What started out as a strange and sometimes creepy subculture of cyberpunk enthusiasts is becoming a mainstream industry, and startups are popping up that make implantables. Chips that are implanted under the skin are being featured at BioNyfiken, "the 1st Biomaker Conference in Sweden," taking place at Epicenter in Stockholm. The event, which takes place on April 9th looks like a combination of a wearables and body modification convention.
It may be a long time before under-the-skin wearables are seen on a large scale level, but that's one of the reasons that bio-hacking has become so popular in the first place. Amal Graafstra, a prominent bio-hacker in the community expanded on this in an interview with Digimonica:
"If big companies can’t sell a billion of them in the first year, they’re not really interested. So these solutions wouldn’t come any other way, or at least they’d be 20 years out."
In the meantime, the bio-hacking community is happy to develop these devices themselves instead of waiting for something like an "Apple implant" or something to come out. The most common bio-implants are RFID chips in the hand, similar to the ones implanted in animals at shelters. They can be used as ID cards for security, location tracking, or as digital wallets. The smaller chips are about the size of a grain of rice and can be injected into the skin. Larger mods probably won't be going mainstream anytime soon.
Ford's Wearables Lab
Ford Motor Company is researching the integration of wearables into their automotive electronics to improve vehicle safety. They had originally experimented with health sensors in the seats of their vehicles, but there were too many variables to give accurate readings. Seats would have to be in the perfect position to get readings, making retrieving the data near-impossible if somebody adjusted the seat. Certain types of pants would also interfere with the sensors.
Instead of throwing in the towel on this endeavor, Ford decided to integrate health sensors into their vehicles by taking the data collected by wearables and integrating it into their vehicle's computers through BlueTooth. While this is a significant leap forward from the seat sensors, wearable integration into vehicles will have its own set of challenges to overcome. Gary Strumolo from Ford's Research and Advanced Engineering talked about these hurdles in an interview with MedCity News. The two largest hurdles Strumolo brought up were power management and accurately measuring variables like drowsiness:
“Even if you had a camera looking at the driver… what metric do you use to make that determination?”
Ford has their work cut out for them, but if somebody can solve the enigma of reducing the power requirements for constant wireless data transfer from wearables, Ford will be your new best friend!
The BioStamp Research Connect
MC10 released the BioStamp Research Connect earlier this week. The BioStampRC is a multi-purpose, lightweight, flexible medical sensor that sticks to the skin like a bandage. The device is only available to medical professionals, but will allow for patients to collect accurate medical data for hospitals by remote through BlueTooth. The device is waterproof, has a 3-axis accelerometer, a gyroscope, some more unnamed sensors, and a 15mAh battery that lasts for 36 hours between charging. Although the hardware isn't anything new, the application could lead to major breakthroughs in medical data collection.
The BioStampRC, courtesy of MC10, somehow it remains sticky even after being washed
Dr. Alavaro Pascual-Leone was very excited for the doors that the BioStampRC can open in an interview with USA Today's Jennifer Jolly:
"The ability to capture, with research level precision, tailored data outside of a clinic...that’s the Holy Grail"
This was a good week for wearables indeed; all of this new data collection will make for some good weeks for the IoT down the road! If you've come across any interesting wearables in the news that you would like to see covered, let us know in the comments!