Before Nima, there was no easy and fast way to use gluten test strips for food testing. You had the option of sending your food to a lab or purchasing a commercial testing kit. These testing kits require you to carefully blend or emulsify the sample, place a very carefully measured sample into a test tube, add a specific amount of chemical, then use a gluten test strip for food to see if there is any gluten present.

Nima Founders Shireen Yates and Scott Sundvor wanted a better way to be able test food for gluten – in restaurants, out and about with friends, or quickly during dinner preparation. They really wanted to make certain that whatever they built could be portable, easy-to-use, discreet, and modern. The device had to be: portable – so people could take Nima and use it anywhere, anytime; easy-to-use – so they didn’t need to have lab-grade equipment or lots of pieces to the test; discreet – so they could avoid drawing too much attention to their meal; and modern – Shireen and Scott wanted something they would be proud to have on them. Their vision also included Nima as a connected device, one that would be enhanced by creating a large amount of data and tips from people just like them. So how did we get to the final Nima design that we’re shipping today?

During the course of putting together the mechanical requirements, the team decided the device would need one-time-use capsules that both grind the food and prevent the capsule from re-opening, a device that stands up (for the chemistry to run), and one that could be re-charged.

As you can see, here’s a fully functional prototype that hadn’t been styled or designed yet. The device is functional with enough space in this holder for two of our primitive capsules that encase the gluten test strips for food.

Gluten Test Strips for Food: Early Nima Prototype

The team still had to meet the original design requirements: discreet, portable, pocket-sized, and modern. We worked closely with a design partner, Montaag, who presented several design concepts. Each design concept had something distinct to offer, while helping to meet the requirements outlined above for ease of use. The team really wanted to explore “slice” and “bean” as concepts, feeling like these would be really discreet on a table – fitting between one diner and another, or in between plates on a table.

Gluten Test Strips for Food: Nima Original Design Concepts from Montaag

The team made some models of these, as you can see below. These are made from weighted Styrofoam, so we could get a sense of what each one would feel like in a pocket.

Gluten Test Strips for Food: Nima Bean Design Concept by Montaag
Gluten Test Strips for Food: Nima Design Concept Slice by Montaag

After viewing these two options, we decided to move forward with “slice,” but wanted to go through some modifications. We also did our first round of user testing at this point, printing out some early 3D versions and sending them off to people to carry around and get some user feedback which provided some early changes on smoothing down the profile closer to what we have today.

Gluten test strips for food: 3D printed model of Nima slice design

We smoothed the edges and stylized the top of the device, so it wouldn’t get snagged on pockets or bags. We also spent a lot of time experimenting with different materials, so Nima feels good in your hand, but also doesn’t scratch too easily. We continued to do testing and gather feedback. We made certain the cap was easy to twist and that it was easier to pull out of the device once a test finished. All of those changes have made it in the finished product used today with nary a gluten test strip for food in sight.

Nima continues to improve with over-the-air firmware updates, such as testing algorithms and display symbols. We also have paired Nima with an app, so that you can share the results of test with others in the Nima community.

Nima is never finished – even after we launch this year, we will continuously looking to improve upon design and functionality to meet the needs of our customers. But we’re proud of the design and product we’re shipping out to pre-order customers and hope you’re proud to carry it with you, too.

Gluten test strips for food: Nima, final design, showing high gluten on display