Our skin is one of our most vital and fascinating organs. It’s the largest and heaviest organ of the body, extending on average to about 20 square feet. Yet, sometimes, we forget that it also has the ability to provide a ton of information about our internal states, giving us an inside look into our physical and emotional conditions. Recognizing an opportunity for a new way to monitor health, a team of researchers has developed wearable technology with sensors that stick to your skin – similar to that of a Band-Aid. BodyNet is next-generation wearable tech that can be used for both medical and recreational health applications.

But, the key to the success of the tech is all about the placement of the sensors on the body.

"Depending on what a person wants to measure ... like heart rate, the person can skip [putting] sensors on their arm or wrist ... they can just put it on their chest," said Dr. Zhenan Bao, a professor at Stanford University and leader of the BodyNet team.

Without the usual requirement of batteries, wires or electronic chips, Bao and her team have developed a network of sensors that easily stick to skin and monitor physiological signals. In a demonstration of how it works, researchers stuck sensors to the wrists and abdomen of a participant to track their pulse and breathing.

Sensors were also placed on their knees and elbows that allowed researchers to detect when the participant was moving. Radiofrequency identification (RFID) technology was used to transmit signals to the receiver, located on the clothing of the participant. The battery-powered receiver then uploads data from the sensors to a smartphone, computer or other storage system. Researchers can use the data to track subtle physiological signals like, “a flush of embarrassment or a fluttering heart.”

The novel technology is hoped to be leveraged by healthcare professionals to monitor people with sleeping problems and heart conditions. To do so, Bao and her team intend to commercialize the sensors and gain FDA approval over the next few years. In the meantime, the team is working to perfect the sensors by uncovering ways to make the smaller, incorporate the tech with smart clothing and collect additional data like sweat and temperature.

Why This Matters – 

The healthcare industry was once known for being behind the curve in terms of innovative solutions. Today, however, we’re finding ourselves in the midst of an industry leading change by leveraging new and novel lifesaving technology and incorporating next-level solutions that were once deemed too “out-of-the-box” by brand leaders. It’s making the opportunity greater than ever for companies to go outside of tradition and incorporate tech like BodyNet into their practices.

Wearables in particular have been a new kind of tech changing the way HCPs and researchers track the health of their patients, and even clinical trial participants. From trackers like Fitbit and Apple watches to digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home, the possibility to monitor health-related information from your fingertips has made it easier than ever to reach populations of people you weren’t able to before. The idea that wearables can now track key health data just from the natural movement of a person’s body through a sticker-like device only further showcases where healthcare can go next.

About the Author:

Khye Tucker is an Innovation Strategist in Columbus, OH. With a passion for writing and a background in communications, Khye strives to bring brand stories to life through a fresh perspective, innovative thinking and creative storytelling.