Sep 27

I am fortunate to be in a position to be selective about the clients I work with and the projects I work on. The project has to have some difficult technical challenge to satisfy the inner geek. But equally important is that the resulting app should do something good, something that helps people, and maybe make the world a little bit better.

An app that I recently completed fits these criteria perfectly. The app is called NutriSleuth and in a nutshell it allows people with allergies or other medical conditions to check out food items in the grocery store to see if they are going to make them, or anyone who they shop for, sick.

The app scans the bar code of a food item and uses the UPC to lookup the product in a database stored on the device. The database contains over 200,000 food items and over 2.5 million nutrition records. The database uses Core Data and its total size is over 500 MB on the device. Herein lies several technical challenges, and I’ll be writing a few blog posts about this.

Once the nutritional records for the product have been retrieved, a rules engine goes through the data to determine if the fits or clashes with the nutritional profiles the user has configured in the app. (This rules engine is part of the proprietary, secret sauce of this app, so unfortunately I cannot write about this in more detail.)

The result of the analysis is a simple green, yellow, red light that indicates if you can safely eat this food item, if you should exercise caution or put it back on the shelf immediately. Some people go into anaphylactic shock when they are exposed to certain food ingredients like peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, etc. This severity level can also be configured in the app and then the nutrition and ingredient analysis goes into hyper-vigilant mode.

The app does not just handle food allergies. Say that you have a friend who’s coming over for dinner and she has Crohn’s disease or a high cholesterol condition, or only eats vegetarian or only Kosher food. What can you safely serve for dinner? Setup a separate profile for you friend and scan away.

The app received a lot of press even before it was launched. I think the reason is that you instantly recognize that this app would be very helpful (potentially a lifesaver, literally) for so many people that have food allergies or other common medical conditions.

I’m proud to have been part of this project. And being able to do something really good like this, is one reason why I love being an iPhone developer.

You can check out NutriSleuth in the App Store now.

written by Nick \\ tags:

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