Hands On: Is Flo Smart Enough to Replace the Thermometer You Grew Up With?

Flo, a smart thermometer capable of connecting to your phone, began as a Kickstarter campaign (and a dream). After raising $92,290—more than quadrupling its fundraising goal of $20,000—Zeraph is now selling Flo for $49. The small thermometer connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth, and is available in four different colors.

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In a time when nearly everything we own, from coffee pots to dog feeders, is getting "smarter," where does a smart thermometer fit in?

The basics

As someone with kids, there’s a certain appeal to Flo. It's primary claim to fame--even more so than the fact that it's a "smart" thermometer that connects to your smartphone--is that it's contactless. It looks more like a toy than a real thermometer, and instead of shoving a long tube of glass into a child’s mouth, or putting an odd-looking contraption into an ear, you hold Flo about an inch away from the forehead and press a button.

Without making physical contact with your child, a split-second later, Flo sends the temperature to a companion app installed on your Android or iOS device, and the app speaks the results to you aloud. The magic is thanks to an infrared sensor that works from a short distance.

If fumbling with a smartphone, app in the middle of the night while trying to manage a sick child sounds like too much, you can take a quick reading and rely on the indicator lights atop Flo to let you know if your child has a fever. A white light is for temperatures under 97.7 degrees, green for 97.7 to 99.5 degrees, and red is for anything above 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Setup and use

I found initial setup a little confusing, but that was my fault. I didn’t read the instructions. After reading through the iOS support page, I realized the nuances of the different button presses, status lights and what they mean.

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To power up Flo, you press the stylized Z on the top of the device. If the Flo app is open on a nearby phone, Flo connects and sends data to the device without the need to do anything else.

To take a reading, press the button again while holding Flo roughly 1-inch from the center of the forehead.

(Taking a reading without the app requires you to power on Flo, then press the button again and wait for one of the color-coded lights to blink.)

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Jason Cipriani/Techwalla

Flo isn't strictly for measuring the temperature of humans; you can get the temperature of your coffee, or as Zeraph suggests, you can even check the temperature of your child’s bath water.

To do this, you have to turn on Flo, then press and hold it’s lone button for a few seconds until the light turns purple. Then you can hold the device an inch away from whatever it is you want to measure the temperature of, and press the button a second time. This mode only works when Flo is connected to a smartphone. My coffee this morning was 128.5 degrees Fahrenheit, which in and of itself is pointless to know, but you can see how useful this could potentially be.

Well, is it worth it?

I found Flo to be consistent when taking and recording a temperature. The idea of having different user profiles within the app--making it possible to track and graph thre progress of your child's fever, for example, complete with notes and photos--isn’t something I see myself taking the time to fill out. But others may find value in it.

Previously, my experience with a smart thermometer was limited to a single-use sticker called TempTraq. At $27 per 24 hour sticker, it’s not only expensive but also impractical. In order to take an accurate reading, TempTraq needs your child’s arm resting down by his or her side. Naturally, this is problematic when a child is sleeping or just about any other time of the day.

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Jason Cipriani/Techwalla

More similar to Flo, Withings recently released its $99 Thermo thermometer. Equipped with an LED display, you can view exact temperature readings without a smartphone nearby. I haven’t had a chance to test Thermo, so I can’t speak to its reliability.

As for Flo, it boils down to learning how to use the device and then learning to trust it. It’s hard to let go of what we’ve grown accustomed to using, and trusting more advanced technology.

For the immediate future, I think I’ll rely on Flo quick checks of potential fevers, and then revert back to our tried and true in-ear thermometer for more precise readings.