Digital pregnancy testing sticks turn out to have very analogue internals when it comes to getting results

Hardware tinkerer makes odd finds, including an unusual on/off switch


Updated A hacker has peered into a fancy digital pregnancy stick and found it is just a glorified analogue paper test strip with a screen added, a novel form of activation, and a larger price tag.

Inspired by an earlier Twitter thread, hardware hacker (and floppy disc enthusiast) foone bought a pack of two digital pregnancy sticks for $7, whereas a pack of 25 paper-based ones costs about $9. Foone decided to pry into one of the sticks, and discovered it contained an 8-bit Holtek HT48C06 microcontroller with 64 bytes of RAM and 1024 words of ROM, a series of LED lights, photosensors, a cell battery, and a small rectangular screen.

The microcontroller onboard makes it seem fairly advanced, but at the core of is, well, one of those cheap paper tests.

None of the hardware or software is used to directly detect if someone is pregnant or not. That job is for the paper, which looks for human chorionic gonadotropin, a type of hormone secreted during the early stages of pregnancy, in urine.

bad_research

Amazing peer-reviewed AI bots that predict premature births were too good to be true: Flawed testing bumped accuracy from 50% to 90%+

READ MORE

The whole device is activated when the strip is moistened. The damp paper acts as a switch, connecting the stick's battery to the circuitry, and if the characteristic two lines show up, the aforementioned LED lights and photosensors spot this and the screen displays the results: pregnant, or not pregnant. In other words, the paper test is doing all the hard work; the electronics just read the visual results.

“I was kind of surprised as I figured it'd be integrated somehow, rather than having a separate test paper in it,” foone told The Register. “It seems if they were going to use standard test paper, they'd make it reusable by having you insert your own standard test strips, since those are so cheap.”

At first foone thought the gadgets were a “100 percent a marketing trick,” though now believes the digital sticks' benefits have only been "exaggerated somewhat.” As some Twitter users pointed out, in some cases the digital stick is perhaps a better option for those with impaired eyesight. The screen is easier to read than faint lines on paper.

Also, there's the issue of regulation and safety certification. “During the thread someone brought up that they have to be FDA certified, so it makes sense now. It's easier for [companies] to integrate an existing test strip rather than develop something new they'd have to get certified,” foone added.

The next stage of the project was to see if this could be beefed up a little. After adding a new processor and screen, foone turned the device into a gizmo that could display messages no one wants to see... ®

pregnancy

This is going to be an awkward chat. Click to enlarge

Updated to add

Scratch any hacker and you'll find an overachiever - foone now has a Doom game going in the pregnancy test stick.


Other stories you might like

  • Toyota, Subaru recall EVs because tires might literally fall off
    Toyota says 'all of the hub bolts' can loosen even 'after low-mileage use'

    Toyota and Subaru are recalling several thousand electric vehicles that might spontaneously shed tires due to self-loosening hub bolts. 

    Toyota issued the recall last week for 2023 bZ4X all-electric SUVs, 2,700 of which are affected, the automaker said. Subaru is recalling all-electric Solterras, which were developed jointly with Toyota and have the same issue, Reuters reported.

    Japan's auto safety regulating body said "sharp turns and sudden braking could cause a hub bolt to loosen," Reuters said, though it's unknown if any actual accidents have been caused by the defect. In its recall notice, Toyota said "all of the hub bolts" can loosen "after low-mileage use," but said it was still investigating the cause of, and driving conditions that can lead to, the issue. 

    Continue reading
  • Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise adds Wi-Fi 6E to 'premium' access points
    Company claims standard will improve performance in dense environments

    Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise is the latest networking outfit to add Wi-Fi 6E capability to its hardware, opening up access to the less congested 6GHz spectrum for business users.

    The France-based company just revealed the OmniAccess Stellar 14xx series of wireless access points, which are set for availability from this September. Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise said its first Wi-Fi 6E device will be a high-end "premium" Access Point and will be followed by a mid-range product by the end of the year.

    Wi-Fi 6E is compatible with the Wi-Fi 6 standard, but adds the ability to use channels in the 6GHz portion of the spectrum, a feature that will be built into the upcoming Wi-Fi 7 standard from the start. This enables users to reduce network contention, or so the argument goes, as the 6GHz portion of the spectrum is less congested with other traffic than the existing 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies used for Wi-Fi access.

    Continue reading
  • Will Lenovo ever think beyond hardware?
    Then again, why develop your own software à la HPE GreenLake when you can use someone else's?

    Analysis Lenovo fancies its TruScale anything-as-a-service (XaaS) platform as a more flexible competitor to HPE GreenLake or Dell Apex. Unlike its rivals, Lenovo doesn't believe it needs to mimic all aspects of the cloud to be successful.

    While subscription services are nothing new for Lenovo, the company only recently consolidated its offerings into a unified XaaS service called TruScale.

    On the surface TruScale ticks most of the XaaS boxes — cloud-like consumption model, subscription pricing — and it works just like you'd expect. Sign up for a certain amount of compute capacity and a short time later a rack full of pre-plumbed compute, storage, and network boxes are delivered to your place of choosing, whether that's a private datacenter, colo, or edge location.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022