Next in Tech: 4 Technologies to Watch in 2014 - A New Wave of Sensors

Posted in Research and Development by Chris Wiltz on January 14, 2014

A New Wave of Sensors

While many wearables already function as wristbands or smartphone accessories, the next generation of sensors will be so powerful and so much smaller that you might not notice you're wearing them at all. 
Advancements in materials, microelectromechanical systems, and wireless communication are making sensors for all manner of medical applications less invasive than they have ever been. A 2013 report released by global technology research firm ON World showed that global annual sensor shipments for mobile sensing health and fitness devices (including smartwatches, smartphones, and tablets) stood at 107 million units in 2012. That number is projected to climb to 515 million by 2017. 
Over the next year consumers and patients will likely see more new sensing technologies aimed at new applications such as managing chronic disease. As Apple CEO Tim Cook said at the 2013 All Things Digital Conference (D11), “The whole sensor field is going to explode. It's a little all over the place right now, but in the arc of time it will become clearer.”
MC10's tiny, flexible sensors are behind the Reebok CheckLight.
Cambridge, MA-based startup MC10 is among the companies at the forefront of this new generation of sensor technology. The company manufactures small, flexible, stetchable sensors that conform to the shape of the human body and can be used in a variety of applications, including digital health and medical devices. The company's BioStamp sensor is thinner and smaller than a Band-Aid, adheres to the skin, and can collect and wirelessly transmit a variety of data including body temperature, heart rate, brain activity, and ultraviolet exposure. The company has partnered with sports apparel company Reebok to create the CheckLight, a skullcap worn by athletes with sensors for collecting head impact data to assist with concussion prevention and diagnosis. In partnership with Medtronic, MC10 is also developing a line of interventional catheters with built-in flexible sensors capable of giving physicians real-time feedback during procedures.
Redwood City, CA-based Proteus Digital Health is taking the trend one step further by creating sensors that are ingestible. The privately held company recently announced it has secured another $63.5 million in financing to continue to develop its “digital medicine” technologies that will provide patient health data and potentially even warnings and diagnoses via a safe, swallowable nanosensor pill. Media company Scripps Networks Interactive, in partnership with the California Institute of Technology, is also investigating  nanosensors and their possiblitiy of being used in a patient's bloodstream to provide early warnings of a heart attack.

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