Scientists at Stanford University have invented an innovative wearable device that monitors movement, heart rate, and breathing without using any wires, batteries, or circuits. Here’s the lowdown on this device.
Professor Zhenan Bao, from the chemical engineering department at Stanford University, California, and her team have designed a device that sticks to the skin like a band-aid and measures how a person’s skin stretches and contracts.
Since the human skin is one of the body’s largest organs extending to about 1.8 square metres, on average, it is the perfect barrier to monitor our bodies. The skin has many functions for our overall health. Its various layers create new cells, give the skin its colour and store fat. The skin also helps control body temperature and water loss. It contains nerve endings that help us detect pressure, vibration, touch, and pain.
It is no surprise that Professor Bao and her team have designed and invented this wearable device that could change how we monitor our bodies in the future. They have developed a way to harness these skin signals with a device that does not require batteries, wires, or chips.
The device looks like a thin strip of plastic that sends readings wirelessly to a receiver attached to the person’s clothes. Based on these readings, the researchers were able to monitor a person’s breathing and heart rate, as well as their arm and leg movements.
“Body area sensor network,” or “BodyNET” is the name of the device. In their paper published by medical journal Nature Electronics, the researchers describe the device as “a collection of networked sensors that can be used to monitor human physiological signals”. In the paper, they describe how they tested the BodyNET by sticking the sensors to the wrist and abdomen of a participant to detect their pulse and breathing.
The researchers also placed the sensors on the participant’s elbows and knees, which alerted them when the person moved. The patch detected the stretching and contracting of the skin in the areas that corresponded to the muscles flexed.
The BodyNET uses radiofrequency identification (RFID) —the same technology used in keyless access systems and key cards.