"Tone," built by Seattle-based GM Nameplate and Stratos Product Development, reads acetone levels in your breath which can indicate fat loss.
“Tone,” built by Seattle-based GM Nameplate and Stratos Product Development, reads acetone levels in your breath which can indicate fat loss.

Determining whether that three-mile run or the 8-minute abs session helped trim more pounds is difficult to measure for most diet-conscious people, who often must rely on a scale to determine exact weight loss. Even then, it’s hard to know if those lost pounds are water, fat, muscle or something else.

But now a new handheld device developed in Seattle just might change that. The product, called “Tone,” uses sensors to analyze acetone levels in your breath and can track how much fat the body is burning.

When our body converts fat to energy, acetone is produced as a byproduct. That acetone crosses the blood vessel barriers and goes into the oxygen within the lungs.

When we breathe, acetone comes out of our mouth as gas and is a good indicator for how much fat we are burning. The more fat you’re burning, the higher level acetone will be in your breath.

“Tone,” analyzes the gasses and materials in your breath to detect the acetone concentration levels. The goal is to help individual users figure out how both exercise activity (what, when, how much, how intense, etc.) and food intake (what, when, how much, etc.) affects fat loss.

Photo courtesy of GM Nameplate.
Photo courtesy of GM Nameplate.

GM Nameplate worked with fellow Seattle company Stratos Product Development to create the device, which looks like an asthma inhaler and will be available by next year. GM Nameplate president Brad Root first had the idea for “Tone,” back in 2008, but his company didn’t quite have resources to develop the product by itself.

That’s when Root met up with Stratos president Sean MacLeod to discuss a potential partnership. For the next few years, the two companies spent time meeting with a variety of experts and institutions to determine if the product could be commercially viable.

While GM Nameplate focused on the market research and product development aspects, Stratos was responsible for building out the core technology. The 100-person company ended up developing their own custom sensors that helped turn Root’s vision into a reality.

Hundreds of tests were performed inside Stratos’ lab to ensure that “Tone,” could effectively measure acetone concentration from a variety of users. Another formal validation study is planned for early 2014 so the companies can reference the device’s accuracy through an independent third party.

stratosThere are similar products already available that can assist with similar measurements — not acetone levels — but those often require special equipment and involve urine strips or blood tests. “Tone,” however, appears to be a much more user-friendly way to know whether you’re burning fat. The device has an LED acetone reading at five levels of fat burning states, and that data can synch to a smartphone app which also allows users to input diet and activity levels to compliment the readings. 

Specific market segments — trainers, clinicians, dietitians, for example — are targeted for the initial rollout. MacLeod said the device should become more consumer-driven later in its maturity curve.

"Tone," is intended to tell you how much fat is burned during exercise.
“Tone,” is intended to tell you how much fat is burned during exercise.

He added that he thinks the device has potential to be a “high-volume consumer companion product.”

“It could be used with any diet or workout routine where people are conscious of keeping track of exercise or dietary performance,” he said.

Root, meanwhile, said he hopes it becomes a tool for “absolutely everyone.”

“It certainly gives people the best knowledge possible to manage their diet and activities that can give them both short term and long term weight loss,” he said. “In two to five years, I’d like to see this device used as the gold standard by which all diets, exercise programs and “fat loss” supplements are measured by.”

And it’s not just intended for those looking to keep their belly flat. Folks who have medical conditions that require strict monitoring of food intake — diabetics, for example — could find “Tone,” useful.

It really shows people if their body is in a healthy state or not,” Root said of the device, which will retail for $150. “This is important to everyone, but especially for diabetics.”

Stratos, which has done work for Intellectual Ventures and Proteus Digital Health, is mainly a consulting company but also has a R&D venture side made up of about 20 employees that has spun out two startups. GM Nameplate, meanwhile, started in 1954 making nameplates and now manufactures an array of products serving the technology, aerospace, medical and electronics industries, among others. It has a 114,000 square-foot facility in Queen Anne.

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline


  • Nikki Ralston

    That is crazy! When I started running a few years back I noticed at a certain point into the run I started spelling acetone when I inhaled thru my nose. I had a suspicion it was due to some kind of exercise metabolism, now I know I was in the ZONE!

  • L Greenhall

    I have not heard of this method before and it makes sense in that the body gases and fluids and even hair carry the evidence of what is really happening in the body and for those who want to lose weight I guess it could be a great tool for diagnosis

Job Listings on GeekWork