Just as bracelets such as Fitbit are beginning to catch on, researchers have developed an even more discreet wearable health monitoring device. A new skin patch is able to track various health indicators and send data wirelessly to a PC or Smartphone.
This next-generation health tracking device was developed by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and at Northwestern University under the direction of John A. Rogers and Yonggang Huang. Their design was described in the April edition of the journal Science.
Made using nanomaterials, the patch is a soft and flexible rectangle that adheres to the skin. An advanced microchip structure enables the patch to pick up on the most subtle body movements and to interpret abnormal movements such as tremors. According to its inventors, this wireless device could revolutionize EKG and EEG monitoring within clinical settings.
Designed to keep tabs on the wearer's health at all times, the patch has various applications, from tracking muscular activity to monitoring symptoms related to an illness. Meanwhile, its small size and flexible design make it easy for the wearer to forget it is there. The patch can send all of the data collected to a device such as a PC or Smartphone.
Among the top challenges to the researchers was integrating hard, often bulky chips into a soft, flexible design. The teams accomplished this through the use of microfluidics (the patch is actually a fluid-filled envelope in which the components are suspended) and "origami interconnects" (the components are connected by squiggly, serpentine wires that can flex and bend with the skin).
The new device holds significant promise for the field of telemedicine, which could improve the lives of elderly patients, chronic sufferers or those living far from caregivers.