21 October 2010
By Kavita Kukday-Deb
The doctor is out, but modern–day pills and sensors will still keep him apprised of your well–being
Picture this: A tiny microchip inside your diabetes pill wirelessly tells the doctor exactly when you took your medication and what your blood sugar level is at that point of time. Sounds pretty far–fetched, right? Well, it’s not. Smart pills embedded with wireless sensors are already in the market. Besides, companies such as US–based Proteus Biomedical are going a step further, and creating wireless medical tech that lives in tiny sensors which can be worn on your wrists, or stuck on like ‘bandaids’. Here’s a look at a few of the devices aiming to revolutionize healthcare.
More than just pills
Proteus Biomedical (www.proteusbiomed.com) recently launched digestible sensors that will help doctors monitor a pill’s effect on patient’s bodies.
The patch records the date and time when the pill was ingested, and even the type of drug and dosage.
Additionally, the sensors can also be programmed to check for other information such as blood pressure and glucose levels. This data can be stored and transferred to your doctor on a regular basis to monitor progress, and to give healthcare experts a clearer idea of the patient’s adherence to the treatment.
Take your medicines, please
If simple alarms don’t cut it for you, GlowCap Connect (www.vitality.net) will makes sure you remember to take your pills on time, all the time.
There is also an option that lets the caps wirelessly send out automated calls to a home telephone number to remind you to take your pills. The technology can also be programmed to send weekly updates to selected family and friends and, of course, also to your doctor.
Gone are the days when medicated adhesive tapes were just about tending to cuts and bruises. Nowadays, a host of companies such as Sotera Wireless (www.soterawireless.com) are developing ‘smart tape’ technologies that can automatically send medical data gleaned from patients to their doctors.
These tapes communicate wirelessly with a gateway (such as smartphones) using Bluetooth and 3G networks. Once on the mobile phone, this data is collated and sent off to the doctor via the internet.
Designed mainly for chronic conditions, these sensors collect and transmit a surprising amount of data from a single stick–on sensor. Currently, smart medical adhesives record activity levels, heart rate, perspiration, body position, and even blood pressure.
Matters of the heart
Remote ECGs (electrocardiograms) have been around for a while, but Corventis PiiX (www.corventis.com) is credited with creating the first wireless remote monitoring sensor that is equipped to ping your doctor as soon as it detects early signs of heart trouble. The device is the size of a pack of gum and can be worn under your clothes at all times for constant monitoring.
There are other flavours of wireless portable ECG’s too, Imec and Holst Centre (www.holstcentre.com) for instance, has developed a low–power mobile heartmonitoring system that lets you view ECG on your Android mobile phone. The system was recently demonstrated at the Wireless Health Conference that took place this October.
Sensors that babysit
Worried about your baby’s health? Well, Exmovere’s (www.exmovere.com) new wireless monitor might just be the product for you. The biomedical technology firm has developed clothing called Exmobaby that can monitor the heart rate, emotional state, and level of activity of your baby constantly. The monitor connects wirelessly to a computer or cellphone and gives you a complete report throughout the day.
So with a baby tucked into an Exmobaby, you can continue working around the house without any worries, while your little one is safely tucked in his crib.
...and so much more
Apart from these, there are dozens of other companies turning to wireless technology to keep people healthier.
Firms such as AirStrip Technologies (www.airstriptech.com) have created specialised smartphone apps such as AirStrip OB which allow obstetricians to remotely view data such as foetal and maternal heart rates.
Intel has teams of researchers studying wireless devices to help care for the elderly. They have devised a wireless monitoring system called ‘magic carpet’, which is basically a mat that comes with sensors embedded inside to track how the patient moves around the house.
The magic carpet picks up the weight, angle and pressure of the patients steps and could help predict and prevent falls, which are major cause of accidental deaths in the aged.