When my kids were younger, whenever one seemed to be coming down with an illness, I did two things right away: I took the child’s temperature, and I called the teacher to ask what was going around the classroom—because the odds were, my kid was getting whatever his classmates already had. (Later, when we were living in a more networked world, I would send a quick e-mail to the class parent list to get that information.) Invariably, the teacher or parents could tell me a lot about the illness of the month—what and how serious it was, and how long it would last.
I always knew I wasn't the only parent relying on these kinds of quantative and qualitative data when my kid gets sick. And sure enough, Kinsa, a New York City startup, has wrapped both of these approaches together in a single app, the Kinsa Smart Thermometer, which it launched at Demo Mobile this week. The app's thermometer connects to smart phones through the audio port (a cheaper way to go than Bluetooth). Your temperature appears on the phone display, and the app saves the temperature and any symptom information you enter. It also lets users create private communities, like parents of children in the same classroom, to track illnesses going through the community, and offers even more general “what’s going around” tracking for broader geographic areas—similar it seemed, to the pollen count data provided by local weather sites. The gizmo will initially sell for $25, about the cost of an old-fashioned, non-networked electronic thermometer.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.