Tim Cook is right. The sensor field is exploding and Apple itself has made a number of strategic hires and acquisitions in the field to capitalize on the growing area of next generation sensors. The industry is ripe for disruption due to new innovations in technology and a predicted market growth rate hitting $5.6bn by 2017 according research2guidance.
Sensors of all kind are being introduced which are impacting the health, tracking, diagnostics, mobile and home appliance markets. Sensors that fit on or inside the human body are turning us bionicly as we move closer to being one with technology with the body as an interface and here are some next generation body sensors that are taking us there.
Start-up Athos makes connected wearable workout clothing which has sensors throughout that monitor muscle exertion from the chest, shoulders, arms, back, quads, hamstrings and glutes, plus heart rate and breathing. The module insert transmits the data over Bluetooth to a smartphone. This is where fitness wearables become more that just tracking daily activity and provide thorough data on variables important to the dedicated enthusiast or professional.
HealthPatch is a biometric skin sensor developed by Vital Connect which fits on to a user’s chest and tracks a range of health indicators including heart rate, heart rate variability, respiratory rate, skin temperature, body posture, steps and fall detection/severity. This is the first product launched by Vital Connect and according to the company the HealthPatch is capable of capturing clincial-grade biometric measurements continuously.
3. Skin sensor
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has developed a patch-like sensor similar to HealthPatch that stretches and moves with the skin and records and sends health information to synced smartphones and computers.
As of the time of writing the sensor has yet to be given a name and it’s not clear what exactly it tracks other than EKG and EEG. The team behind the sensor believe it could modernize clinical monitoring like EKG and EEG as it doesn’t require the large wires, pads or tape and patients found the patches to be more comfortable.
Yonggang Huang, the Northwestern University professor who co-led the work said, “The application of stretchable electronics to medicine has a lot of potential. If we can continuously monitor our health with a comfortable, small device that attaches to our skin, it could be possible to catch health conditions before experiencing pain, discomfort and illness.”
Hexoskin is a bluetooth vest that tracks the body’s vital signs including heart rate, heart rate variability, breathing, VO2 max, stress, sleep and activity level. Hexoskin is currently being used by the Canadian Space Agency, Olympic and professional athletes and medical researchers, but its vests for both male and female and accompanying technology can be purchased from the company’s online store.
5.Proteus Digital Health
Digital medicine platform, Proteus Digital Health, is a unique offering to ensure people take their medicine. A stick-on biometric sensor patch is worn on the patient’s body which tracks when they take their sensor-enabled pills and biofeedback variables such as sleep patterns and activity levels. FDA cleared and proven to reduce and an impressive adherence rate Proteus Digital Health is now partnering with the UK’s National Health Service to validate the ‘smart pill’ system.
6. Smart Tooth
Researchers at the National Taiwan University of Taipei have created a prototype tooth sensor with learning algorithms that can understand and differentiate when the user is coughing, smoking, drinking, speaking and breathing. If you’ve been eating, drinking or smoking too much the smart tooth will let you know. With an accuracy of 94 percent the team who developed it intends to design a bluetooth (no pun intended) version that can fit inside a tooth cavity so your dentist can fit it when he’s replacing your fillings. A unobtrusive and invisible sensor which is passively collecting your consumption habits.
7. Flexible energy-harvesting sensor
An article in The Scientist reports on a flexible energy-harvesting device developed by a team of science and engineering professionals at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (again!) that can convert the movmenet of body parts such as the heart and lungs in to energy that could be used to power implantable devices such as pacemakers. “The heart is a great place to do mechanical energy harvesting because it’s constantly in motion. One of the challenges, though, with the heart, is that any constraint you apply to its natural motion by gluing a device onto its surface can cause all kinds of adverse reactions in the way that the heart is beating,” said John Rogers, a professor of materials science and engineering at the university and one of the team members involved in the project.
“That requires you to engineer the device so that it’s not just flexible, but ultra flexible, so that the action of the heart is unaltered by the integration of the device onto the organ.” If successful it could mean that a pacemaker would last much longer than current battery-powered models.
OMsignal makes clothing with embedded sensors that continuously track the wearer’s biometrics to monitor ECG, heart rate, breathing and activity, and displays the data on an app on their smartphone.
The MyoLink from Somaxis is a new sensor which measures muscle energy output that can measure and quantify how warmed-up a person is, how much work they’re doing, fatigue, endurance and recovery level. When placed on the chest the sensor can continuously track heart rate also. The MyoLink touts itself as the ultimate open-source, wireless, wearable EMG / EKG / EEG biosensor platform and it’s not hard to see why.
10. Smart Socks
Sensoria Fitness Socks are, according to its website, “infused with textile sensors and paired with an electronic anklet that not only tracks steps, speed, calories, altitude and distance but goes well beyond that to track cadence, foot landing technique and weight distribution on the foot as you walk and run.”