Innovation That Matters

Connected device provides discreet on-the-spot food allergen testing

Work & Lifestyle

Ally is an affordable, easily transportable bluetooth-enabled device that lets users test for food allergens, with results immediately available via an app.

As the number of allergy sufferers continues to rise globally, we’re seeing more and more technological responses looking to allay sufferers’ experiences, whether that’s as a rapid and easy-to-use drug delivery device for treating anaphylactic shock or a test designed to detect nut allergies without resorting to drug exposure. And we now bring good news to those who suffer a lactose allergy.


Designed by Imogen Adams of Brunel University, Ally was conceived as a way to overcome situations where the presence of allergens in food in restaurants may not be easily communicable, either due to language barriers when travelling or ignorance on behalf of the staff. With an inconspicuous design, Ally is a small, portable device that connects with an app on the user’s smart device via bluetooth. Ally contains a sensor capable of detecting the presence of lactose. Users create a sample of their dish by mixing it with water in a small silicone pod and then dip a chemical test strip (affordable, laboratory-grade paper-based detectors for specific substances) into it, place the strip into the device, hold a button to connect the device, and the result appears on the user’s smartphone screen after 60 seconds (following some processing by a powerful arduino microprocessor). Future add-ons are already in the works, with a social aspect allowing users to share their experiences in an online community, and plans to create sensors for detecting other common allergens and even whether food is truly vegetarian or not. Currently in the prototype phase, Ally received funding from the James Dyson Award, has already won The Rookies Industrial Design Peoples Choice Award, with a projected eventual cost of GBP 30 and users spending less than GBP 0.20 per test.

The main marketing tool of Ally could be the design, looking innocuous and therefore enabling users to test food discreetly — how will the next generation of wearables meet the demands of discretion?




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