UCLA engineers have designed a thin adhesive film that has the potential to upgrade your consumer smartwatch into a powerful real-time health monitoring system in the future.
Today’s smartwatches and other wearables can already keep track of number of steps, calories burned, active HR, blood oxygen levels via SPo2 sensors, blood pressure monitoring and more.
What these watches can’t do, yet, is monitor your body chemistry.
For that, they need to track biomarker molecules found in body fluids that are highly specific indicators of our health, such as glucose and lactate, which tell how well your body’s metabolism is working.
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The future of wearables may include skin sensors that detect what’s in your sweat
This new UCLA system looks for chemical indicators found in sweat to give a real-time snapshot of what’s happening inside the body.
Researchers at UCLA have engineered a disposable, double-sided film that attaches to the underside of a regular smartwatch. The film can detect molecules and other body nutrient information from the body sweat.
According to study leader Sam Emaminejad, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at UCLA School of Engineering:
“The inspiration for this work came from recognizing that we already have more than 100 million smartwatches and other wearable tech sold worldwide that have powerful data-collection, computation and transmission capabilities,”
The skin-touching side of the adhesive film collects and analyzes the chemical makeup of droplets of sweat.
The watch-facing side turns those chemical signals into electrical ones that can be read, processed and then displayed on the smartwatch.
Monitor during all your daily activities, not just exercise
By monitoring perspiration, healthcare providers and consumers may be able to avoid things like frequent blood draws to monitor certain conditions.
Instead, these sensors would provide a healthcare team real-time updates on certain health and flag any issues immediately.
There has also been some prior academic work some prior academic work in this area at the University of California, Berkeley.
The researchers tested the film on sedentary users, as well as people engaged in vigorous activity, such as boxing, and found the system was effective in a wide variety of scenarios.
UCLA has applied for a patent on this new and exciting technology. To learn more about this study, visit the summary results at Science Advances.
Next steps include future clinical trials to study and verify if this mapping of sweat-based biomarker readings assists healthcare providers and consumers in assessing their physiological status.
No news around if and when a feasible commercial project will be developed and released to the market.