A new, wireless and battery free patch developed by scientists can diagnose health problems by analysing chemical contents of sweat on the skin.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
Sweat is often viewed as the next frontier in wearable technology. Every drop of this liquid tells a story about what is happening inside the body. Sweat provides information on dehydration, stress, muscle cramping, high cholesterol, depression and even blood glucose. Definitely not the type of information you get from your Fitbit or Apple Watch!
Described in the journal Science Advances, the flexible patch is being developed by researchers at Northwestern University. The Band-aid like device fits snuggly against the skin and has minuscule holes which fill up with sweat from a wearers body.
From there, a network of tiny valves and micro-channels route the liquid into tiny reservoirs. Each reservoir contains a sensor that reacts with chemicals in the sweat. The accompanying smartphone app takes info from the chemical reactions and spits out real time data on pH, levels of chloride, glucose, lactate, sweat rate and more.
“It fits into a broader trend that you’re seeing in medicine, which is personalized, tailored approaches to treatment and delivery of care,” said John Rogers, a biomedical engineer at Northwestern University in Illinois and the key architect of the device.
Best of all, there is no need to charge anything. The patch relies on the same NFC technology that smartphones use to send wireless payments. This means data can be transmitted from the device by tapping into power from your smartphone. Alternatively, the data can be sent to a reader attached to a treadmill or other fitness device.
The science of sweat is still in the early stages although clinical uses trace back to the 1950’s. It is only now that we are witnessing rapid acceleration of the technology for applications ranging from athletics to pediatrics to pharmaceutical monitoring.
Gatorade is one of the first companies that is looking to release a commercial product. Developed with John Rogers and his team, their sweat patch looks at differences in color caused by chemical reactions. Users can then examine the patch to monitor both the level of dehydration and the concentration of chloride in their body.
Check out the video below to see how it works.
Gatorade is planning to release more commercials about the device in coming months. A retail version is expected sometime in 2019.
Source: The New York Times; Northwestern University; journal Science Advances
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