SAN JOSE, Calif.—Imagine an injectable sensor that helps soldiers and athletes optimize performance. Or a virtual clinic where expert social networks diagnose patients using data from smartphone sensors. Or a social network that posts heart-rate data along with pictures, creating a massive data set for health researchers.
Leslie Saxon is going a step further. She is overseeing such projects at the Center for Body Computing she helped form at the University of Southern California. Work on all three will be described at the CBC’s annual conference this week.
Digital health “has gone from science fiction to an active area of development,” said Saxon in an interview with EE Times. “We are going to be reporting signals off the body in ways to determine health outcomes—this is key to the future of medicine,” she said.
Researchers at CBC are working on miniaturizing to an injectable size a package of sensors that track key metrics. Challenges include making the devices in a way that they last a long time inside the harsh conditions of the body, yet are easy to remove and report data on secure wireless networks.
The rationale, in part is that “something worn on the body can get in the way…ideally the Internet of Things is invisible,” said Saxon. An injectable sensor “can go anywhere, underwater, and it can handle sweat—A lot of athletes say they want it yesterday,” she said, noting such devices are still in the lab.
Separately, CBC will open a virtual health clinic away from its current medical center in the Silicon Beach area of Los Angeles. “This is about leveraging technology to deliver a digital heath care system that has no walls…we can deliver much of the care as a service over mobile like you get AirBnB or Amazon,” she said.
The system aims to use a growing set of both prescription sensors as well as consumer health sensors that are becoming increasingly useful.
“Right now we have studies on 2,000 patients using a smartphone-enabled EKG, and we are showing at the conference an ECG on an Apple Watch—that’s a real biometric I can use as a cardiologist,” she said.
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