• 17 MAY 12
    • 2
    What would happen if  personal electronics was part of the person?

    What would happen if personal electronics was part of the person?

    Two years ago, my then 88 (now 90 year young) mother-in-law needed some tests.

    The family physician prescribed a 48 hour Holter monitor test and referred us to the office in Tel Aviv where they would put it on my mother-in-law. He said “Order an ambulance, her coverage will pay for it”. My mother-in-law refuses to get in an ambulance: ambulances are things that take people to hospitals where they die. Understanding that we were at yet another doctor-patient impasse I made a little spreadsheet, printed a few copies and got her Nepalese care-giver, Gonga, to take manual blood pressure readings in lieu of a Holter.

    Today, we have the capability to do this test, with a medical device that is as simple as a band-aid.  You stick it on your skin, it takes EKG readings and transmits the data to another device in the doctor’s office.

    M2M (machine 2 machine)  are machine devices that talk to each other using a network protocol.  Common applications are electrical meter reading, but increasingly modern M2M communication has expanded beyond a one-to-one connection and changed into a system of networks that transmits data to personal appliances using wireless data networks.

    In Germany, the fastest growing M2M segment , with an average annual growth of 47 percent, is  consumer electronics with over 5 M2M SIM-cards in use in cell phones by the end of 2012.  (Research by E-Plus )

    What would happen if the personal electronics was part of the person?

    Physiological measurement and stimulation techniques that exploit interfaces to the skin have been of interest for over 80 years, beginning in 1929 with electroencephalography from the scalp. A new class of electronics based on transparent, flexible 50micron silicon film laminates onto the skin with conformal contact and adhesion based on van der Waals interaction. See: Epidermal Electronics John Rogers et al. Science 2011.

    This new class of device is mechanically invisible to the user, is accurate compared to traditional electrodes and has RF connectivity.  The thin 50 micron film serve as temporary support for manual mounting of these systems on the skin in an overall construct that is directly analogous to that of a temporary transfer tattoo, as can be seen in the above picture. Film mounted devices can provide high-quality signals with information on all phases of the heartbeat, EMG (muscle activity) and EEG (brain activity). Using silicon RF diodes, devices can provide short-range RF transmission at 2Ghz.  Note the antenna on the device.

    After mounting it onto the skin, one can wash away the PVA and peel the device back with a pair of tweezers.  When completely removed, the system collapses on itself because of its extreme deformability and skin-like physical properties.

    Easier and much more accessible than bulky EEG and Holter equipment, epidermal electronics devices are probably going to play a big part in the future of healthcare for monitoring vital signs in a simple, cheap and non-invasive way.

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  • Posted by Ellie Kesselman on June 18, 2012, 8:55 pm

    I think that in this example, of your mother and the Holter monitor, you were very sensible. Hourly blood-pressure checks by a trusted care-giver seems near-perfect from a patient-centric point of view. But I do understand why it isn’t possible in most cases. You are a good son, to have thought of that solution though.

    EEG’s that could be done remotely, and conveniently, would be great. Particularly if the tech could be used in instances where monitoring were necessary for a longer interval. It would make home care possible when it might not be otherwise, and all sorts of other benefits too.

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