Sensors of your heart, blood, and brain are coming to market. These may a boon to science and personal health. For the companies involved, they may be goldmines of intimate real-time data on millions of subjects.
Very soon, we will see inside ourselves like never before, with wearable, even internal , sensors that monitor even our most intimate biological processes.
It is likely to happen even before we figure out the etiquette and laws around sharing this knowledge.
Already products like the Nike+ FuelBand and the Fitbit wireless monitor track our daily activity, taking note of our steps and calories burned. The idea is to help meet an exercise regimen, perhaps lose some weight. The real-world results are uneven. For sure, though, people are building up big individual databases about themselves over increasingly long periods of time. So are the companies that sell these products, which store that data.
That is barely the start. Later this year, a Boston-based company called MC10 will offer the first of several “stretchable electronics” products that can be put on things like shirts and shoes, worn as temporary tattoos or installed in the body. These will be capable of measuring not just heart rate, the company says, but brain activity, body temperature and hydration levels. Another company, called Proteus, will begin a pilot program in Britain for a “Digital Health Feedback System” that combines both wearable technologies and microchips the size of a sand grain that ride a pill right through you. Powered by your stomach fluids, it emits a signal picked up by an external sensor, capturing vital data.
Another firm, Sano Intelligence, is looking at micro needle sensors on skin patches as a way of deriving continuous information about the bloodstream.