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 tech innovations.
Sensors of all kind are being introduced which are impacting the health tracking and diagnostics markets. Sensors that fit on or inside the human body are turning us bionicly as we move closer to becoming one with technology with the body as an interface.
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. Regulatory cleared in the U.S., Europe and Canada, 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 this blog post being published 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. An unobtrusive and invisible sensor which is passively collecting your consumption habits.
17. The heart sensor
Another innovation coming out of The University of Illinois, the heart sensor is a flexible energy-harvesting sensor that fits around the heart to provide high-resolution monitorings of multiple cardiac health markers. So far it has been tested on a beating rabbit’s heart and has successfully measured heart rhythm, real-time changes in pH during restriction of blood supply and temperature fluctuations resulting from localized burns during experimental cardiac ablation.
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.
9. Portable spectrophotometer
Colorimetrix is an app developed by the University of Cambridge in the U.K. that turns your smartphone into a portable spectrophotometer by analyzing urine test strips and providing a medical report. Colorimetrix can analyze conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, and urinary tract infections. The app works on lower-grade smartphones too which may help to combat certain health conditions in emerging countries.
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.
11. 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.”
12. Wearable UV sensor
The Netatmo June is a Bluetooth device which is fitted with UV sensors that alerts users when UV levels are high. The Netatmo June has been stylishly designed for the fashion-conscious in mind as well as being useful for those with sunlight sensitive skin.
13. Sticky organ sensor
Applying sensors to human organs can be useful when identifying health issues or analyzing biometric data as they pick up signals and provide information about the body that regular sensors may otherwise not be able to capture. Unfortunately technology and biology combined together often don’t gel though this may change thanks to a new gel-based sticky sensor developed by Japanese researchers that monitors electrical activity in the organ without slipping off.
14. Electronic Skin sensor
The ‘Electronic Skin’ sensor has been developed by Korean researchers and is worn on the wrist for monitoring and treating muscle disorders in people suffering from Parkinson’s or epilepsy. Medication embedded in the patch is administered through it by a diffusion-driven release of drug molecules through the skin. The silicon nanomembrane sensors detect changes in electrical resistance to indicate a fast tremor or certain problem with the patient wearing it.
15. Blood monitoring sensor
San Francisco startup Sano Intelligence has developed a small, wearable patch sensor that can read and transmit blood chemistry data to an external device like a smartphone. The company call it “an API for the bloodstream” and the unobtrusive patch attaches to the body and analyzes blood biomarkers such as glucose and potassium. Having real time data of blood levels can benefit a range of people from diabetics to athletes to those who just want to ensure their body is optimized appropriately. And of course a patch sensor takes away the time consuming, inefficient and, to some, worrying process of injecting needles.
16. The bionic brain controlled sensor
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) has developed a prosthetic limb that is controlled by thought by reassigning the nerves to sensors that then move the artificial limb.
17. Body-worn glucose sensor
SugarSenz is body-worn glucose sensor patch that connects to an electronic component which wirelessly transmits the biometric data to the cloud. The patch is aimed toward health and fitness enthusiasts interested in tracking their blood sugar levels as opposed to diabetics.