We can thank Apple for bringing the medical and health-related features of wearables to the forefront, with the latest version of the Apple Watch detecting arrhythmia. Apple is also rumoured to be adding new health features to future versions of wearables. Researchers and other wearable device makers are also moving in that direction. Engineers at the University of California, Los Angeles, have designed a thin film that turns consumer-grade smartwatches into a health monitoring system.
Sticky discs can look for chemical indicators found in sweat, which can indicate the inside of the body in real time. The chemical indicators that the film monitors include glucose and lactic acid, which are reliable indicators of the body’s metabolic work. Engineers have created a one-time double-sided film attached to the underside of a smartwatch.
The film detects metabolites in molecules, such as certain nutrients, that are present in very small amounts of human sweat. The team then built a custom smartwatch and companion app to record data. The researchers say the project was inspired by the realization that more than 100 million smartwatches and other wearables are being sold worldwide, with powerful data collection, computing and transmission capabilities.
Engineers have developed solutions that can upgrade wearables to health monitoring platforms that measure molecular-level information and give people a deeper understanding of what’s happening in real time. The film touches one side of the skin to collect and analyze the chemical composition of sweat drops. The side of the watch converts the chemical signal into an electrical signal and reads, processes and displays on the smartwatch.
The team says they have eliminated the need for external connectors by using sensors made of double-sided adhesives and vertical conductive films. This makes sensors easier to integrate with consumer electronics and eliminates the effects of motion on chemical data collection. Although engineers use custom smartwatches, the technology could be used in popular wearable models.