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Hands-on with Kinsa, the smart thermometer of the future

I first wrote about the Kinsa Smart Thermometer back in November, and I finally got a chance to go hands-on (or is that mouth-on?) with it. The device is still in beta, and as of right now it's only available to those who supported its development through an Indiegogo campaign and a few other testers, so I was pretty excited to see what it was all about.

Setting up the device to work with your iPhone is a pretty simple affair: Plug it into the included setup adapter and then into your phone's headphone jack. Setup takes just a minute or two and then your Kinsa is ready to use. After you've set up the device, you can plug it directly into the iPhone or into an optional extension cord, which will be included with some retail versions of the device.

You use the thermometer as you would any other, either under your tongue, under your arm or rectally -- I stuck with the oral option, for anyone who might be curious -- and then all it takes is a simple tap of the "Take Temperature" button on the Kinsa app. The thermometer itself is bendy and overall very comfortable, which is important when using it with a fussy kid.

Parents will also benefit from the playful real-time temperature measurement display that shows the current reading along with a stream of cartoony bubbles. When the temperature is determined, the bubbles pop and the next screen is displayed. This is a small, but pleasant addition that helps the whole process feel a bit more like a game for younger users.

The temperature reading is displayed much quicker than with the standard mercury-based alternative, which is nice, but the real benefit of using the Kinsa is the app's ability to archive each reading along with any symptoms the sufferer might be experiencing.

This symptom checker will become even more useful when the currently in-development local health tracker is launched. The upcoming feature will let you see reports from other Kinsa users in your area so you know when a bug is going around and can take steps to prevent falling ill.

Taking your temperature -- or, more importantly, taking the temperature of a potentially sick child -- isn't exactly a glamorous experience, and that's never likely to change. That being said, the Kinsa -- which can currently be pre-ordered for US$14.99, with expected shipments starting in spring -- gives the age-old task a modern twist, and leverages the power of your smartphone and local data to give your family a fighting chance against the common cold.