2012
09.10

An industry colleague recently sent me this great New York Times article about a wearable sensor that we will soon place in our bodies. While the article was interesting, the NYT author made it out like data technology was something new. I’m sorry, not to pick on my industry counterpart, but I’ve been on a connected-devices technology rant, and this does include body sensors and the data-gathering side of all this stuff, for more years than I want to count. But I’m thrilled to finally see the mainstream media catching on and actually writing more and more about the benefits of data collection—and in fact, making it look sexy, so to speak, to the average consumer.

Okay, so we’ve been on the data soapbox forever. But let’s chit-chat about these wearable-wireless sensors for a moment. For those of you that listen to my Internet radio show—The Peggy Smedley Show— this discussion might seem a little redundant, but please let me say at the outset I promise to offer up some new information. On the other hand, for those of you that missed the radio segment, you might enjoy this blog.

Back in May, I introduced listeners to this awesome wearable sensor technology in the context of monitoring pregnant women and what the University of California San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering had been studying. Students and professors recently won a grant as part of the “grand challenges explorations” program under an initiative sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The project uses sensor technology to monitor women during pregnancy and these are basically like temporary tattoos. They are flexible devices that continuously monitor uterine contractions, fetal heart-rate and oxygen, and maternal heart rate and body temperature. The sensors are wireless, and they are non-invasive, but they provide round-the-clock monitoring for at-risk patients. The monitoring device is a skin-mounted electronics system consisting of tiny circuits, sensors, and wireless transmitters. They are all so small that they can stick to the skin like a temporary tattoo.

This is much like what the NYT article is discussing in which it references a Boston-based company called MC10 that hopes to have a product on the market before the end of the year. What’s exciting is that now we are talking about measuring more than just pregnant women. Now we are looking to include all types of vitals for patients, including heart rate, brain activity, body temperature, and hydration levels.

Some of these technologies are so flexible that they can just be rolled on like a piece of sticky paper. It’s so amazing these electronics can stretch and flex with the skin, so they can be worn for extended periods. If these devices prove to be successful, in time patients can be monitored remotely by their doctor because the monitoring patch has the ability to transmit data to a mobile phone, which in turn can send it to a doctor at another location. Making use of cloud-computing technology, the data can be uploaded, where a doctor will be able to securely access it. This gives a doctor the ability to offer preventative care, rather than waiting until something is wrong, providing key instructions to the mother.

Connected technology is doing some pretty cool things, and it’s great to think that someday personal health monitoring can be as easy as peeling off a sticker. New technology is popping up all the time. If you think about it, we already have monitoring for applications in healthcare, athletics, and military operations. So what’s next?

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