was not possible to have both a very short stabilization time (<1s) and resistance to dust and liquids in a compact instrument. The reason for this is that the air pressure inside the housing of the scale changes when a load is applied (or removed). For accurate measurements, the air pressure inside and outside has to be equalized. Of course, this could be achieved by simply building a few holes into the housing, but then you would allow dust and liquids to enter. The conventional solution has been to use selectively permeable membranes which let air through and block water. However, air diffusion through these membranes takes time, slowing down the measurement process.

A&D’s new approach is remarkably simple and effective: By mounting the load cell outside of the housing, the SJ-WP scale achieves a stabilization time of 0.5s or less in combination with IP67 protection (dust tight and water proof up to 1m):

A&D SJ-WP externally mounted load cell

Fast, compact, resistant to harsh environments and easy to clean, A&D’s SJ-WP could be a game changer in the food industry.

You can already find further information on A&D’s website.

Adam Equipment

While I have no information on new products coming in 2014 yet, I was told that Adam is planning to add USB host functionality to a number of balances. This would allow weighing data to be written directly on a memory stick, greatly simplifying data logging and data transfer to a computer. This functionality is already available on Adam’s PMB moisture analyzer:

PMB Moisture Analyser

Kern

The first pages of the 2014 catalog show Kern’s continued focus on touchscreen scales. The new models include analytical and precision balances as well as platform scales. While Kern does not indicate who the ODM is, I’m pretty sure these devices are made by Radwag in Poland.

Kern Touchscreen Scales

A cooperation between the two companies would make sense: Kern’s strengths are sales and marketing, while Radwag is good at actually developing and manufacturing weighing instruments.

Further information will soon be available on Kern’s website.

Ohaus

The new Valor 2000 and 4000 are aimed at the food industry and are meant to improve productivity even in harsh environments. There are still some inconsistencies in the available documents but it appears that Ohaus is claiming a stabilization time of 0.5s with an IPX8 rating (no dust ingress protection; protected against submersion beyond 1m).

Ohaus Valor 4000 XW

If you’ve read this post from the very beginning, you might be wondering how Ohaus has been able to achieve this with a load cell that’s placed inside the housing. The answer is called “Flow-Through Design” and simply means that there are indeed some holes in the housing which allow air and liquids to enter and exit relatively unhindered. The electronic components are silicon sealed to protect them from fluids and condensation:

Ohaus Valor 4000 flow through design

I’m looking forward to comparing this approach with A&D’s external load cell solution.

Update March 2014: Ohaus has released a video featuring the new scales:

Smartlux (my company)

I want to take this opportunity to announce that our RS-232 communication software “232key” is going to be released this year:

Rs232 Software

Our software is designed to make it easier to transfer measurement values from any instrument with an RS-232 interface to any application which accepts keyboard input. It receives data from a scale, balance or other device via RS-232 (COM port), extracts the numeric value, formats it and “types” it into another program (“keyboard wedge”-functionality). I’ll announce the release on this blog.

Near Field Communication: A&D’s new wireless UC-324NFC scale

The following short video shows A&D’s new wireless UC-324NFC scale in action. It is the first scale in the world with an integrated NFC chip, making it very easy to transfer your weight to your smartphone. Currently, this only works on Android with A&D’s own WellnessConnected app: