At Oregon State University engineers have developed a postage stamp-sized microchip capable of performing ECG and EEG signal gathering using very little external power. The device doesn’t even have its own battery but instead harvests radio waves from nearby devices to generate its electric current. Moreover, the chip can be made to interface with other energy gathering devices that would provide it power sourced from the wearer’s body heat and muscle movement.
Its smalls size, minimal power requirements, and a significantly reduced cost of manufacturing compared to existing devices with similar capabilities should make the device useful for continuous health monitoring and offer an interesting new option for the Quantified Self crowd. Certainly activity trackers of the future will be significantly more useful when they can provide 24/7 monitoring of the user’s heart beats and maybe even mental state.
From Oregon State:
“Current technology allows you to measure these body signals using bulky, power-consuming, costly instruments,” said Patrick Chiang, an associate professor in the OSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
“What we’ve enabled is the integration of these large components onto a single microchip, achieving significant improvements in power consumption,” Chiang said. “We can now make important biomedical measurements more portable, routine, convenient and affordable than ever before.”
The much higher cost and larger size of conventional body data monitoring precludes many possible uses, Chiang said. Compared to other technologies, the new system-on-a-chip cuts the size, weight, power consumption and cost by about 10 times.
Some of the existing technologies that would compete with this system, such as pedometers currently in use to measure physical activity, cost $100 or more. The new electronics developed at OSU, by comparison, are about the size and thickness of a postage stamp, and could easily just be taped over the heart or at other body locations to measure vital signs.