E-skin? Bionic skin? No matter the name, the ‘ultimate wearable’ for monitoring is advancing.

‘Bionic skin’ as the ultimate wearable has been taking several dimensions. TTA Editors have previously reported on tattoo-like stretchy sensors applied to the skin for monitoring vital signs from a variety of academic and commercial developers. Here are two new advances of interest for those who follow the progress of wearables:

  • [grow_thumb image=”https://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/TFT-sensor-Tokyo-U.jpg” thumb_width=”100″ /]From University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Engineering, a team led by Professor Takao Someya has developed an e-skin (left) that can measure vital signs and basic images, send them to clinicians, and–in what may be a first–display them on the surface in real time. This feature is useful for anyone, but especially for those who have difficulty communicating information due to speech or cognitive impairments. According to EurekaAlert, it combines a flexible, deformable display with a lightweight sensor composed of a breathable nanomesh electrode and wireless communication module. Developed in conjunction with Dai Nippon Printing (DNP), it is a 16 x 24 array of micro LEDs and stretchable wiring mounted on a rubber sheet. In its test form, it communicated temperature, pressure, myoelectricity (the electrical properties of muscle), and recorded an ECG. DNP expects to commercialize it in three years and improving its coverage for larger surfaces. It lasts about one week without creating irritation, another major factor in skin sensors. Video on EurekaAlert. Also Engadget. A paper on this research was delivered at AAAS last week
  • More information on Prof. Someya’s research is available in this IEEE Spectrum article, largely about the challenges of e-skin flexibility for use in patches and in prosthetics. Their research is utilizing TFTs (thin film transistors) and plastic skin one-tenth the thickness of common plastic wrap as the most sensitive and adaptable technologies.
  • University of Colorado Boulder has developed a monitoring e-skin that self-heals if damaged, which may extend e-skin life and usability. It uses a polymer (polyimine) laced with silver nanoparticles which can be repaired by easily available ethanol compounds and is fully recyclable with another solution that separates out the silver. The test patch conducts temperature and pressure. This looks thicker than plastic wrap, however. Engadget

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