More tattletale data gathering: EEGs and sub-cutaneous RFID chips

There’s a new biometric marker in town being used for authentication: the EEG (electroencephalograph). Brain waves have a cacaphony of information about emotional state, learning ability and personality traits, now being collected in relaxation or gaming apps through inexpensive headsets as simple as earbuds. So instead of iris scans and fingerprints, now it’s EEGs. However, it’s yet another privacy invading and eminently hackable source of data. Privacy: the collectors of information off that app may be matching your brain wave pattern to those on a data base–say, alcoholics. “In a blind trial, a machine learning classifier, trained to recognize brain patterns associated with alcoholism, used the brain wave data from the authentication systems to accurately identify 25 percent of the alcoholics in the sample.” You may not be a drinker, and the reading may be utterly ‘off’, but now it’s in the open, you have no idea of how it will be used. Similar patterns can be used to match from databases to identify learning disabilities, mental illnesses and more, which could make you tough to insure, for instance. IEEE Spectrum  Hat tip to former editor Toni Bunting.

The next generation of peripherals may not be external at all. Already around 50,000 early adopters or bodyhackers are implanting glass RFID chips in their hands or other parts of their bodies to let themselves into their homes and offices or to store emergency information. The head of a digital unit of Capgemini stored his Scandinavian Airlines boarding pass and travel information in a December test. This type of chip, about the size of a rice grain, uses no electricity but will activate when scanned by a reader. It’s easy to forecast medical uses such as records before surgery (operate on the right foot, not the left), an ID and information for someone post-stroke or with dementia, or as smart card loaded with funds. But this Editor can see it coupled with a nanosized battery as being tested now in external sensor patches or biostickers as John Rogers at University of Illinois, MC10 and others have been designing for several years–and the potential geometrically increases to send out other data such as vital signs. Perhaps EEGs one day? Wall Street Journal — plus a collection of our coverage of sensor patches

ELabNYC Pitch Day 2015

Thursday 3 April, Microsoft’s NY Technology Center, Times Square NYC

[grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”100″ /]The third annual Pitch Day for the now 20 startup/early-stage life science, biotech and healthcare technology companies in the ELabNYC (Entrepreneurship Lab Bio and Health Tech NYC) is a culmination of their year-long program participation in this NY Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC)-supported program. The entrepreneurs in the ELabNYC program primarily come from from the doctoral and post-doc programs from New York’s many universities, from CUNY to Columbia, from many parts of the world, and most have experience within the city’s multitude of major health research institutions from The Bronx to Brooklyn. New York is also a center of funding for life science and health tech ventures; it’s #2 with NIH awards totaling $1.4 billion. For the past few years, NYEDC has also supported these companies with finding access to capital, specialized space (e.g. wet labs such as the million square feet at Alexandria Center alone, plus Harlem Biospace and SUNY Downstate in Brooklyn) and partnerships with major companies such as Celgene, Eli Lilly, Pfizer and GE Ventures.

This Editor will concentrate on health tech companies–eight, up from five last year [TTA 17 Apr 14]. Each company pitched for five minutes on its concept, its current state of advancement (including pilots/customers), its team and a funding timeline. It was a very different mix from last year’s class, which focused on compliance, diagnosis, dementia and concussion. These companies focused on niches which are either not being served well or to substantially reduce costs. Nearly half the entrepreneurs were women, a substantially greater number than one usually sees in the biotech/health tech area. Short impressions on our eight, with links to their Executive Summaries on the 2014-15 ‘class page’: (more…)

Stick on that comfy sensor patch

[grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”150″ /] From the head researcher (John Rogers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) who brought you biodegradable implanted batteries and sensors [TTA 26 March], comes an almost tattoo-like stretchable sensor conforming to the skin which uses off-the-shelf, chip-based electronics for wireless monitoring. It is envisioned for wireless health tracking connecting to smartphones and computers, and for vital monitoring such as ECG and EEG testing, although this Editor would not use the term ‘clinical’ as Gizmodo has done (it is probably at the fairly sound level of an AliveCor.) However the article points out the advantages in long term use–adherence to skin is far more reliable, no dangling pendants or clunky bracelets, and it allows for multiple sensors to be worn comfortably. This type of patch would also be far kinder to the delicate skin of babies and the elderly. For them, it would make consistent long-term telehealth monitoring (e.g. blood pressure, ECG, O2, blood glucose) far easier over time. Perhaps the core of this is the PERS of the future with gait tracking and fall detection. Cost isn’t mentioned, but off the shelf elements undoubtedly are less expensive than custom/bespoke. Published in Science 4 April (abstract and summary; full text requires log in) Also see Editor Charles’ earlier take–maybe Mr. Rogers should speak to him!